A Model Kitchen for the Georgian Era

What makes an ideal Georgian era kitchen?

The good-looking range has a combination of electric and gas burners, and a powerful extractor fan concealed by the wooden mantelpiece. The tiles are in the traditional oblong shape with a cream crackle finish. A glossy black border tile defines the tiled areas. Made from old wood, the large center table is used for preparation as well as family meals.

The Georgian period, in my view, was the most influential and enlightening of architectural eras and one that has stood the test of time. Governed by classical principles of design, particularly those involving scale and proportion, it is a style of both exterior and interior that is immensely pleasing to the eye. The attention to the detail of each and every architectural element is what I find particularly intoxicating. Whether you are resotring an existing 18th-century property or looking to build or furnish a new house in Georgian style, there is a wealth of references and craftspeople to help you.

The painted wood fireplace was custom-made and lined in brick. The Belfast (or farmhouse) sinks rest on pine shelves, and the drainer and countertops nearby are also in wood. No window treatments have been used, as privacy is not an issue and the sash and trim are handsome.

Classical features and architectural details can be successfully reproduced to emulate the past. Color, pattern, texture, and accessories all help bring harmony and life to a room, but these are insignificant if the “bones” are not in place. By this I mean the room’s structure—its proportions and such architectural elements as windows, doors, architraves, plasterwork, and wall and floor finishes.

Georgian-era kitchens were very much out of sight and out of mind, a below-stairs warren of kitchens (cooking areas), sculleries (for washing and cleaning), larders, and pantries where, in the grandest houses, an army of cooks and servants worked over open fires (and the owners rarely set foot). Today, of course, the kitchen has become the hub of the home and the preferred venue for casual family meals. The challenge in designing kitchens today for Georgian-period or –style homes is to produce something timeless, yet also ergonomically efficient, and bristling (unobtrusively) with modern appliances.

In spite of its vintage look, this is a new kitchen, carefully planned with each piece of furniture custom-built to look informal and traditional.

An antique pine dresser is the focal point on this wall, with its collection of old pots, teapots, and plates, all in regular use. The cupboards and glazed-door cabinets on either side were custom-made for glasses an tableware.

The owners of this house are both enthusiastic cooks, so they were very involved in the design and layout of the room, and the selection of furniture and equipment. I find that kitchen layouts are very personal. Everyone has his own habits and routines to be accommodated. A designer should understand and respect this. Here, there’s a huge amount of preparation area, with plenty of room for two cooks to work in their own space. Apart from the timeless European range and rotisserie, there is no exposed modern equipment, and the combination of pine, oak, and painted wood creates an old-fashioned, evolved feel. The floor is a French limestone with a slate inset.

In an ideal world, every home would have a utility room, a laundry, a flower room, and a mud room. This space, with its travertine floor, beech worktops, and mimosa-colored painted woodwork, looks as if it has served these purposes in an old house for centuries. But it is in the same new country house, leading off the kitchen. Natural sunlight streams in from all sides through large, unadorned windows that open for plenty of ventilation. Drying racks hanging from the ceiling allow laundry to be air-dried.

Even the laundry-room door provides ventilation and light, as its glazed upper section can swing open independently. Deep farmhouse sinks look good and are practical in a utility room.

Book Review: Georgian Style and Design by Henrietta Spencer–Churchill

So many early houses in the United States were built in the English Georgian period; “Georgian” is considered the predominant American style in the years 1720 to 1790 or later, predating the Federal period. With its classical principles, the Georgian period has influenced architecture ever since.

During the 18th century, that influence came directly from England. So studying English Georgian houses is like going to the source for inspiration.

But don’t expect to find museums in a new book by Henrietta Spencer–Churchill. In Georgian Style and Design, she offers instead a contemporary take on Georgian. Classical but comfortable, rooms have an almost spare aesthetic despite rich architectural detail. Many of the houses shown are sympathetic renovations of period houses; several are newly built in the Georgian style.

Whether your house is a true colonial or a 20th-century revival, you’ll find new ideas for paint colors, furnishing, window treatments, lighting, and display in this gorgeous book. Georgian Style and Design for Contemporary Living by Henrietta Spencer–Churchill, Rizzoli 2008 (US)/ CICO Books/Ryland Peters & Small (UK).

Tags: Early Homes EH Fall 2009 Georgian Henrietta Spencer–Churchill

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