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Materials and motivations spice up three bespoke kitchen designs

Pamela Buxton

Greek mythology, ‘a bit of drama’ and a saffron test set challenges for ConForm, ROAR Architects and Farshid Moussavi Architecture

A bespoke sliding door screens off the newly extended kitchen.
A bespoke sliding door screens off the newly extended kitchen. Credit: Chris Wharton Photography

There’s very little in common in terms of materiality between the three kitchens below. Two are rear extensions, one resplendent in marble, the other sporting a distinctive roof of CNC-cut plywood that gives both a warm character and a sense of drama. The third is an RIBA Award-winning new build with a crisp combination of steel, concrete and oak. Despite their differences, all share a boldness of conviction and a desire to create a kitchen experience tailored to the particular, and very different, needs of their clients.


‘It was quite a leap of faith,’ says ROAR Architects director Shaun O’Brien of the CNC-cut vaulted kitchen roof that steals the show at the practice’s Tennyson Road project in Walthamstow, east London.

The 28m² new kitchen is part of a £240,000 refurb and extension that has enabled a growing family to remain in its home, and accommodate regular family visitors from overseas. As well as extending into the loft space and reconfiguring the rest of the end-of-terrace Victorian house, ROAR added a brick-faced side and rear extension overlooking the garden to create a generous kitchen space, in sharp contrast to the cramped galley kitchen of before. At the far end, an extra 4.5m long and 3m wide projection provides additional social space and a window seat, with three windows folding back to increase interaction with the garden.

The distinctive roof shape met the client’s wish for ‘a bit of drama’ while keeping within the 2m maximum eaves height required by planners on the side infill extension. While the effect is a little like the upturned hull of a boat, ROAR was also inspired by historic gathering spaces.

To save costs, the architect worked closely with the contractor to realise much of the CNC-cut roof themselves. ROAR measured, templated and tested the birch-faced rib components on site before arriving at the final specification for milling. The ribs for the frame generally have two 22mm layers of plywood, increasing to four around the two deep skylights. Ribs were glued and screwed and stained in OSMO oil. The joists were glued and installed by the contractor.

  • Rear windows fold back to open up the extension to the garden.
    Rear windows fold back to open up the extension to the garden. Credit: Chris Wharton Photography
  • Exposed brickwork indicates the footprint of the previous kitchen.
    Exposed brickwork indicates the footprint of the previous kitchen. Credit: Chris Wharton Photography
  • Eaves detail of CNC cut roof.
    Eaves detail of CNC cut roof. Credit: Chris Wharton Photography
  • View into the extended kitchen, with rear social space beyond.
    View into the extended kitchen, with rear social space beyond. Credit: Chris Wharton Photography

It was the first time the practice had worked with the CNC process and it was, admits Evans, ‘pretty hairy’ at times, although in the end only a few pieces had to be trimmed to fit on site.

The base of the exposed ribs provides a shelf for plants and ornaments, while two deep skylights and lighting are incorporated into the roof structure.

More CNC-cut plywood was used to create the other key bespoke feature – a sliding kitchen pocket door with an elegant pattern and Perspex infills. This allows views through while restricting smells and sounds from permeating beyond the kitchen.

Cupboards are from Howdens with sprayed MDF fronts, while the counter top is Frosty Carrina, a grey-veined ivory white surface from Caesarstone. A stretch of brick wall indicates the extent of the previous kitchen. Like the floorboards, this is painted white.

‘They managed to get 20 people in here over Christmas,’ says O’Brien. ‘We got the biggest buzz from this project. It wasn’t just about adding a space. It has transformed the clients’ family life.’

The refurbishment was longlisted in the 2023 Don’t Move Improve! awards.



Architect ROAR Architects

Contractor LMK Constructions

Engineer Derek Lofty & Associates

Selected suppliers Caesarstone (counter top); Cut & Construct (CNC); Howdens (kitchen units)


Will it pass the saffron test? That was one of the considerations when Farshid Moussavi Architecture specified the kitchen materials at House in Hove, a new build home for her parents. Saffron – a popular ingredient in Persian cooking – as well as other potential stain-risks such as red wine and tomato were tested when the practice came up with the idea for the stunning burgundy-tinted concrete island unit, which passed with flying colours.

Inside the ‘wet’ kitchen, with ‘dry’ area visible beyond.
Inside the ‘wet’ kitchen, with ‘dry’ area visible beyond. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri

This element forms the focal point of a kitchen on the lower ground floor of the compact new house. Arranged around a courtyard with an olive tree, the kitchen is divided into wet and dry areas with adjacent study and living room spaces. The clients often eat informally in the kitchen, as an alternative to the more formal dining area on the ground floor.

The wet kitchen can be opened up to the glazed courtyard when required as an easy alternative to extract ventilation, ensuring that smells are kept away from the rest of the house.

The wet kitchen’s long pre-scratched stainless steel counter continues into the dry kitchen area, separately by a glazed door. This enables the cooking area to be enclosed but still linked visually. Inspired by her experiences of her own kitchen, Moussavi designed in a sink large enough to accommodate an oven tray, as well as plenty of bespoke integrated storage for recycling.

In the dry kitchen, the stainless steel counter contrasts with the island unit, which cantilevers from a base and was craned in through the courtyard. This is tinted with a burgundy pigment.

‘The colour makes it inviting and gives it warmth,’ says Moussavi, who likes the kitchen’s calm atmosphere.

Burgundy-tinted concrete island unit with oak storage to the rear. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri
View through ‘dry’ area of the kitchen. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri

The floor is also polished concrete – hard-wearing enough to cope with any dropped food and comings and goings from the courtyard. This has been tinted with a subtle blue pigment – a strategy continued throughout the house.

The kitchen’s third key material is oak, treated with white oil to make the yellow hues recede. This clads a bank of storage cabinets on the rear wall alongside the concrete counter. Moussavi likes the way these different materials  ‘play with each other’ rather than forming a unified system.

‘Kitchens have become too much of a system. This is playing a different game,’ she says.



Architect Farshid Moussavi Architecture

Contractor Cheesmur Building Contractor

Architecture technologist/ M&E consultant Cityzen

Contract administrator/quantity surveyor Robinson Low Francis

Structural engineer Mitchinson Macken

Selected suppliers Steyson Granolithic Contractors (floor)



While the typology may be what ConForm’s Ben Edgley calls a typical side return extension, the execution of this kitchen addition to a Victorian terraced home is anything but the norm. Taking inspiration from the site’s address of Achilles Road, one of several Ancient Greek themed road names in this Hampstead neighbourhood of north London, ConForm had the bright idea of creating the new kitchen as if almost entirely hewn from marble. Impressively, the practice was able to deliver this bold concept largely intact – from floor to soffit, doors to wall cladding, creating a largely enveloping marble volume.

The kitchen's side extension is resplendent with marble floor, wall cladding and cabinet fronts.
The kitchen's side extension is resplendent with marble floor, wall cladding and cabinet fronts. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri

The new kitchen is part of a whole- house, 188m² refurbishment creating a serene, functional and robust interior with improved circulation, light and storage and more flexible space. The marble-clad side extension forms the new social heart of the family home, dramatically announcing itself in the living room with a chamfered aperture that provides views into the kitchen three steps down. At the rear, the marble intervention projects into the courtyard garden in similarly assertive manner, contrasting with the original brickwork.

ConForm had worked with marble before, and knew that while typically it is used 20mm thick, such a depth wouldn’t work for functionality of the cupboard doors, soffits and appliances, and would be too heavy. Getting this right proved to be the biggest challenge of the whole project. In the end, the practice used a 6mm veneer on an aluminium substrate with a 12mm door front, in combination with Howdens cupboard carcasses and appliances. The fridge has a recess on the door for ease of opening. They decided not to book match the veneer but allow ‘a natural flow’ across the units.

While the thickness of the marble ceiling cladding is also 6mm, that used for the floor and walls in the side infill is 20mm. The same Carrara marble is used throughout – Staturio Venato, which gives a very white appearance infused with soft grey veins.

However, marble was considered too much of a stain-risk for the countertop. Instead, ConForm used pure white Corian Quartz solid surface for the counter and the sink, chosen for its durability and stain-resistance.

  • The marble theme continues externally, where the extension terminates in a chamfered, marble-clad projection.
    The marble theme continues externally, where the extension terminates in a chamfered, marble-clad projection. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri
  • Inside the top-lit, marble-clad extension.
    Inside the top-lit, marble-clad extension. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri
  • Marble-framed view into the extended kitchen from the lounge.
    Marble-framed view into the extended kitchen from the lounge. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri
  • Corian countertops complement the Carrara marble.
    Corian countertops complement the Carrara marble. Credit: Lorenzo Zandri

As part of the original house, the area parallel to the marble zone is treated differently, with a polished concrete floor. The kitchen is flanked by the equally eye-catching central unit, which combines Corian counter space and storage at a height of 900mm, with a dining table at a lower level of 750mm. The counter is clad in stained oak to give a warm counterpoint to the marble, and appears to ‘float’ while contained within a box section frame of white powder-coated steel. The unit contains kitchen-related storage on the kitchen side, and more general items on the living room side.

‘We worked very hard to come up with a way of treating this that wasn’t too distracting,’ says Edgley.

On the non-kitchen side, the rear is fully glazed to give a lighter contrast to the visually heavier marble zone. Edgely said the practice spotted an opportunity ‘to elevate the typical Victorian terrace with a restrained yet rich material palette’ that its clients will enjoy for years to come. The marble may be Italian rather than Greek, but the kitchen is nonetheless a heroic execution worthy of its inspiration.



Architect & interior design ConForm Architects

Structural engineer Foster Structures

Main contractor AroBuild

Marble specialist Nida (UK)

Principal designer Simply CDM

Selected suppliers Direct Wood Flooring (timber flooring); Greg R & Son (joinery) Nicola Azzollini Marmi (marble); The Concrete Flooring Contractors (polished concrete)


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