Combining contemporary interior architecture with traditional materials is a growing trend, especially when it comes to kitchens, where opening them out to the garden allows natural light to flood in and make warm woods glow 

Words: Trish Lesslie

It’s definitely a growing trend.’ So says Gary Mesher, interior architect at Chamber Furniture, of the surge in people mixing modern designs with traditional materials, especially when it comes to kitchens.

It’s a style his Kent-based, family-run company has been specialising in since its inception over 20 years ago, when it first began combining the best of old-school craftsmanship and innovative design with the latest in digital technology.

‘We’ve been using stained oak and walnut all along, both in flat and panel doors,’ he says. ‘Flush doors give a more contemporary feel, but our clients often opt for the rich finish of traditional materials. People find you can get a sprayed finish anywhere, but timber has more of a custom feel to it. It’s a bit more bespoke.’

We’ve been using stained oak and walnut all along, both in flat and panel doors. Flush doors give a more contemporary feel

The kitchen in this new-build Bromley home perfectly captures the ethos of Chamber Furniture, whose designs are handmade to clients’ exact specifications. Forget standard cupboard sizes or specific ranges, Chamber Furniture works with clients to create exactly what they want, whether traditional or contemporary, rustic or minimalist.

The open-plan kitchen and reception

The open-plan kitchen and reception in a new-build home in Bromley mixes modern and traditional styles

‘Kitchens are the hub of the house and we find our clients tend to allocate a healthy proportion of their budgets to them,’ says Gary, who estimates that kitchen work accounts for around 60% of the company’s commissions.

In this modern five-bedroom house, the main challenge was the sheer scale of the space – 7.5m x 6m of dedicated kitchen, extending a further 7m into living area. ‘With such a big room, there are probably ten different ways it could be designed, so scaling was the biggest challenge for us,’ says Gary. ‘With a room so substantial, you need to take care that what you put in looks right in the space. We oversized every unit including the framework in order to create a kitchen that complements the room perfectly.’

Gary describes the contemporary feel of the kitchen as a ‘unique style that will stand the test of time.’ Built using solid timber oak framework and dovetailed drawer boxes, the flush ‘in frame’ doors with a mix of handles give the kitchen its modern feel while stained black walnut brings a more traditional touch.

The company also fitted out a study, utility room and dressing room in the house – the latter of which also posed scaling challenges. The owners opted for floor-to-ceiling oak units made with flush dark stained oak doors – a whopping 18 in total – in the 7.5m x 4.5m room. ‘Allowing for that many tall units in such a dark finish, we had to be careful not to block out all of the light.’ 

That was avoided by creating a large dressing table area with oversized mirrors on the two window returns to bounce the light around the room. ‘This gave us the best possible starting point in order to create a light, spacious and inviting area to live in,’ says Gary.

A curved desk at one end of the dressing room offsets the symmetry of the space, while a cushioned island with drawers beneath – handy for storing clothes and shoes – was built as a centrepiece and focal point.

Both the dressing room and the kitchen are symmetrical – a feature that made the job particularly enjoyable for Gary. ‘It’s rare to get spaces this size with a completely symmetrical elevation, but they always look great when they’re finished,’ he says.

Everything was made in the company’s Kent workshop, which has around 20 carpenters working alongside a team of designers and draftspeople and ten full-time fitters, so the company is able to see the entire process through from design to finish.

‘Even when we’re building something contemporary, we always use traditional techniques and solid wood,’ says Gary. ‘It’s what people love about a quality handmade kitchen. And if you build something in that way using quality materials, it’s going to last you a good 30 years.’

Perhaps that explains the trend for mixing old with new. After all, if you want your kitchen to grow old gracefully, a classic twist will never look outdated…

Chamber Furniture, The Old Timber Yard, London Road, Halstead, Kent TN14 7DZ; 01959 53255; chamberfurniture.co.uk


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