Why the future of the kitchen-diner is more diner than kitchen

Giles Kime takes a look at the new breed of kitchens that could easily be mistaken for dining rooms.

North Farm, the house in Teesdale, Co Durham, that the interior designer Rita Konig has recently brought to life, offers convincing evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, a desirable kitchen doesn’t have to be the size of Wembley Stadium. Nor does it have to look very much like a kitchen; as her design demonstrates very eloquently, a kitchen of more modest proportions can look lovely, function perfectly and doesn’t require floor-to-ceiling (and wall-to-wall) cabinetry and appliances.

The driving factor behind the designer’s approach was not to save space, but to create a room that is an elegant hybrid of both kitchen and dining room. ‘I was keen that guests weren’t subjected to a view of dirty pots and pans, so I made room for a small, highly space-efficient scullery for washing up.’

The latter also offered plenty of storage that took pressure off the main space. ‘It was made by Plain English and I took inspiration from the amazing kitchen that Christopher Howe created in the basement of his London shop, where there’s only one run of cabinets.’

The result is a room where it’s possible to strike an even balance between the cooking and dining. Miss Konig even found room for a large, comfortable wing chair (that essential depository for guests with whom you want to converse, but not share the cooking). As a space for entertaining, it is everything it should be — pretty and intimate, but not remotely poky.

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The kitchen of Emma Burns’s country house in Oxfordshire. A former stable was converted into a kitchen that doubles as a dining room. ©Simon Brown/Country Life

Another more extreme example of this new approach is at the Oxfordshire home of Emma Burns of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, where, amid a delicious mix of dining chairs and Robert Kime curtains, a discreetly placed Aga is one of the few pieces of evidence that her kitchen ever sees much cooking. Here, the secret has been to decorate the space in exactly the same way that you would any other room in the house.

This approach couldn’t be further removed from the sleek, contemporary kitchens so popular at the turn of the 21st century, which offered all the charm of being entertained in a laboratory. It’s a welcome shift and, should anyone need proof of its efficacy, North Farm is available to rent (or will be once we’re out of lockdown) through Yorkshire Holiday Cottages.