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The Trending English Country Kitchen: How to Get the Look

I mentioned the trending English Country kitchen in March 2023 but how do we know it’s really picking up traction?

Because it’s on the cover of House & Home magazine this month:

English Country Kitchen Canadian House & Home

Can something timeless ever really be OUT?

In the shadow of this new refined-rustic look for kitchens, there’s been a lot of press recently on how the White kitchen is OUT and colour (including beige) is back IN.

Remember, just because subway tile isn’t trending right now, doesn’t mean it’s still not a timeless and extremely versatile backsplash or surround. White kitchens are no different. It’s simply not THE hottest NEW look at the moment. And we saw a LOT of them in the black and white trend. While many of them lacked the attention to detail and styling that make a white kitchen beautiful, I would argue that a well done white kitchen still has the best longevity.

What exactly is the English Country Kitchen?

In case you were wondering what exactly sums up this new kitchen trend, I think Martha Stewart said it best:

All white walls and cabinets are being swapped for patterned wallpaper, earth-toned backsplashes, vintage-inspired floor tile and personal trinkets.

It’s almost like, if we don’t have the perfect framed vintage piece of art hanging in the kitchen right now, we’re missing out:

Etsy

Overall, the look is the complete opposite of the low personality kitchens of the last few decades. From the professional industrial kitchen look of the early noughties, and the somewhat severe and lifeless look of grey and harsh black in kitchens,  to yes, the not so well done white kitchens.

The new look is about looking heritage, lived in, cozy and personal. (Honestly, this is what good styling does too, adds interest and personality), which you can still add to your white kitchen as well!

Some hallmarks of the English country kitchen look are:

  • Warm vintage looking hardware and lighting.
  • Charming and quirky personal touches in styling. Think vintage art, handmade crockery, hanging pots, decanted dry goods, and utensils on display, cafe curtains.
  • Rustic wood accents.
  • The palette is a range of warm neutrals and rich colours on cabinetry and walls. Often some pattern such as a vintage wallpaper or checkerboard floor.

The style includes a range of refinements. Some are very rustic, with the emphasis on a connection to nature and humble simplicity. Others are more luxurious where warm colour palettes, aged metals and vintage styling give a nod to the traditional, but the details and finishes are elevated. 

Tricia, my Director of eDesign, and I are in a debate about whether the “English Country Kitchen” and the “English Countryside Kitchen” are the same thing (Tricia) or slightly different (me). To my ear “English Countryside Kitchen” sounds like the more refined version. What do you think?

Creating a cozy look and feel in a timeless way

I wonder if the arrival of this look means we’ll also return to the Scandinavian eat-in kitchen table and chairs instead of an island. I talked about that in this post after a trip to Finland in 2019.

Cozy eat in kitchen

Architectural Digest

Both of the above kitchens are green. This is one of the reasons we added some more dramatic greens and blues to my Colour collection (three years ago) in both sets of large samples for BM and SW which you can get right here. You’ll also find the complete range of the very best warm neutrals for cabinets and walls in these collections. 

While these kitchens are not white, notice that the countertops are, making the cabinets still paintable when you want a change. In fact, this is how I would embrace this trend. Keeping the hard finishes timeless and versatile, while indulging the vibe in paint colours and styling details. 

Why is the white kitchen still timeless?

So what makes a white kitchen still timeless? Some iteration of the white kitchen has always been around so it’s hard to guess when it was installed. I would also say that when the fresh simplicity of a white kitchen is the goal, getting the details right is important. Pretty millwork details, lighting and hardware and personal touches with styling.

I helped a client choose the paint colours for her cabinets 15 years ago when she updated this 90s kitchen.

90s kitchen before

Ahead of the black trend, she painted the built-in china cabinet black and updated the microwave insert by replacing it with upper shelving with the black repeated. Overall, it’s now much harder to guess when this kitchen was installed compared to when it had the giveaway 90s ginger cabinets.

Updated 90s kitchen after

The biggest bonus was that the countertop no longer looked so pink because the orange wood stained cabinets pulled out the pink beige in the granite. Now the look is more balanced.

How we might update this kitchen today is with new counter stools and current lighting, but it still has a timeless look and feel.

It even has a ‘personal trinket’ as per Martha’s description (the clock below). 

Styling your kitchen adds personality

Sometimes the right white isn’t white at all

White or off white would be too stark with the earthy granite, so the cabinets were painted a taupe griege (when I chose this colour 15 years ago I had not invented my system yet). It looks pretty white in the photos but if you compare the cabinet colour to the cream pitcher in the tray you can see the difference.

The details of this kitchen and the warm black with a purple undertone that we chose is in my White is Complicated;  A Decorators Guide to Choosing the right white ebook you can purchase right here.

How to find the right paint colour (made easier)

In other news, we have not raised the prices of my collections of large paint samples in many years and the cost to make them has gone up dramatically, so if you’ve been thinking about buying them, now is the time! The prices will go up in March.

Here I am in my office when we first moved in. The entire house was taupe and I did a video here about identifying the undertone of the existing beige carpet that we removed.

How to use Maria Killam's Colour System

The same neutrals from my curated list of 50 are simply everywhere you go. Which board is the perfect match to the carpet?

Maria Killam Colour Boards

Yes it’s the second from the left.

If you want the lightest colour that relates to the undertone of the rug, you would choose the next shade lighter in the same undertone from the system colours and select a green beige complex cream, SW Neutral Ground.

You can see all four large paint sample collections here. I highly recommend you order yours now 🙂

buy large paint samples

And once again, where do you fall on the English Country vs. English Countryside debate. Are they the same thing? Slightly different?

Which term do you use? We seriously need your help to settle this one, haha!

Related posts:

New Natural Wood Kitchens: Timeless or Trendy?

2024 Colour Trends to Try in Your Home

Kristy’s Vintage Kitchen Refresh: Before and After

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37 Comments

  • Liz in Oregon says:

    As to your debate with Tricia, “Google is your friend” I always say. When I googled “English countryside kitchen” the results always referred to “English country kitchen.” So I think Tricia wins this time LOL.

    I think an all white kitchen can easily be cozied and quirked up with styling. I’ve used vintage plates hung on the wall for instant English, for example. There are lots of ideas online and more than a few kitchens have white subway tile.

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    • Kimberly says:

      I was going to say – white subway tile definitely fits into the English kitchen aesthetic.

      Even the magazine cover kitchen has subway-like tile (though definitely not the type you get at Home Depot; maybe it’s Fireclay?)

  • Penny says:

    I see a future of a lot of “clean/dirty” issues popping up with the above greens. All the talk about sterile, white kitchens makes me wonder why not paint the walls a colour? White on white on white has never been appealing to me but throw some colour on the walls, add styling and it looks completely different.

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    • Lorri says:

      Maybe or maybe not. There’s a saying in the interior design world – “All greens go together” – just like in gardens.

      Your mileage may vary though.

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      • Penny says:

        Yes, I know that is what they say but when the colour gets so murky . . . I guess my mileage does vary as “spring greens” are my favourite 🙂

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      • Liz in Oregon says:

        Personally, I’ve never agreed that “all greens go together” in a home. There is movement and layering in nature’s greens that we can’t achieve in our homes. Maybe we can in small scattered doses (pillows for example), but for me, painting cabinets green or having a green sofa takes us into potential undertone clashes that I find to be unsettling if we think that “all greens go together.”

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        • Maria Killam says:

          Here’s my take on why that expression floats around out there. . . because there are a lot of greens that work together and still look great, however, if you take other varying sides of colours (like purple, orange, yellows) and stick them in a room and they aren’t harmonious they often look wrong. So do ALL greens go together? Not if you start throwing in a bright teal with an pistachio green for example (unless again, maybe they’re both found in a pattern in the room) but in general, you can get away with more greens mixing in a room and it still looks pleasant vs. other colours! Thanks for your comments, Maria

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  • Diane says:

    A question – the English country/countryside kitchen – it seems most appropriate for an older or very traditional house, can it fit in any style house if it is tweaked appropriately? For example could it fit in a mid century modern house? Just a theoretical question as I am still very happy with my classic and timeless white kitchen.

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    • Lorri says:

      An English Country kitchen would look crazy in a Mid-Century house. 😉

      Many Mid-Century houses had plain-paneled wood cabinets that give a cozy look while still fitting the architecture.

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    • Keira says:

      @studiolaloc installs good looking English Country/old school style kitchens in what look like1910s-1930s homes in the U.S.

  • Cassie says:

    I agree with Maria. Countryside to me means something you would find in a posh cointry home.

  • Deb Landy says:

    Maria, I think a trip to the Cotswalds in England is in order!!

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  • Lorri says:

    English Country and English Countryside are the same thing. There are only lower-end and higher-end versions.

    Speaking of which, I’ve noticed that my emotional reaction to a kitchen is all about it’s color and styling; not how high-end it is. I’m thinking of a YouTuber who just moved into a small house built in the 1940s/1950s. The previous owner painted the vintage kitchen cabinets a soft blue and added butcher block counters. There are no expensive cabinets and the fridge isn’t wrapped in cabinetry, but the CHARM is undeniable. Such a happy kitchen!

    White kitchens sure aren’t passe in my region. Nearly every new house being built is shown with white cabinetry.

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    • Annie says:

      That kitchen sounds dreamy to me. I am one of the high percentage of people who loves blue the most.. Though I’m trending towards green lately as well lol. I had a butcher block island in my last house and when we moved my kids were at the age they could use a knife on their own and scratched up my new marble island 🤦‍♀️ because they didn’t feel like getting a cutting board out. It has a rich patina now! I wanted quartz but wasn’t available. I might do butcher block again some day.

  • Kelly says:

    I see a lot of average suburban houses trying to replicate this English Country/Countryside look and it’s going to look ridiculous and very dated very quickly. An English Country kitchen belongs in the English Country. Or at least a house that’s designed to look like it’s English Country.

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    • Bette says:

      Totally agree with Kelly. I think Maria recently did a post on styles of homes and complementary design. Adding a so-called English country kitchen to an MCM home would be ridiculous.

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  • Bette says:

    Having lived in the English countryside for years, I can say with 100% certainty, NONE of these kitchens would be found there. The kitchens I owned or saw at friends’ or family’s homes were small, charming, cozy, not modern, and definitely not expensively remodeled. If someone had modern heating and appliances, we were in awe.

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    • Julie S says:

      This is a great point! I follow several British accounts and most do not have the refined de Vol/Plain English cabinetry brands’ look in the least. In fact just the really high end historical properties do (the grand country houses). It should be called the de Vol style rather than the English country look to be really accurate because I think that’s how most North Americans found this look.

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    • Liz in Oregon says:

      Yes, I noticed the difference in my googling between true English country kitchens and the ones currently “on trend.” The English kitchens being imitated aren’t “styled.” They are just filled with what the owner likes, which is what makes them charming. I think when we try to imitate a particular style, rather than use what we love, we lose our individuality. When I hang my great grandmother’s Blue Willow (which I am fortunate to have), I’m not aiming for English country. I’m aiming for “me.” No visitor would comment on my “English country kitchen.” 🙂

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  • Cindi says:

    I’ve had white twice, have never had color and think I would like it. But when I look at my walnut cabinets (or sapele in my vacation home), the beauty of the wood never ceases to delight me. It’s a living work of art.
    But I am lucky that both spaces have a lot of light, and neither has many uppers. If I had the standard size kitchen with uppers all around and not a lot of light, I could definitely see going with white at least on the uppers.
    But oo la la, that woodgrain.

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    • Melissa says:

      That was exactly my thought process for my kitchen remodel. I love white and I love wood, but I was going to have a lot of upper cabinets in a galley layout. I opted for mostly white and a separate tall cabinet was in a different color like in Maria’s example.

  • Sharon says:

    Where can I find the video that Maria mentions in her blog post 2/27/24 ?

    “Here I am in my office when we first moved in. The entire house was taupe and I did a video here about identifying the undertone of the existing beige carpet that we removed.” maria

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  • Pearl says:

    It’s about the cadence, or rhythm of the words. “English country kitchen” rolls off the tongue but “English countryside kitchen” is a mouthful. It’s a beautiful style.

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  • Faellie says:

    English person here, so we’d drop the “English” as being redundant. You could have a “country” kitchen and Maria’s four bullet points are spot on for that. I’d probably add that there should be at least some unfitted cupboards such as a stand-alone dresser, plus an old scrubbed pine kitchen table and an Aga or Rayburn range cooker for completeness.

    We’d never say a “countryside” kitchen. The countryside is what is outside the house (and garden), not inside it.

    We might say something is “county”, after the historical administrative divisions in England. If something is “county” then it’s upper-middle class and posh in an old-money country sort of way, the hunting shooting fishing set and so on.

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  • Lisa says:

    I’m with Maria (Sorry Tricia). When I think of the English countryside kitchen Im thinking more of manors and large kitchens with the Aga in it and dogs on beds warming in front of the Aga adn Wellington boots. Whereas an English Country kitchen is a style of kitchen.

  • Rita says:

    I enjoy all your educational decorating tutorials. I currently have Frieze carpet that is showing it age. I need to replace and want to go with carpet again. Is Frieze still a go to carpet or is there something newer for high traffic areas? I like the one that is shown in a picture in this post. Would you inform me as to the type and color of this carpet.

    Thank you-
    Rita

    • Jenna says:

      For what it’s worth, my last home had wool berber carpet and we loved it! It held up beautifully and always looked clean, unlike plush carpet that looks walked on very soon after it is vacuumed!

  • Jeanne says:

    I aimed for an English style (country not sure) with my renovation in 1999. My cabinets are inset, cream and with a corian counter in sandstone and a wood floor. Subway tile was not yet a big thing and I could not envision white tile backsplash which would have been wrong . Fast forward 25 yrs, I need the cabinets painted—they have much wear and tear. I regret the inset style cabinets since drawers get out of whack.

    How do I tackle painting the cabinets? I got an estimate from a company that does spray on paint for $5000+.and I have a smallish kitchen. And they only do white. I want cream. Is painting with a roller/brush wrong? Any advice on this I am all ears. But I am adamant about not wanting white cabinets. Has to be a softer tone . Thank you for any direction on this.

    • Kimberly says:

      They only do white? That’s wild. Definitely get more quotes.

      There’s also the option of buying a sprayer and repainting yourself. Lots of diy bloggerss have details on how they managed it.

    • Jan says:

      You can find a painter who will comply with your color choice. I’ve seen furniture-quality cabinet painting and non-professional applications. Keep looking. 🤞

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  • Carissa says:

    It doesn’t seem like this look plays well with the open concept floor plans so popular for the last ten years.

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  • Limo says:

    I am from Germany and I never understand, why you would make a new kitchen look old fashioned. If you inherited an old house: yes. Same with houses, only in Hollywood they build new houses. I see very few modern houses with good, new architecture. Always the same millwork, the same granny style.

  • Alyssa says:

    Oh, I have such an American reaction to this “country” vs “countryside” debate. Here, “country” would be the more refined of the two–we have whole genres of creative production (music, most notably) that are quite well-developed and contain very fine gradations of signal as to social class, esthetic preference, historical period. Whereas “countryside” is not a kind of decor or any other kind of cultural manifestation–rather, it is a place so far out in the geography of the US that your house may not even municipal water, sewer, or power. So to me “countryside” seems like the obviously more rustic/less refined of the terms. But, again: VERY AMERICAN. Also: prepared to be rebutted on this!

  • Mimi Goldberg Shulman says:

    I agree that white kitchens can be timeless. The beauty of the white kitchen is that it can be warmed or cooled with accessories, based on the trend.

    Regarding your debate, the term country home was only used by those who had city homes, too. The term referenced someone’s upper class designation. Those who lived in the country (farmland) full time, had small homes with kitchens the were simple, small and a hodgepodge of wood and color. They only had that house, so it was not a country house.

    The ‘English Country Kitchen’ we are seeing is a mash up of the elegant country homes of the upper class and the humble kitchens of those who lived nearby and serviced the gentry in the ‘Country Home.’
    The poor or full time country people’s homes had the various colors and pieces of furniture because that’s what they found or made.
    The elegant elements of the English Country kitchens we see today belonged to the rooms outside of the kitchen in the Country Homes (the mansions of the upper class city dwellers.)
    I say mashup because the kitchens in these very large homes were much more utilitarian since they were usually used by a staff and were not considered rooms to make beautiful because the wealthy never spent time in such a work space.
    You can see this when touring those mansions in Rhode Island (who were imitating the English upper class culture,) or even in the Crown, when the Queen rushes to take a call from the nearest phone while at Balmoral, and it’s in the kitchen.
    In English literature, countryside was a reference to the land surrounding the home.
    I hope this helped!

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  • L says:

    I’m in the middle of a reno. The white Shaker cabinets have gone in. The white subway tile is sitting in boxes waiting to be installed. And I’m so depressed. I feel like this look is already a dated trend that will make my kitchen look 10 years old the second it’s finished.

    I feel stupid because I’m making the same mistake my mother did 20 years ago, when she put in “timeless” oak cabinets and granite countertops.

    Neither one of us liked the “timeless” look we picked — we both did it because it felt safe for resale. Now she’s looking at a 50-100K reno to rip out her “timeless” look, and I am already wishing I’d picked something I actually liked. It looks like a flipper kitchen, even though I’ve spend a lot of money.

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