Thinking of creating a separate hard-working room for dishwashing and storage? Don’t dream of designing a scullery without first checking out these useful and beautiful sites.
Sculleries can, too, be things of beauty. If, like us, you’ve ever wafted around a National Trust property swooning less at the four-poster beds and gilt-framed oils and more at the spare simplicity of the below-stairs quarters (think butler sinks, industrial taps and gleaming copper pans), then you too may be in the market for a scullery. Now all we need is a house with the space. Don’t be without these inspiring websites which demonstrate just how to build, and then kit out, the perfect scullery.
Best for Scullery Design and CraftsmanshipPlain English
There are many kitchen designers who specialise in cabinetry. Plain English is the very best of them. The company was conceived of by accident 25 years ago when its founder Katie Fontana, and her husband and PE managing director, Tony Niblock, swapped life in the capital for a rural idyll in Suffolk. ‘We decided to take the time out to build our own house, so it was an interesting year of living in a caravan. When it came to the kitchen, I assumed that I’d be able to find something and just buy it. But everything had twiddly bits or was too look-at-me flashy. In the end I found a local joiner and we did it ourselves.’
Twenty-five years on, Plain English is still the cognoscenti’s favourite, its incomparable craftsmanship and its simplicity outstripping other, slicker contenders. Today her Marylebone-based design team, headed up by Merlin Wright, and her Suffolk-dwelling craftsmen are the absolute go-to. When it comes to sculleries and utilities, Wright says the devil is in the detail. ‘I prefer to design cupboards rather than open shelving where possible to conceal those items not used on a daily basis; rarely used items can stay hidden at the back of a cupboard, without collecting dust, until they are needed. Tall cupboards hide away mops, brooms, ironing boards and vacuum cleaners and open under-counter spaces with rustic wicker baskets separate clean washing items from dirty ones. Where space allows, it can be useful to incorporate a sink for soaking clothes or washing boots and dogs.’ We love all their previous projects, but for a scullery vibe, do check out the Spitalfields Kitchen for inspiration.
Artichoke’s designers are specialists in period English houses. What they don’t know about creating bespoke cabinetry that would make Downton’s Mrs Patmore proud is barely worth bothering with. However, they also understand that contemporary domesticity has moved on, and while we might eye up the kitchens and sculleries at National Trust estates, and yearn for shelves in muted colours and cupboards made with the craftsmanship skills passed down the centuries, we don’t actually want to compromise on modern conveniences. But nor do we want those conveniences to come at the cost of historic charm. Founded by Bruce Hodgson, a disciple of the joinery designs of Sir Edwin Lutyens as well as Edwardian and Victorian joinery detail, the mission has always been to ‘design spaces which look as if they were always meant to be there,’ while the promise is that ‘we make them to ensure they always will be.’ Artichoke has recently noted an increasing trend towards the addition of ancillary rooms, particularly in its new-build country house projects; after all, a scullery means that you can have a neater and more compact kitchen. We love this example of a scullery completed at a villa in Tuscany, though do note, proximity to Florence – while desirable, of course – is not a requirement to achieving the look.
‘Although the humble Scullery is enjoying something of a revival in modern day kitchen design, one of the most interesting things about it is actually the origin of the name ‘scullery’. As with so many words in the English language, it’s from the French – ‘esculier’ which is an old French word for plates – hence the scullery is the room where you
wash and store the dishes.’
So illuminates the exemplary Humphrey Munson website. Its workmanship is similarly excellent, with every bespoke cabinet handmade in its Felsted workshop. We love that it has a whole section dedicated to the scullery, with various proven examples of not only how useful a room it can be, but how beautiful. The page comes with an accompanying potted history of the room. ‘Kitchens in the 19th-century were strictly for cooking only as the washing up was done in the scullery which was a much smaller room adjacent or located near to the kitchen’. It also offers this excellent advice for anyone considering creating such a space: ‘Storage and utility are the two essential components for designing a scullery. There must be plenty of storage if the space is to be used in the traditional sense, tall cupboards for example are really popular because of the sheer volume of storage they offer. A large butler sink is a great idea particularly when combined with a tap that incorporates a separate rinse function. A dishwasher and pull out bin are usually top of the wish list for sculleries as is a decent worktop run for stacking plates and serving dishes, glassware etc.’.
Best for Kitting Out the SculleryAlistair Hendy
Alistair Hendy is the force of nature and creative mastermind behind Hastings Old Town’s Hendy & Co hardware store. Every perfectly presented natural brush and cleaning implement, every enamel washing bowl, is an ode to the domesticity of yesteryear, and every aesthetically pleasing implement on display is built to last. Happily his eschewal of plastic tat couldn’t be more on-trend, as the world awakens to the virtues of spending a little more on items that are designed to go the distance, rather than buying cheaper tools that need constant replacing. Hendy is a fervent enthusiast when it comes to the scullery; indeed his whole business based on this most industrious of rooms. He says: ‘Beyond functionality, the scullery can be a beautiful place. Take a leaf out of the Downton Abbey school of below-stairs aesthetic. Think white tiling, robust taps, exposed pipework, ceramic drainers, butler’s sinks (two side-by-side – you can never have too many sinks), a generous plate and pot rack, and scrubbed shelving. Make sure there are plenty of hooks for sink and bottlebrushes, cloths, pans and utensils. A line of brushes hanging on a white-washed or tiled wall is a beautiful thing, and appeals to our modern day aesthetic. The everyday is now the beautiful, the functional is the new special.’ Check out the shop’s selection of gift boxes to inspire your scullery choices.
Summerill and Bishop
Unlike some of the others on this list, Summerill and Bishop, whose lovely bricks-and-mortar shop at Clarendon Cross is a joy to behold, is not devoted solely to the functional. Also available to feast your eyes on is much Provencal prettiness, in the form of tablecloths, Astier de Villatte wonkily delicate white ceramics and gorgeous decorative table settings. So when it comes to the more functional – and indeed, that which you might kit out a scullery with – you can rely on Summerill and Bishop to have made the chicest of selections. We can hardly believe we’re eulogising ironing, but this wooden board is the stuff of crease-free dreams. And as for the wooden ladders – we’re reaching for our linen pinnies to start organising our fantasy scullery as we write.
Labour and Wait
‘We believe in a simple, honest approach to design, where quality and utility are intrinsic.’ So says Labour and Wait’s pleasingly clean website, with its Gill Sans typeface that makes us immediately think of the glory days of 1930s and 40s design. Its founders, Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins, are both designers with menswear backgrounds who, in 2000, decided that they wanted to dispense with seasonality and instead turn their hands and eyes to functional items that would become every day classics (the name comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s call to ‘Learn to Labour and to Wait’). The duo was clearly onto something. After opening in east London, they now have a further standalone shop in the East End, as well as one in Tokyo and spaces at Dover Street Market (both London and New York). If you’re considering a scullery, its website is a must-visit.
Objects of Use
Objects of Use is a tiny, beautiful and functional shop set amidst the winding lanes that house Oxford’s most famous colleges. It is, at busy times, barely possibly to turn round in it, such is its lure to those seeking natural and practical means with which to keep their homes spick and span. Luckily, it also has a suitably spotless website (do note the lovely sans serif font – we could while away hours browsing and admiring), so you don’t have to join the throngs if you prefer not to, or you don’t live within reach of it. If you are considering a scullery, there is all sorts to feast your eyes on, not least the likes of Swedish brooms, natural feather dusters, and this simple and elegant dust brush. Our inner domestic geek is in clover here.
By Nancy Alsop
Updated August 2021
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