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Kitchen Design Inspiration: exclusive first look at our new country kitchen!

As the saying goes, the kitchen is the heart of the home; and in our house, this couldn’t be more true. Day and night, you’ll find us in there…usually with Rosie cooking, me eating, Hugh snoozing in the pram and Teddy opening cupboards and drawers in search of things he really shouldn’t be playing with! It’s without doubt our favourite place to be as a family, now more than ever.

When we started our house renovation project earlier this year, designing a beautiful family kitchen was always top of our priority list. We’ve never had a proper grown up kitchen before, always making do with the tiny or outdated kitchens that were in situ when we moved in. But this time around, we wanted to create a unique space that was all our own, that was functional and welcoming, contemporary yet traditional, but also spacious and impactful, which would work for the ‘day-to-day’ as well as the odd occasion when we have friends round for supper (or perhaps, one day, the whole family for Christmas!).

Our kitchen design inspiration

We had a clear vision for what we wanted, taking our kitchen design inspiration from companies like deVOL Kitchens and Plain English who make seriously beautiful and unique kitchens. But not being made of money (these two companies in particular come with an eye-wateringly hefty price tag!) we first looked at all the usual, more budget kitchen providers like IKEA and Wickes, but were disappointed by their limited options, with only a small number of designs and a restrictive list of house colours to choose from.

So, we went in search of a smaller kitchen company that could bring our own personal design ideas to life, while (crucially) sticking within our tight budget.

After getting a load of quotes from a range of different kitchen companies, we ended up going with one that happened to be close to us on the Surrey / Hampshire border called Studio 81 Design, who specialise in affordable kitchen design and bespoke bedroom furniture. And we are so pleased we did…


Kitchen Design Inspiration - before shots


Kitchen Design Inspiration - new kitchen by Studio 81 Design

Creating our dream country kitchen

We met with Studio 81 Design’s owner – the lovely Mark – at their showroom, to talk through exactly what we wanted (a contemporary twist on the traditional Shaker style kitchen) and our budget for the project. Within days, his in-house design team had created a series of detailed drawings that perfectly brought our kitchen aspirations to life, including a few special touches we hadn’t even thought of, like a thin cupboard for our ironing board and handmade bespoke wooden drawer inserts for our cutlery and kitchen utensils (Mark’s specialty).

On seeing these drawings, we knew there and then that we’d made the right choice by going with them.

Kitchen Design Inspiration - planning drawings

Kitchen Design Inspiration - handmade drawer inserts

What I think was so refreshing about Mark and his team was that they really understood our vision and what we were trying to achieve, suggesting areas where we could compromise to keep costs down without impacting the final look of the kitchen. For example, choosing the best-value integrated appliances, sourcing the best-priced handles and other fittings, and saving money by buying in standard cabinets which Studio 81 Design would make bespoke doors for in their workshop, to give our kitchen the bespoke feel we wanted. This element was really important to us and kudos to Studio 81 Design, who was literally the only provider we spoke to who was happy to paint our cabinets any colour in the world that we wanted at no extra cost.

Kitchen Design Inspiration - brass handles

Kitchen Design Inspiration - navy island and chopping block

For our kitchen colour, we wanted to play on the fact that the room wasn’t the brightest in the house (with just the patio doors at the end of the room for light), so we chose a dark navy for the ground level cabinets – called Blue Black from Farrow & Ball – to complement our restored pale blue AGA.

Kitchen Design Inspiration - exclusive first look of our Studio 81 Design kitchen

Kitchen Design Inspiration - Indian cow

Kitchen Design Inspiration - our lovely aga

We then brightened up the room with dazzling white quartz worktops from First Stone Worktops; another lovely local supplier who have a showroom near us in Bordon, Hampshire (a great shout whether you are planning a new kitchen or even just a new worktop to spruce up your space). We then paired this with an exposed white Belfast sink, lighter wall-mounted, glass-fronted cupboards painted in Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone paint and clever lighting (dimmable spot lights in the ceiling, under unit LEDs above the worktops, and beautiful vintage hanging lights above the island, which Rosie found at a local reclamation fair).

Kitchen Design Inspiration - our new family kitchen

Kitchen design inspiration - new kitchen

Kitchen Design Inspiration - glass fronted cupboards in Skimming Stone

For the fittings, we worked with Mark’s team to source some really lovely brass knobs and cup handle draw pulls, to match our aged brass Perrin & Rowe taps (one of our more expensive purchases…Rosie insisted on getting them!), which stand out against the darker units and tie in nicely with our lovingly restored oak parquet floor.

Kitchen Design Inspiration - brass knobs

Kitchen Design Inspiration - Perrin & Rowe taps

We couldn’t be happier with how the room’s turned out, and to finally be able to unpack all of the china and glasses that we got for our wedding, which are now proudly displayed in our new glass fronted cabinets and antique dresser (which we got at auction for £100…a total steal!).

Kitchen Design Inspiration - our antique dresser

Kitchen Design Inspiration - wedding china and lovely mugs

Kitchen Design Inspiration - pram in the corner

All we need now is a bigger kitchen table for our growing brood to sit around, but we’re making do for the time being with our old smaller table (another antique!) until we can find the perfect one for the space.

Kitchen Design Inspiration - Tripp Trapp and antique French table

 Finally our new white oak Tripp Trapps can take pride of place!

All in all though, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have such a unique, grown up kitchen that we can be proud of. Of all the rooms we’ve done up as part of this renovation project, our new kitchen is, without doubt, our favourite room in the house.

Kitchen Design Inspiration - from above

Kitchen Design Inspiration - family kitchen from Studio 81 Design

And special thanks to Mark and his team at Studio 81 Design for helping us get there, and for being so patient with our kitchen installation dates as we battled building delays, flooring dramas and catastrophic plumbing leaks!! Seriously…if you’re in the market for a new kitchen or just looking for a bit of kitchen design inspiration, we can’t recommend them enough!

Kitchen Design Inspiration - our Studio 81 Design kitchen


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  1. Mary Ann Robinson
    12th December 2018 / 8:30 pm

    Fantastic. Lots of great times waiting to be enjoyed.

      13th December 2018 / 11:35 am

      Ahh thanks Mary Ann! We love it!

  2. Maddy
    12th December 2018 / 8:12 pm


    Lovely description of your thought process too.

    Please could you tell us more about the flooring. Thanks.

      13th December 2018 / 11:37 am

      The parquet was there all along but covered in a thick layer of dark brown varnish! So we sanded it right back to the original oak and applied a clear lacquer to get this look!