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Sending Coals to Newcastle

This kitchen was designed for a couple who retired early, sold their house in the South of England and moved to the sunshine in the South of France. They bought an old, stone built country house at the foot of a Chateau. The house was in desperate need of renovation so they employed local builders to do the work and asked us to make a Provencal style kitchen for them. A little like sending coal to Newcastle, but we were of course, delighted to be asked!

We will gladly design and make kitchens for anywhere in the world. On this occasion I went out to Provence especially to measure up for the new kitchen. After we had made it in our Hampshire workshop I accompanied my team out there to fit it. We designed a very traditional kitchen using painted MDF and Oak cabinetry, with raised and fielded panels, incorporating solid, cast iron hinges and handles. Ironically, we purchased these handles from France whilst making the cabinets in the UK! They were shipped out to us, only to return a few weeks later!

We carefully packed the entire kitchen into a Luton bodied transit and drove down through France, which was a great experience. The clients very kindly put us up in a gite during our stay; a gite with a pool no less, so our days started with a refreshing, early morning swim and a hearty breakfast. A few hours work in the morning was followed by a traditional two-hour lunch break and a well deserved rest in the heat, then more kitchen work through to the evening. The thick limestone walls of the house kept us cool whilst cicadas chirruped in the background and the scent of fresh lavender from nearby fields wafted through the windows. Idyllic working conditions!

The local french builders removed all the plaster off the walls to reveal the original lime stonework. The walls were then re-pointed, using traditional lime mortar. The ceilings were all beamed and the floor laid with terracotta tiles.

Note that the hob area is a lower height to the other work surfaces; this is deliberate, in order to allow one to look over the top of the pans. The cabinet below the hob is a drawer cabinet with curved fronts, technically difficult to make. Situated next to the hob is a willow basket, vegetable storage cabinet, with a particularly attractive turned handle on the front.

Detail of turned handle on the willow vegetable basket cabinet.

The sink cabinet is made of oak, set below a high window, which is traditional for that particular area.

The centre island has an oak surface, whereas the worktops around the hob and sink are stone. In order to be able to ship the entire kitchen out to France in one go, the kitchen was mocked up in our workshop to the exact shape of the room in France and the stone worktops were fabricated to suit to very accurate dimensions.

The left hand image shows cabinetry which housed a fridge on one side and a freezer on the other, with a recessed, cream painted cabinet set back between the two, with an oak work surface. The right hand image shows a tall storage cabinet with curved doors set below a curved cornice. This is technically very difficult to do. It also has chicken wire doors; something we are not asked to make very often! Notice the carved detail between the upper and lower sections of the cabinet.

On the way back through France we purchased a few cases of wine to mark the occasion, quite frankly, it would have been rude not to!


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