Most people would be thrilled to have one beautiful kitchen, but Gemma and Jasper Middleton are lucky enough to have two. There's the one they have at home and the one they have here at the workshop for their company, Middleton, which specialises in bespoke kitchens.
Jasper – a time-served carpenter who studied ﬁne art and antiques at university – previously worked in the family property development business. At the same time, he was renovating the cottage he and Gemma share with their two children, Primrose and Arabella, who are four and ﬁve. The work on the cottage included creating a kitchen from scratch. He enjoyed it so much he decided to go into business making bespoke kitchens and was soon joined by his brother.
Carpentry and woodworking have been Jasper’s family trade for generations and the passion proved contagious as Gemma soon left her job as a pharmacist to join the business.
The philosophy of the company is simple – the Middletons believe in crafting things that last, made by people who take pride in what they build – and it’s easy to see how this translates in the kitchen at their workshop in Sussex.
The kitchen is traditionally made and has a contemporary feel, but it is the antithesis of the glossy white kitchens we’ve been seeing for a while now. This furniture is somehow timeless but also completely of the moment. At the centre of the run of cupboards is a gleaming white 3-oven AGA Dual Control.
“We chose to put an AGA in,” Gemma says, “because we wanted to use British brands and we wanted a cooker of the very best quality. I don’t think a built-in cooker sits very well with this kind of cabinetry. It needs a range cooker to give it a focal point. The AGA is the thing you see ﬁrst and then you begin to notice the other details. Our cabinetry is quite simple. It’s not too shouty. We do kitchens for people who cook, so an AGA is often a must-have.
“We like AGA cookers because the scale is right. In a bigger house we’d use a 5-oven model, but there’s also the 3-oven or the AGA 60 for smaller kitchens.”
Gemma and Jasper spend every day working in the kitchen showroom, so the AGA Dual Control gets a lot of use. It heats the space and the couple cook for themselves and everyone in the workshop; things like salmon and vegetables, a quick stir-fry or soup. They often have breakfast meetings at the weekends, when they will go to town on the cooking. It’s a great space used for events and demos where local chefs enjoy the opportunity to cook on an AGA. Gemma also cooks soups and casseroles here to take home for the girls’ supper.
“I’ve had a few clients,” Gemma says, “who’ve had an old AGA cooker and have said they wanted a separate hob in their new kitchen, as their AGA would lose heat when the hotplates had been used. I get them to come in here and cook something and they’re amazed that there’s no heat loss from the newer AGA cookers. We like people to come in and play with the AGA, whether they’re new to AGA cooking or have had one before.”
Jasper plans a kitchen by thinking about how it will be used. In this one the larder cupboard on the far right is for food. There are pans and utensils in drawers and then the AGA. Once you’re past the cooker you have cutlery drawers and the kitchen ends at the crockery cupboard.
“I try to design each kitchen as a series of destinations, with targeted areas for the storage, preparation and presentation of food,” Jasper says.
It’s the details that make all the difference. The glazed cupboards at either end of the kitchen have beautiful bridle leather handles and the English oak on the island unit is book-matched, which means the two pieces of wood were in the tree together, one on top of the other, and were cut in half so the grains copy each other.
The ﬂooring is white ash, which is made in Norfolk. The stone counter tops are Bianca Eclipse Quartzite. It’s a natural stone from the granite family, so is incredibly hard and not porous like marble but still available in very pale shades. Gemma and Jasper chose it because it’s tougher, but still looks beautiful.
“Each piece of furniture is bespoke,” says Jasper, “and designed to ﬁt into its surroundings. The design of our modern cabinetry, as seen here, is crafted so it can be scaled up for bigger spaces.”
In the island there’s a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawer to the left of the sink, which is only 600mm wide. In a larger setting there might be a dishwasher drawer either side of the sink – one for dirty dishes and the other clean – or one at 900mm. Equally, the space for stooled seating could be lengthened to increase the width of the seating bay on the island unit.
Along the AGA elevation, the single glazed larder cabinets could be increased to doubles and further store cupboards could be added. The pan drawers are graduated to maximise storage: the top drawer houses cutlery and utensils, while the lower two drawers comfortably store pots, pans and baking trays. It’s a clever concept built on the company’s experience in traditional cabinet construction that can be tailored to a client’s lifestyles and settings.
The Middletons use Mylands of London paint for their kitchens, which are available in any bespoke colour. Here, they’ve used Blackout for the cabinetry and Messel for the island and the back wall.
The children are also part of the family business and spend a lot of time here. The workshop backs on to the South Downs Way, which is 80 miles of unused railway line with an old station, so the family will cycle or walk through the bluebell woods. Afterwards they’ll come back here to warm up and the girls will get out their colouring pens while their parents work. “We wanted somewhere lovely to be every day and somewhere the girls could see as a home from home
For more information visit middleton-bespoke.co.uk