Nov 27, 2013

Whilst there are some common threads connecting many of our rear Kitchen / Garden Room projects, they are actually all different depending on the house type and its general proportions, its relationship to adjacent properties, the setting, its topography and orientation, and the Clients’ specific brief, aspirations and budget.
Why have they become such a common project these days?

This is rooted in the Social background of the times that our existing housing stock was created. The typical larger Victorian and Edwardian house may well have been ‘L-shaped’ in plan with the Kitchen in the rear prong. The Kitchen would have been more akin to a workshop allowing for the lack of our modern appliances. The spaces would often have included a maze of smaller rooms including sculleries, pantries, coal stores for heating, cooking and hot water. The stove would have been a huge range. There would not have been refrigerators, but larders would have been available. Of course the family of the house would not be part of all this hard work. It would have been maids, cooks and so on according to the size of the property. The family would not want to see all this hard work and so a rear space would be the best place to keep it out of the way. A limited view of the garden was the compromise. Of course there would be a gardener and a style of gardening dominated by exotic species brought back from the Empire tended to prevail. The garden was not yet a child’s playground, or football pitch.

The house layout was slightly adapted in the inter-war years – the change being that there was less likelihood that there would be staff, but the Kitchen was still more of a workshop under the safe tutelage of the successors to Mrs Beeton and not a space to enjoy – the exclusive territory of the lady of the house who typically would not yet have been likely to have paid employment.
The arrival of the kitchen appliances began to change that in the 1950’s onwards. Gradually we had edged the Kitchen towards achieving a better status but now a bit cramped and offering poor views of the garden, but the garden yet had not quite become the outdoor room.

However by 1980 Jonah Lewie had famously marked that new role with his song – ‘You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties’, revived more recently by Ikea for one of its TV ads.

So now we have cracked-it. We have used that left-over slot from our Victorian Terraced house to become a sideways extension of our Kitchen which has become squarer and more comfortable to be in. The appliances are slick and efficient so we can enjoy our limited time together more. The cooking is not invariably any one person’s role now – apparently! The cupboards look very smart and this is quite possibly the most attractive room in the house all of a sudden. Who needs a Dining Room when you’ve got this gorgeous space and you even have space for sofas and a TV too. Our eating habits have changed of course and everything is a bit more informal. The light floods in through the rooflight making it a bright and attractive space. The garden is now fully accessible using concertina doors and the in-out space is available. ‘Eat inside? – no let’s go outside on the terrace.’ We are almost all preferring to live this way. The magic thing is that the garden seems to own some of the interior space and the interior space seems to own some of the garden – so both seem inexplicably bigger. This is our turn – the genesis is complete, or is it? It may well change again but probably not for some time barring some unexpected huge social change. Voilà.

There is often also the left-over front Reception room (Lounge) at the front of the house which maybe was victim to the 1980’s knock-through to the rear Reception Room (Dining Room). In a new house this may be a natural space for some other use. It is best to consider it as having its own special function. Some people have it as a ‘posh’ Drawing Room as it may have its original features intact or they can be restored lovingly in this single room. It might be the piano room or where homework is done, or the home office (Study/ Bedroom), or where the big TV is set-up with the surround sound for Home Cinema. So don’t neglect it. It is an opportunity to do something special.

‘You will wonder why all houses aren’t set-up like this.’

1. Ideally choose a floor finish that will work inside the home and outside without a level change to achieve the ultimate cool indoor outdoor arrangement. The construction details need careful consideration.

2. Concertina doors are well engineered and come in various material options. You can colour match these special units to other windows even if they are not from the same supplier. Aluminium is more stable than wood.

3. Underfloor heating is the perfect option which should be in an insulated screeded concrete floor and be connected to a solar panel source. Hardwood floors are a risk in the event of a leak from a dishwasher or other appliance. If hardwood is your thing, zone the spaces to limit the risk.

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