I love the property programmes on the TV – ‘Escape to the Country’, ‘Homes under the Hammer’, ‘Location Location Location’ – and I watch all of them whenever I can.

With so many properties featured and an equal number of characters looking to move home, it is interesting to see the one thing the house-hunters all have in common is their need for and appreciation of a good kitchen.  Often referred to as the most important part of the property and the heart of every home.

The kitchen can make or break that important sale for the vendor or guarantee added interest from purchasers.  On the property programmes such as ‘Escape to the Country’ the kitchen seems to be the one room that is crucial and I always enjoy watching the reaction of the prospective purchasers when they step into each kitchen.

The most popular style of kitchen appears to be open plan, preferably combining kitchen preparation area, dining and living area, but not all properties have the space.

One of our Beau-Port clients, living in a modern property in Hook, near Basingstoke, longed for such an open plan space and didn’t want to move, so decided to extend and improve, creating a very spacious open plan kitchen, dining and living area.  This extension, the additional space, light and the stunning Shaker style kitchen designed by Beau-Port’s head designer Mark Johnson, has added a totally new dimension to the property and improved the owner’s lifestyle.  This form of addition to any property can also add value to the property and will make it more saleable if owners decide to move.

Mr & Mrs Burleton's open plan kitchen diner in Rotherwick, Hampshire.

The Burletons near Hook in Hampshire longed for an open plan space, so decided to extend and improve, creating a spacious open plan kitchen, dining and living area.

Another Beau-Port client at Alresford, between Alton and Winchester, also extended their kitchen to include more living space, with a focal point central island combining work area, hob with oven under and dining space to one end of the central island – perfect for cooking and entertaining.

A clean white contemporary kitchen, another recent project from Beau-Port, also incorporated a similar central island complete with beaded lighting which the owner loves to use as background lighting in the evenings.

Rotpunkt Zerox High Gloss White Kitchen with Grey Wild Oak

Mrs Bowlers kitchen in Medstead, Hampshire.

The new kitchen is one of the primary projects within the renovation plans of a 1970’s bungalow, set in the Hampshire countryside and the owner commented: “My wish list started with a central island, but something that was much more than the usual islands I had seen in other kitchens.  I wanted a cross between a cocktail bar, sushi bar, food preparation area and also for somewhere for family and guests to sit and eat as well.  I also wanted to be able to face family and guests while cooking, not with my back to them, so Mark designed the island to include a Mercury range cooker and extended curved breakfast bar with beads of light that run around the whole bar, which make me smile, look stunning at night and create a lovely atmosphere.”

Separate dining rooms seem to be less popular and we have a number of clients who have opened up their space by knocking down the dividing walls between the two rooms to create a more spacious feel to their homes without having to extend.

Whenever I visit a National Trust property or any historic property, the place that fascinates me the most is always the kitchen. The heart of any property the kitchen will tell you so much about the wealth and status of the original owner, the number of servants they could afford to have and the kind of food that was prepared in some of the largest and most important historic kitchens in the world.

The kitchens in Petworth House, East Sussex

The kitchens in Petworth House, East Sussex. Image via Flickr user Anguskirk.

The historic kitchens at one of the largest National Trust properties at  Petworth House shows 300 years of cooking styles in one room.  The kitchen is huge, with high ceilings and like many other historic kitchens features a long central table, the main work surface of their day – fulfilling a similar function to our central islands that we now have in some contemporary kitchens. This large central table was also the place where the team of servants also gathered to eat their meals.

A number of our clients also wanted that same multi-purpose central island working area that also has space for eating, as well as incorporating ovens and hobs, combining three main functions within one island unit.

Our showroom is located at Bentworth and is close to a number of National Trust properties with Hinton Ampner, which is close to Alresford and The Vyne at Basingstoke just a 20 minute drive away and Petworth House is just 45 minutes’ drive from our showroom.

These grand historic properties are three of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit. Apart from the royal households and possibly a few other grand estates owned by the extremely wealthy, there are now very few country houses that can support a staff of 40 plus servants, which were required to run Petworth House from its origins in the mid-18th century.

Frankly I’d be glad to have just one servant helping me to deal with all of my domestic stuff!  The grand house kitchens may have been very spacious, but they needed to be just to accommodate the high numbers of people working within them.  The main kitchen was not the only place where they had to work, with sculleries, pastry rooms and huge walk in larders.

Every space is thought about carefully to use it in the best way possible.

Every space is thought about carefully to use it in the best way possible.

Many of our clients are now wanting to replicate some of these features but modern houses, even the larger ones, don’t always have space for separate pastry rooms!  However, even the most modestly sized modern kitchen can have its own larder – either incorporated into the kitchen design, or if space permits a separate walk in larder or even an independent pantry – a separate piece of hand crafted furniture that our clients can take with them when they decide to move and that could be a future heirloom to pass onto the next generation.

Next time you visit a National Trust property, make a point of visiting the kitchen and see just how much our kitchens have evolved to bring us the multi-function rooms we enjoy today with their huge range of labour and time-saving devices.

Some controversy surrounded this charming BBC 2 documentary series about how one British family were taken on a time travelling adventure to discover how the way we eat and live has changed since the 1950’s.  The controversy, mainly on Twitter, surrounded how hard it was for the lady of the house to use a manual tin opener, obviously a first time experience for her and her family – frankly I thought it was hilarious and I believe that anyone taken back 60 years and given the basic tools they had to use then would have found it a challenge.

The series tasked the family to recreate the foods eaten in the various decades from the 1950’s until the 1990’s, featuring on a particular decade in each episode.  The food they had to prepare was based on the National Food Survey of each decade from the austerity of rationing that extended into the 1950’s, ending in 1954.  So they had a taste of what it was like to consider the supply, or lack of supply of many basic foods and to experience some of the least appetising selections available then ranging from dried eggs, bread and dripping and even feeding your children left over cold liver!  They had to deal with some of the most unpalatable food and the equally austere surroundings of a 1950’s kitchen.

Every decade they explored was in an authentic kitchen of its time, something they had to live with for at least the week of filming each episode of each decade.  I was just as intrigued to see the various kitchens and to be reminded of the very basic facilities that most people had in their 1950’s kitchens and the comparison with the modern kitchens that we design and install at Beau-Port – is a world away from the basic 1950’s kitchen design – in fact they did not have any design expertise at the time, more a case of just fitting things in where they were most practical.

I feel blessed to have a modern kitchen and to see how Beau-Port’s kitchen designers Mark and Jacob Johnson can incorporate so many great features into their designs including media centres, study areas, hidden utility facilities, ‘floating’ units, beaded lighting, stain resistant work surfaces, glass splash backs that sparkle, soft close doors, induction hobs, state of the art ranges, Total Control AGA’s that can be switched on and off.   My grandmother, who used an old-fashioned baking oven in the hearth of the open fireplace to bake her bread, would have loved a kitchen designed by Mark.

The family in the TV series have so far explored the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and it has been a fascinating journey, not only of the changing way we cook and eat, but also how we live.  Each reinvented kitchen for each era has been a trip down memory lane and a reminder of how our kitchens have evolved.  The last episode explores the 1990’s and will show how far we have come in terms of the way we eat and live since the 1950’s.  Definitely worth watching!

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