Shaws does… Contemporary Country

The role of the handcrafted country kitchen in modern design.

When people think of a traditional country kitchen in its purest form, they may think of beige painted cupboards, stone floors, oak beams and Belfast sinks (Shaws ones of course). Modern country kitchens are a much lighter and stylish affair. They retain their functional elements – like the iconic Shaws Sink – but combine them in a more contemporary way.

Traditionally a country kitchen would be a robust, practical space designed for the rigours of country life. Sinks were deep and made of glazed fireclay to withstand heavy pots and pans. They were used to clean boots, wash clothes, bathe babies and sometimes even dowse the dog.

Image Credit – DeVOL
Image Credit – DeVOL
Image Credit – DeVOL

Worktops were thick butcher’s blocks, chosen to withstand even the most enthusiastic food preparation and butchery. They would also use marble for its cooling properties, perfect for working with pastry. Stone floors were used (this interior style predates the use of carpet and wooden flooring) for durability. Thick oak beams and low ceilings could create a dark and gloomy aesthetic, so was offset by painting walls and cabinetry in neutral colours to draw in light and brighten the space.

This look is not for everyone. Some find it fussy and too agricultural for their tastes. It fell out of favour as people opted for off-the-shelf flatpack kitchens, made cheaper by mass production. The rise of modernism encouraged consumers to seek a more minimalist look with cleaner lines, which often makes the smaller, and more common urban kitchen feel bigger. 

However, the traditional principles of a country kitchen like craftsmanship, hard-wearing natural materials and functional design, are now being embraced by a new wave of design-savvy, eco-centric homeowners. They choose quality over convenience, function over form, and are turning back to traditional values, blending them seamlessly with modern living and contemporary design.

The result is a lighter, brighter kitchen, filled with the same practicality and sensibilities as before, but more eclectic, yet considered, in terms of design. Craft is very much back. There is a craving for beautiful things that are handmade and built to last. 

Cabinetry is still handmade from quality materials and hand-painted. However, they are no longer exclusively beige and brown. Farrow & Ball’s exquisitely named period paint colours are used in ways that seem ‘of the moment’. Kitchen makers like deVOL are reinventing traditional cabinetry, making the designs feel more relevant and less utilitarian without losing their ‘soul’. Artisans like Clive Christian Furniture Company’s luxury bespoke handmade kitchens are more popular than ever. Perrin & Rowe, who make handcrafted brassware, have seen a rise in demand for more contemporary tap designs in traditional finishes like aged brass and bronze. And, we at Shaws, have seen an increase in demand for our sinks because they are handmade, built to last a lifetime and have a timeless appeal that suits any kitchen.

Read our ‘Get the look’ journal post on Contemporary Country for interior ideas and inspiration.