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Q&A with Ali Friedlein – Life in my Davonport kitchen

woman in a modern kitchen

Ali and Joe Friedlein’s dream kitchen became a reality just over a year ago. Their brief was clear – to create a family friendly, super practical space for cooking that honoured the Victorian heritage of their home whilst also incorporating a distinctive industrial style. So, a year on we visited Ali to find out how life in their Davonport kitchen is progressing.

Mersea Friedlein island kitchen

Having had some time to enjoy your new kitchen, has it affected how you enjoy your home as a family?

You don’t realise how much the kitchen is the heart of the home until you move in to somewhere when that’s not the case. There was nothing wrong with what we inherited but it wasn’t to our taste and although not small, it just didn’t bring us together as a family – the cook felt quite isolated.

Our new kitchen is as practical as it is pretty – something that was hugely important with two energetic boys and a dog! The house and the kitchen itself now flow really well. There’s a dedicated area for the chef of the moment (any of the four of us!) and plenty of room for guests to sit or stand as well. Homework can be supervised; the supermarket shopping dealt with; and crockery and cutlery virtually put themselves away, so well planned is the design.

What I’m really pleased with is that we went for a fairly bold statement design wise and it means that no matter how much of life’s clutter ends up in the kitchen (school reply slips, homework, post, etc.) the kitchen still looks good. I think a fussier design with too many different elements wouldn’t necessarily carry this off as well.

modern kitchen

Something you and Joe were particularly keen on was making the kitchen a highly functional cooking space – how has this lived up to expectations?

Whilst we knew what look we wanted, we’re hugely grateful to Richard for his advice on planning the layout and functionality as this was something we hadn’t factored in. It’s actually very intuitive I think – everything just seems to be in the right place. The sets of drawers on each side of the range do most of the hard work storing everything from cutlery to chopping boards, baking trays, and all of our utensils. It’s a complete joy selecting a saucepan or Le Creuset as they’re all located on the open plan shelves and in a single layer.

When we’ve got a houseful of kids, we often use the huge island unit as a serving area too so they can choose whatever they like before sitting down to dinner.

Black and White kitchen

You reconfigured your entire ground floor to put the kitchen in your preferred position – do you have any tips or advice for others looking to rework their layouts?

Live in it before you start knocking down walls. Knowing where the sun rises, where the shadows fall, which bits of the garden are good at different times of the year, may affect where you position different rooms and different areas within different rooms.

We’ve created a grown up space that flows from smart sitting room through to kitchen and then dining room – it works really well for guests, and on the other side of the house is (the messier bit!) – a second sitting room come grown up playroom and the utility

I think there is a huge trend at the moment for sticking on the most enormous box-type extension to the back of a house. They are stunning but a can be a bit samey. Our layout doesn’t follow that trend but that’s why I like it – it’s a bit of surprise to find the kitchen where it is and to have retained the period fireplace.

classic design kitchen

What’s your favourite past time in your new kitchen?

When the boys were little I used to do batch cooking to make sure they were getting a healthy diet. Although their portions are now bigger than mine, I still like cooking hearty winter meals – any sort of casserole or stew with loads of veg goes down a treat. I’m particularly fond of pheasant and bacon casserole which can be easily turned in to a pie too. Our children return increasingly late from after school clubs so I enjoy making sure there is something quick and healthy to fill them up.

Aside from that, when I get ten minutes to myself I enjoy grabbing a coffee and flicking through a magazine at the end of the breakfast bar, with the sun steaming in and views of the garden ahead.

classic kitchen

Is there a particular feature of your new kitchen you now couldn’t live without?

The Wolf range – we use the top for everything – making pancakes, barbecuing meat, for fry ups. If we ever move house, I can see it coming with us! Also, the worktops are immense. They are ceramic and a massive investment but part of the appeal was that they are so easy to care for – they don’t stain, and are scratch resistant too. It’s so relaxing not having to worry if a guest spills their wine or a someone chops directly on to the worktop – they are seriously tough and worth every penny.

If you could re-do the whole project tomorrow is there anything you would do differently?

I think I would have invested in a drinks area with a boiling water tap as I would love to do away with the annoying wires behind the kettle. Other than that, the kitchen works perfectly as it is.

If you’d like to talk to one of our designers to start planning your dream kitchen, please get in touch.

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