A country kitchen with a warm atmosphere that draws in friends and family is a must for many, but it can be hard to know how to get the balance right between functional and friendly.
Opting for rustic country-style could be the answer. ‘Country-style kitchens remain perpetually popular because they have a comfort and homeliness to them that makes the kitchen the heart of the home,’ says Jennifer Todd, designer at Life Kitchens.
What makes a country kitchen?
We’re not sure if it’s the low-beamed ceilings, the cabinets dressed up with vintage trinkets or the big farmhouse table, but country kitchens are the most charming of them all.
When it comes to choosing cabinetry, you can’t go wrong with Shaker-style kitchen units, while bringing in traditional flourishes such as canopies, mantles and pilasters can ramp up the old-fashioned feel. However, much depends on the architecture of the room itself.
In a space that already features wooden beams and exposed brickwork, a contemporary kitchen in the right materials can still feel rustic and helps to ensure that the space isn’t overdone. ‘Avoid fuss and frills, and keep cabinetry simple and in proportion,’ advises Peter Humphrey, design director and founder of Humphrey Munson. ‘There’s such power to simplicity.’
As well as style, think about the materials and colours that will bring warmth to a traditional or a contemporary scheme. ‘The tactile aesthetic of natural wood works well on anything from cabinetry and furniture to flooring, either painted or stained to reflect its natural beauty,’ says Jennifer. ‘Stained wood appears rich in quality and white paint on wood also looks clean but doesn’t detract from its original raw texture. To inject some colour, deep greens, blues and oranges bring warmth and familiarity,’ she adds. ‘Earthy tones are perfect for emanating an authentic feel.’
For Leisha Norman, designer at Harvey Jones, the most effective way to achieve rustic charm is to source something that has history.
‘Always keep a look out for beaten planks that can be used for shelving and old doors that can be upcycled,’ she says. ‘If you’re lucky enough to find an old sideboard or dresser, snap it up and repurpose it.’ Leisha believes the key element to remember is that country style has a freedom to it, and isn’t just about the type of kitchen that you choose. ‘It’s about that special lived-in feel that it creates.’
What are the best ways to introduce some rustic charm into a kitchen?
‘A lot of the success in rustic-looking kitchens comes down to texture and materials,’ says Karen Livesey from John Lewis of Hungerford. ‘Country kitchens feel much closer to nature, and most have some sort of timber element. Touches of oak or pine add natural warmth and softness to a room, achieved through reclaimed flooring, freestanding kitchen furniture or worktops.
Alternatively, flagstone, limestone, or terracotta tiles are ideal for a rustic country look, as is exposing the original brickwork on one or more walls, or adding some brick slips in a finish similar to the original building. If you’re extending out, it’s really important to think about lighting.
‘Modern roof lighting can take away that cosy feeling, so a warmer, more traditional style is better. Also, retaining an original fireplace as part of the new kitchen scheme or adding a wood-burning stove will create a rustic feel without going overboard.
Including pieces of free standing shabby-chic furniture can be a great way of adding character and period charm to a country-style kitchen. And you don’t have to buy expensive antiques or vintage pieces – just simply source some second-hand furniture and get creative! For example a wardrobe can easily be turned into a larder and a lick of chalk paint and some distressing can soon make any piece look vintage and authentic.
Can country kitchens ever be contemporary?
Definitely – you could have, for example, in-frame Shaker-style cabinetry in a muted traditional colour, but with a heavily veined marble worktop. Alternatively, you could go for more classic style doorknob and cup handles, but in a brushed steel finish as opposed to brass. Although greys can often be seen as clinical and ultra-contemporary, they can be incorporated into a rustic scheme by choosing the undertone carefully, so a warmer green-grey is perfect. This cosy base
can then be accented with brighter yellows and sharp greens.
Country kitchen ideas
Perfect for cooking, entertaining or just retreating from the hustle and bustle outside, rural-style kitchens are centred around the best bits of home life. But that doesn’t mean they have to be totally traditional. There are plenty of ways you can bring this style up to date and make it work for the here and now.
Whether you live in the middle of a city or right out in the sticks, you can bring a little rustic charm to your kitchen
French country kitchen
Simple lines and glass-fronted cabinets combine classic appeal with a contemporary edge in this French Shaker kitchen from Homebase. While this design is functional for everyday life (plenty of storage, a sizeable island and available in a contemporary light blue or soft cream shades), it also has bags of rustic romance
What about green for a country kitchen?
Green is the colour of the moment, and a great colour for a kitchen. With its classic design and elegant style, this Bodbyn kitchen from Ikea will stand the test of time. Perfect for small spaces, it also ticks a lot of our country kitchen boxes, including a brass-coloured tap, Butler-style sink and space to hang those all-important dried herbs and flowers.
Country kitchen storage ideas
Think storage for a bygone era and ditch the plastic and store cupboard essentials in Kilner jars, glass bottles and colourful canisters for a quick and easy way to tap into the country-style trend. Display your storage on open shelves alongside wicker baskets – great for stashing away tea towels and cleaning products – and hang mugs on hooks to create your own pantry-style corner
Install a country dresser
What is a country kitchen without a wooden farmhouse-style dresser? We’d style this Brindle large dresser from Oak Furnitureland up with our favourite china, framed photos and mementos for instant countryside charm. Its sage grey colour will complement most country kitchen schemes and there’s also plenty of room to hide away the whole family’s knick-knacks in the three drawers and cupboards, so it’s practical as well as pretty.
You can also often buy vintage and antique dressers from salvage yards, vintage and antique shops and second hand furniture outlets so scout around.
Add a range cooker
A range cooker has to be the ultimate cooker choice for a country kitchen, adding character to the very heart of the home. However while a range cooker might be an iconic symbol of a traditional English country kitchen, modern designs often incorporate far more exotic options. Here’s how to choose the best range cooker for your home
Country kitchen accessories
If you don’t want to invest in a whole kitchen, build up the look with accessories. Most high-street brands have ranges that suit this style – look for polka-dot prints, chintzy florals or nature-inspired homeware. We love Sophie Allport’s Bees collection, with the charming range of illustrated kitchenware bringing an instant farmhouse feel
Add a kitchen island
If having a sociable space is important to you, go for a design with an island. Whether you use it as a breakfast bar, a space to prep dinner or a spot to share a coffee and chat with a friend, an island is sure to become the hub of your kitchen
A patterned floor can work in a country kitchen
While the obvious choice for flooring might be rustic-style wood, we love the look of this patterned blue design from Carpetright. Featuring multi-tonal shades of blue against an off-white background, this tile-effect vinyl flooring is a great way to add character to your space
More country kitchen ideas and inspiration
What are the advantages of a country kitchen?
One major advantage is that you can add furniture or cabinetry elements that you already have to your new kitchen – an antique dresser, for example, or old farmhouse table. Aesthetically, a country-style kitchen is more lenient when it comes to adding personality with accessories, and certainly more forgiving when it comes to mess! But a key thing to remember is that by going for a classic style, there’s a broader appeal – and therefore much less risk when thinking about resale.
You can check out lots of kitchen makeovers and revamps in our Real Homes section – go on get inspired and then share your story with us