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Creating a family-friendly open-plan kitchen with style

Fleetwood interior designer Shelley Leslie’s cleverly-organised kitchen is a lesson in zoning

The brief: Create an elegant, family-friendly kitchen

When it comes to family life, an organised and calming environment helps to make even the most busy household find balance. When renovating her Donegal home, Fleetwood interior designer Shelley Leslie knew that her kitchen needed to function well, and be a place where everyone could enjoy some downtime together.

“Kitchens are so important, because they are the centre of the home. They should be very practical, without spreading themselves all over the place. This kitchen is more than capable of handling a family five, and any parties that we would have,” Shelley says.

“It’s very streamlined, clean and everything in it is well-thought out. It’s so important to keep going back to your kitchen design until you get it right. Anyone can have a perfectly working kitchen, but you need the plan to make sense so that you can use it ergonomically.”

When renovating the house, Shelley knew she had to change up the layout. It was previously a large living space, and so they made the dining area larger, and added more glass. Something wasn’t quite right, and Shelley realised that the landscape window in the kitchen was too small.

Even though it took more work, Shelley persisted in installing the new window, which was about a metre wider, which is now the focal point of the design.

“You have to go by your instinct and intuition. I find with a lot of clients it is about confidence. When renovating or building a house they might be unsure of something, or builders or other people will say no you can’t do that. But don’t be afraid of getting something that you want,” she says.

Pantone Salute

Shelley is a designer who knows when to embrace colour (like in her vibrant snug featured in the last issue of Irish Country Magazine), and when a lighter touch has more impact. Pantone Salute is used just on the walls around the kitchen and the island, to help define the space.

Pantone Salute is used here to zone the kitchen as an accent colour, and it’s really effective. Designer White then is a neutral white, it is really good to use if you want something fresh that will work in classic or modern homes.”

“Dark colours do bring elegance and calmness, and they feel very chic. In this room, I think the dark colour helps to frame the views from the window, and help the units to pop.”

The Häcker kitchen, a German design, features matte, taupe handless doors by Parkes Interiors in Belfast. To add a little pattern, Shelley added hexagonal Dune tiles from Doherty Tiles and Bathrooms.

Zoning is a valuable tactic for making a large room feel very functional. The island provides plenty of workspace, with a separate breakfast bar running perpendicular to it.

“Because the room is so big, it was able to accommodate that more unusual design of a breakfast bar cantilevered off the main island.”

“It lends itself to a better flow. The dining area is then in its own area by the window, and there’s also a smaller window seat for watching TV. Everything is in its proper place, so it all feels very balanced.”

The table and chairs are from Habitat, and the bright blue accent chair is from Shelley’s own business, Post Contemporary Furniture. The window seating was made by local upholsterer Nicky Brown, and Shelley’s husband built the TV unit to match the integrated larder.

Accessories like the handblown glass lighting from Jonathan Ball Studio, with three globes over the dining table and two dropping down over the island, provide a mix of textures.

“I like the blue as a nod to the sea, the large format and how they bring the whole design scheme together,” Shelley says.

“A lot of what we did, I just had hunches about. But the thing is you get all these ideas, you put them all on paper and lay them out on a table in front of you, and it’s when you see it all, that these threads come together and have commonality.”

For their busy family, this kitchen, dining and living room provides the perfect blend of comfort and function. “It works really well. Because there is a load of seating, if you’re cooking, you don’t ever feel like you are on top of each other. It’s a very workable space.

“But a lot of that is down to the colours being used too. Even though there is a lot of accent colour used, there is a great energy and lightness to the room.”

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