From the outset, Sarah-Louise and Christopher had a clear vision for their kitchen. It would be functional, welcoming, calming, timeless. It would celebrate natural materials. It would also make a statement. But before they could begin the design process, the space itself – little larger than a galley kitchen – needed to be converted. ‘We opted for a side return extension which has given us a much broader, brighter space,’ explains Sarah-Louise. ‘We’ve also flooded the room with light using generous skylights and full-height windows and doors that look out onto the garden.’
Inspired by the Californian white oak kitchens they’d admired both on their travels and their Instagram feeds, Sarah-Louise and Christopher knew that oak would take centre stage in the design for their kitchen. They also wanted to incorporate other natural, untreated – or living – elements into the space. Namely, unlacquered brass hardware and marble surfaces. ‘We particularly wanted the warmth of natural oak that you can lose with painted cabinetry,’ Sarah-Louise tells us. ‘It pairs so nicely with the other natural elements too – we love that they’ll all gradually age together. Over the last few decades, oak kitchens have come to been seen as a bit old-fashioned, but we knew our own take was going to feel fresh and contemporary. But also timeless. That’s why we decided on Neptune, and Henley.’
The North American white oak used in our Henley collection is chosen for its durability, resilience to water, and heat-resistant density. It’s an enduring and trusted choice for cabinetry. As it’s naturally pale with an even grain, Henley has a contemporary honeyed look, rather than the dated, often orangey quality Sarah-Louise and Christopher were keen to avoid. ‘We did pair its contemporary appeal with more traditional cornicing and skirting to soften the hard edges of the marble though,’ Sarah-Louise adds.
The initial ideas for the kitchen design were conceived in late 2020, but it wasn’t until the following April that the couple joined forces with our Fulham store. ‘When it came down to the details, our Neptune designer, Nerine, and the rest of the team were essential. Christopher and I didn’t want a sink or hob built into the island, for example,’ recounts Sarah-Louise. ‘We wanted to use it as a surface for cooking but also for displaying big branches and floral arrangements. So Nerine suggested incorporating the chopping block unit into the island instead to improve its practicality for food preparation.’
It was this union of form and function that became central to the collaborative design process. ‘The planning that went into the space to ensure it was as functional as possible was second to none,’ adds Sarah-Louise. ‘From the location of the bin next to the breakfast larder (tea bags!) to the bespoke dishwasher drawers in our island. We even have a cool drawer from Fisher & Paykel in the middle of the island which can be turned into a fridge, freezer or larder depending on your needs. We love cooking, so wanted to have plenty of easy access space for storing fresh produce. There are also sockets concealed inside the larder for our toaster and coffee machine, and a hidden LED strip below the marble shelf (operated from inside the other larder) which downlights the kitchen work surfaces. Together, these aspects make kitchen life a joy.’
Our bespoke service played another important role in the overall kitchen project, allowing Sarah-Louise and Christopher to step outside the boundaries of standard kitchen design. In addition to the dishwasher drawers and cool drawer, the two double-door larders that flank the sink and Lacanche range were crafted to be as tall as possible, adding scale to the space. ‘Apparently our larders are some of the tallest they’ve ever made! We also had a full-height integrated storage cabinet made from Henley oak – the first of its kind – to accommodate our Fisher & Paykel wine cooler and our existing fridge-freezer,’ explains Sarah-Louise.
The couple painted their walls in Bauwerk’s lime paint ‘Stone’ and installed whitewashed oak flooring from Trunk Floor to complement the cabinetry. Yet it was the Calacatta Borghini marble, chosen for its ornamental veining, that really completed the space. ‘Using the stone for our work surfaces, sink and splashback has helped us to make a dramatic impact,’ Sarah-Louise muses. ‘We hoped the integrated shelf could be made from the same piece of marble, but it’s hard to find such large slabs. The stone company we worked with created it from two pieces instead. They join on the shelf’s underside – that’s where the LED channel is concealed too. As for the sink, we were initially concerned that it might stain or leak, but it has an epoxy mesh fiberglass coating to prevent that from happening. It was an eleventh-hour decision, but we’re so glad we went for it as it’s become a real feature.’
All the while the kitchen project was taking place, a utility room was being designed and crafted upstairs too. ‘The cabinetry is also Henley, but it’s painted in Sage,’ says Sarah-Louise. ‘We painted the walls and ceiling in the same shade which envelopes you in a sense of calm. As with the kitchen, much of the cabinetry is made bespoke – it used to be a small bathroom, so the team helped us make the most of the space.’
Now that the project is complete, the couple hope their new kitchen might help to inspire others: ‘To us, the Henley oak kitchen feels like a timeless icon. We hope it may encourage other people to embrace natural oak in their own kitchens.’