Stephen Sills: The exterior of the house is done in a kind of English Lutyens style, and I thought the kitchen should have the same feeling. So William Morris seemed appropriate. He was not only a decorative artist, but also a great artist. All those thistle and leaf patterns were very organic and revolutionary for the time.
He saw the beauty in a plain, ordinary thistle. His work was all about getting back to a more simple, handcrafted aesthetic in the midst of the Industrial Age. Is that why it's so comforting?
That's a good word for it. It is comforting, because it's taken from nature. Morris's palette was often muted and easy to live with. This pattern was originally a border. I had it recolored a bit and printed out so I could stack it across the whole wall.
And then you made another bold gesture. You painted the ceiling in the breakfast area a bright turquoise blue. Why?
To give the room a sort of modern clarity, because it is a new house. But it's also the kind of thing you would see in England — a weird color in an unexpected place. Maybe they ran out of paint and got that color out of an old can in the barn. I don't know. There's always something that feels tossed-off, and it puts the energy into those old English interiors. I think that's where I was coming from.
I like that sort of English eccentricity. And often it's the thing we come to love most about a house—those moments that are unpredictable.
And slightly off. It makes it more human somehow.
What's on the rest of the ceiling?
Old barn wood.
That's the kind of thing people usually do on the floor, not the ceiling. Why put it up top?
I just thought it would be a nice atmospheric gesture, to give the ceiling this rough texture.
And the moldings that form the coffers are not painted turquoise, but a different blue. Why?
It's that weirdness again. Colors that don't match, but still work. I do it all the time. I coordinate things up to a point and then I throw off the coordination. I can't stand self-conscious interiors — over-calculated, over-designed. I think the blue inside the cabinets is different as well.
I like the way the diamond-shape muntins echo the panels on the island cabinets. Where did that detail come from?
It's old-fashioned, kind of 1920s or 1930s. I wanted the cabinetry to look handcrafted, as if somebody was trying to make something pretty, not slick. They're on legs, so they don't look built-in.
Why doesn't the wood floor go all the way underneath, by the wall?
To accentuate the float. They're set on 18th-century French limestone, which continues into the next room. The limestone subtly forms a border around the whole kitchen and makes it feel older.
Clearly space wasn't an issue. You have room for two islands.
They have lots of parties in this house, and two islands make it more workable for the caterers.
What's on the countertops?
A warm gray stone that looks great with stainless steel.
Why did you choose a cooktop instead of a range?
That's what the clients specified, and it works brilliantly. But I still love a range. I have an old Garland in the country that I've had for 20 years. Here, I had the hood made in an old-fashioned shape, which gives it a vintage look.
It's like something you'd see in a movie on the BBC. I love when a scene takes place in one of those country-house kitchens. It's the best part of the movie for me!
Is that a metallic tile on the wall?
Yes. It's made of stainless steel, but it looks like an old tin ceiling. I thought it was a good durable surface and also very attractive. I like a kitchen to be utilitarian and functional, but that can also be so pretty. This kitchen was created all at once, but you could imagine that it had been renovated several times. The tiles and the hood were always there, but then it got a face-lift with the paint and the wallpaper.
You're a storyteller, and you've found a narrative for the scheme.
This kitchen is a decorative fantasy. I didn't try to be historically correct. I just wanted to make it a room you want to be in.
Get the look…
Countertops and limestone floor surround: .
Range top: .
Pot filler: .