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Where did this evocative phrase originate?

The Origins of the “Country House Kitchen”

June. 2024

Few phrases evoke the warmth, charm, and rusticity quite like “country house kitchen.” It conjures images of crackling hearths, copper pots, and the tantalising aroma of homemade pies wafting through a sunlit room. But where did the evocative phrase “country house kitchen” originate?

Food has been cooked in a kitchen-like space since the discovery of fire, but as romantic as “Country House Kitchen” may be, cooking in the country did not happen in a lofty room, with a walk-in pantry, state of the art Miele appliances and an Everhot or Aga as a focal point.

Country House Kitchen

To trace the roots of the “country house kitchen,” we must journey back through time, to an era when homes were not just shelters but hubs of sustenance and community.

In medieval Europe, kitchens were often separate structures, catering spaces bustling with servants, situated away from the main house due to fire hazards.

However, with the passage of time and advancements in architecture, kitchens gradually migrated indoors, evolving into integral parts of domestic life.  The grandest example of all being Hampton Court Palace Kitchens.

The kitchen of the country house in its earliest form was often a separate building from the main residence. It was typically a large, utilitarian space with a hearth for cooking over an open flame. Cooks prepared meals for the household, using ingredients sourced from the estate's gardens and farms.

A kitchen dining table in a country house kitchen

The term “country house kitchen” gained prominence during the Renaissance period, a time marked by a renewed interest in the pastoral lifestyle and a celebration of the natural world.

The kitchen, once relegated to the domain of servants, emerged at the end of this period as a focal point for country estate houses; the country kitchen that approximates to what we see today was found in the very farmhouses built by wealthy landowners.

The concept of the “country house kitchen” transcended geographical boundaries, permeating literature, art, and cultural discourse. In the writings of Jane Austen, lavish descriptions of estate kitchens offer glimpses into the daily rhythms of domestic life, from bustling servants preparing elaborate feasts to intimate conversations over simmering pots.

Country house kitchen complete with chickens

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, societal shifts ushered in a new era of domesticity. The rise of urbanisation and technological advancements reshaped the landscape of culinary practices, prompting a nostalgic longing for the pastoral idyll of yesteryears. The “country house kitchen” emerged as a symbol of authenticity and heritage, evoking sentiments of nostalgia and longing for simpler times.

As advancements in technology and design progressed throughout the 19th century, country house kitchens began to incorporate more sophisticated equipment such as cast iron stoves and copper pots. The layout of the kitchen evolved to include workstations for different tasks, such as baking, chopping, and preparing meats.

The introduction of electricity revolutionised country house kitchens. Electric stoves replaced traditional wood or coal-fired ones, making cooking more efficient and less labour-intensive. Refrigerators and other electric appliances began to appear, further streamlining food preparation and storage.

A country house kitchen with a green kitchen island

The mid-20th century saw significant changes in the design and function of country house kitchens. The rise of convenience foods and frozen meals led to the incorporation of modern appliances like microwave ovens and dishwashers. Kitchens became more than just places for cooking, evolving into social hubs where family members and guests could gather.

Ironically, some of the last places to receive a kitchen makeover have been country houses. More recently larger properties have a new generation of owners who have enlisted the help of skilled craftsmen who have remodelled, re-imagined and re-designed the back of house rooms to be fit for modern living as well as cooking.

A cooks table in a quintessential country house kitchen

The late 20th century and beyond witnessed a focus on aesthetics and luxury in country house kitchen design. High-end materials such as granite countertops and stainless steel appliances became popular, reflecting a desire for both functionality and style. Additionally, open-plan layouts became prevalent, blurring the lines between kitchen and living spaces.

Today the phrase “country house kitchen” encapsulates not just a physical space but a way of life—a homage to the timeless traditions and enduring allure of rural living. It invites us to slow down, savour the simple joys, and reconnect with the rhythms of nature and community that have sustained us for generations.

Modern country house kitchens are equipped with state-of-the-art appliances, smart technology, and sustainable features. From farmhouse sinks to custom cabinetry, today's kitchens seamlessly blend tradition with innovation, serving as the heart of the home for generations to come.

Country house kitchens may have been born out of nostalgia but today they are designed to meet the needs of contemporary living while honouring the rich culinary traditions of the past.  They offer a space that brings people together and makes preparing and eating food an enjoyable experience; savour every moment.

If you have a country house kitchen that you wish to discuss, please contact us

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