A kitchen that resonated with the natural world. One that was humble, and felt organic. And one that could meet the needs of a family in the countryside. These were the qualities that Ben and Marina Fogle were set on bringing to their Neptune kitchen.
Built in the early twentieth century from brick and flint, this former gatehouse in the Chilterns is home to broadcaster and modern-day explorer Ben, his wife Marina, a podcaster and antenatal educator, their children Ludo and Iona, and dogs Storm and Swift. Their home – a rural spot, surrounded by woodland and a ‘big, beautiful and wild’ garden – is situated in an area of particularly personal significance. ‘My grandparents bought a house in the village here in the forties,’ explains Marina. ‘It’s where my father grew up, and later met and married my mother. And my sisters live nearby too. It’s a close community where families have known each other for generations.’ For Ben, who began visiting the area some fifteen years ago when he first met Marina, there was never any doubt about where the couple would put down roots: ‘The more time you spend here, the more you come to understand how special it is.’
When Ben and Marina bought their home in 2018, they set about transforming it into something truly special. An ‘outside-in’ house that responded to the seasons, and a one that celebrated ‘beautiful, modern functionality.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, the kitchen was an integral part of the redesign. Intent on creating a room that could bend and stretch to fit family life, space and durability were absolute necessities. ‘It’s rarely just us. We’re very sociable and love an open door policy, so we wanted a room that was perfect for plenty of people and pets,’ says Ben. ‘We needed to know it could withstand spills and bumps too. The more marks the better, I say – it’s reflective of fun, life and chaos!’ Marina adds.
Both agreed the design should complement the architecture and style of the property. ‘The house is 120 years old, and humble. We didn’t want anything too shiny, but favoured a pared back timber kitchen that felt organic. And something that would still work in twenty years,’ explains Ben. So, with timeless simplicity in mind, the couple paid a visit to Neptune Chiswick to explore the ideas for their new space further. ‘We’re both big devourers of magazines, and have long noticed Neptune adverts. I love that the pieces are beautiful but robust,’ Marina explains.
With strengthened notions of what they hoped to achieve, Ben and Marina then turned to designer Kelly at our Wiltshire HQ for help with putting the pieces together. ‘We felt really confident that she appreciated what we wanted, as well as what was sensible,’ Marina continues. Must-haves for the kitchen included plenty of work surfaces and a generous island, two dishwashers and a ‘huge’ fridge. Following in the path of her mother’s ‘the more the merrier’ approach to entertaining – ‘if it was suddenly a dinner for twenty people at home, it was nothing but a bonus’ – Marina knew that this was a kitchen that needed to be practical enough, and large enough, to stand up to the task.
When it came to choosing the right cabinetry, it was Shaker-inspired Suffolk that prevailed. ‘We really liked the simplicity of it. It has clean lines, and felt like the right thing for the house,’ Ben explains. But it was also important that the kitchen didn’t feel too homogenous. ‘We wanted the design to look like three separate components – the breakfast larder, the island and the cabinets – and not like a matching ‘suite’’.
Accordingly, the couple turned to colour, as well as an approach to decorating that blended old and new (something they’ve carried throughout their whole home), to create the kitchen’s distinct look and feel.
‘We love to collect anything unusual or unique from fayres and online. With the nature Ben’s work, it just fits,’ Marina muses, smiling. ‘And the colours, like Farrow and Ball’s Duck Green, are shades we’ve loved ever since we’ve been decorating our homes together,' adds Ben. 'They’re a real celebration of the garden, wildlife and surrounding countryside. We really liked that we could introduce them to the different parts of the cabinetry to really make it our own.'
Life in their new kitchen
How do you feel about the space now?
It’s everything we wanted. What’s so beautiful about living in an outside-in house is that it’s constantly changing with each season. There’s nothing nicer than drinking coffee in the kitchen to birdsong. And we have a fabulous Esse range cooker. During winter, it makes the room even more of a warm family hub.
What’s your favourite design element?
The dog food drawer – it’s genius! We wanted a bespoke drawer designed specifically for storing dry dog food. It’s the perfect height, and within reach of the sink. The corner cupboard with the carousel is so well used too. And Kelly’s suggestion that we have the cabinets with the chopping boards and trays either side of the range was brilliant.