Hugo & Olive Guest's colourful country kitchen

Hugo & Olive Guest's colourful country kitchen

For Devon-based hoteliers Hugo and Olive, their new kitchen had to balance family life with their love of hosting and entertaining – and colour.

As the paint dried and the Neptune installers completed the finishing touches to their new Henley kitchen, hotelier and chef Hugo Guest and his artist wife, Olive, (who together run Glebe House, a guest house and restaurant in Devon) knew exactly what they had planned for the space once the dust had been swept away. ‘The island is the hub of family activity,’ says Hugo. ‘Our boys are four and two and we love cooking with them – baking, rolling out pasta. Generally getting very messy.’





But this kitchen has been deliberately designed to be versatile too, with a seating and library area to one side, a tucked-away utility room, and a big dining table for entertaining. ‘We were living in a small two-bedroom flat while the building work was going on so haven’t been able to host any friends, other than at Glebe House itself,’ adds Olive. ‘We have a long list of friends to invite over now.’

For keen vegetable-grower Hugo, linking the garden and surrounding countryside to the kitchen was also a key consideration. ‘We have a big kitchen garden that we created from an empty field to serve the restaurant,’ he explains, ‘but there is always surplus veg, which we like to pick with the boys. We grow everything seasonally from radishes and broad beans to kale, fennel and artichokes. Currently, it’s a surplus of Swiss chard!’

Hugo recalls they chose the Henley collection because ‘the design was simple but had nice detailing; it sits perfectly between modern and traditional style’, and they loved the inclusion of the natural oak cabinetry. Colour was an important way to connect the outside and in and, inspired by the earthy clay shades of the nearby Jurassic cliffs, the couple mixed Burnt Sienna on cabinetry alongside Henley’s natural oak finish, and used Burnham Red on the island (with Farrow & Ball’s ‘Fake Tan’ on the tongue and groove panelling).

They were also influenced by the years they spent living and working in Europe. ‘Our style is inspired by the country kitchens of Italy and France,’ says Hugo. ‘That use of natural wood and stone and warm, earthy colours that feels anchored in the surrounding environment.’ The subtle terracotta chequerboard floor is a case in point: ‘It feels so warm and inviting and transports me to my favourite parts of Italy,’ he adds, noting that laying the floor was ‘a real labour of love – I hadn’t quite appreciated it would need six coats of sealer, but it was worth it.’

Claire Birkbeck, the Bath-based Neptune kitchen designer who worked with Hugo and Olive on the project, recalls the couple had clear ideas from the start. ‘They wanted to make it a really joyful space, somewhere with lots of character and colour, and they also wanted to make sure it fitted their family life set up. As a designer, it was all about making it a hardworking space with good storage, but one that also feels fun and creative.’

For artist Olive, layering colour and pattern onto the warm terracotta base was the next step. ‘I introduced pattern through the floor tiles, our collection of pottery and plates, and soft furnishings. For me, pattern is an instinctive thing – when you see a pattern you like, it just feels right. Not all patterns work together though. I tend to layer different shapes – a geometric with a floral maybe, or a large, wide pattern with a smaller print. And I always choose a thread of colour that ties the patterns together.’

The couple mixed in vintage finishes with the antique brass taps by Perrin & Rowe and a reclaimed butler’s sink in the utility. They worked with designer Claire to select the softly dappled marble for the work surfaces and added lighting such as the Athena scalloped shade, which Olive felt suitably reflected their coastal location.

‘Our original vision was to make the kitchen a place to cook and host but also for our family to live in and relax,’ says Hugo. ‘This is how we imagined it, but Neptune made it a reality.’


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