Natural Oak and Soft Daylight Define This Kitchen Renovation

A built-in oak banquette cleverly incorporates extra storage space.
A built-in oak banquette cleverly incorporates extra storage space.

In the United Kingdom, the term “mullet architecture” describes homes that appear traditional from the front and feature a modern extension in the back. This common occurrence is a result of strict conservation laws that aim to maintain the historical street view while allowing residents to renovate behind the facade. Local architects like George Bradley, director of London-based studio Bradley Van Der Straeten and host of Another Architecture Podcast, are all too familiar with these complicated rules. In order to update a typical Victorian terrace house, he and his team had to navigate an endless list of codes.

The objective was to produce a spacious, light-filled kitchen without raising the low ceiling or exceeding height constraints on the boundary with the neighbor. To accomplish this, George imagined a sloped glass roof to top the side extension. On the interior, a curved edge ramps up to the skylight to maximize volume and northern sun exposure, creating an airy room infused with soothing, soft daylight.

The clients also requested trendless finishes, so a classic, monochromatic wood look was the obvious choice. Custom cabinet fronts with recessed, half-moon-shaped handles were crafted from natural oak. The same species was sourced for the built-in banquette, wall paneling, and engineered floors. With a clear connection to the garden beyond, a serene, organic feel was achieved.

Location: “London is a city made up of a conglomeration of little villages, and Crouch End is one of the nicest ones,” George explains. “It’s further out of the city, but it’s on a hill, so it’s got good air and good views. Generally, the properties are generous there. It’s a nice, family-oriented neighborhood.”

The kitchen before lacked light and space.
The kitchen before lacked light and space.

The before: With low ceilings and pale yellow, Shaker-style cabinets, the original kitchen was not intended for living. The tight, rectangular room was once a service quarter, so its layout was inefficient for modern use.

The inspiration: “The clients were very keen that it be quite timeless, quite minimal, but quite classic, as well,” George recalls. “They loved the idea of the natural earthiness of the timber, but they didn’t want something that felt like a fad or sort of funky, so a lot of the design is quite ageless.”

Square footage: 35 square meters (approximately 377 square feet)

Budget: “For a typical extension like this, you would be looking at approximately £3,000 per square meter excluding taxes,” George estimates. That’s about $359 per square foot.

A single, massive pivot door opens the kitchen up to the backyard.
A single, massive pivot door opens the kitchen up to the backyard.

Main ingredients:

Cabinet Fronts, Wall Cladding, Shelving, and Benches: Custom Natural Oak by joiner Jai Brodie. “We wanted to keep the palette really simple,” says George. “Oak was the main material used for the kitchen. The key thing was we worked with a joiner that we knew, who is a friend of the company and that we’d worked with before. He’s a real craftsman and specialist.”

Flooring: Wood and Beyond Engineered Natural Oak Boards. “The client was really worried about overusing oak, so that was probably the toughest decision to make—having the floors and the joinery all the same—but we were quite convinced it would work,” George remembers.

Table and Chairs: Client’s Own

Countertops and Backsplash: Silestone.“It’s just got a nice, subtle texture, but it’s not too loud. It blends into the background,” George illustrates.

Lighting: New Works Material Pendant in Light Grey Concrete, Tom Dixon Boom Wall Light in Black, and Astro Lighting Eclipse Round LED Sconce

Wall paint: Dulux Pure Brilliant White

Faucet: Grohe Minta Single-Handle Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet in SuperSteel

Oven: Bosch

“The main reason for having the open shelves came from seeing what an amazing whiskey collection the clients had when we first visited the house,” George reasons.
“The main reason for having the open shelves came from seeing what an amazing whiskey collection the clients had when we first visited the house,” George reasons.

Glasswork: Maxlight Pivot Door, Box Window, and Skylight. “It’s a brave move from the clients that only half of the back is openable,” George reveals. “It’s one big pivot door, but actually we much preferred that to just all full sliding doors because it’s quite nice to have this cozy, little seat nook.”

Shed and Fence: Custom Larch Wood. “We wanted it to feel seamless, so it looks like the kitchen flows to the outside,” George says. “It makes the space feel bigger.”

Exterior Cladding and Patios: Recycled Bricks. “There were leftover bricks from the demolition and the builder sliced them into thin tiles and applied them to the structural blockwork on the side extension,” recounts George. “It’s an interesting, money-saving way of using materials that were there and the skills that were on-site.”

“We look back at it now and it’s a very obvious and simple thing to do, but we actually hadn’t done it or thought of it before," George says of the slanted glass roof. "We equally hadn’t seen it somewhere else, it’s not something we lifted from somebody. It hadn’t been done in that kind of context.”

Most insane splurge: The glazed glass and the countertops were the priciest purchases.

Sneakiest save: “It’s obviously quite expensive going custom for joinery and there was a clear look we wanted, but to make it more affordable, we used standard carcasses. All the interior cabinets are from an online company,” George admits.

The best part: The subdued natural light, produced with northern exposure and the ceiling curve, is George’s favorite element. “It’s got this kind of glow to it and it’s very relaxing,” he muses.

What I'd never do again: George wouldn’t change a thing.

Final bill: “This project was delivered just under budget, thanks to a good builder and making all decisions before starting construction—a very rare occurrence and the number one piece of advice to give to clients,” George opines.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest