Tour this green Shaker kitchen in an idyllic countryside cottage

Ever wanted to escape to the countryside? Well, a London couple left the city and bought a cottage to live their rural dream. KBB journo Jane Crittenden finds out how the project came together…

Relocating to rural Suffolk during lockdown proved to be life-changing for Emma and Gavin, who created a new family home and nature-inspired guest retreat. Their epic project included a renovation and extension of a Victorian cottage with a green Shaker kitchen, plus five new-build guest lodges in the grounds.

Fancy a look around? Let’s begin…

Suffolk cottage extension with sunroom and big open garden.
The open farmland views were a big draw for the couple, who fell in love with the area of Southwold after visiting by chance. Photography: James French.

From hectic London to rural Suffolk

Emma Alexander had been a north Londoner all her life and, with a hectic job in fashion retail, was beginning to feel the pull for a steadier pace of living. Her husband, Gavin Crossland, also working in fashion and a keen ultra-runner, felt a similar pull.

“Neither of us had been to Southwold until Gavin ran an ultra-marathon nearby and I visited for work,” Emma recalls. “Over dinner one evening, we enthused about the beauty and tranquillity of the area and, within a couple of months, we’d viewed 15 properties and had our offer accepted on Toad Hall.”

Outdoors space with garden table which goes to the dining room.
The family lived in Suffolk for nine months during the pandemic, giving them the chance to get to know the area.

Tucked away down a quiet lane and surrounded by countryside, Toad Hall, which was formerly two dwellings, is about 100 years old and sits within an acre of land. The cottage is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, has glorious views and is a short drive – or 40-minute walk – from Southwold beach.

“The property had been owned by an elderly gentleman and was in challenging shape, but was such an opportunity for us,” says Emma. “We came here in lockdown, thinking we’d be here for two weeks, but stayed for nine months because we all loved it so much. It’s such a peaceful place to be – a real retreat from the world – and the experience changed us.”

Green kitchen with terracotta flooring with dog in foreground.
The green Shaker kitchen remains sympathetic to the period architecture.

The plans

The three-bedroom cottage had all the space the family needed, but the rooms felt unbalanced. The front door opened straight into a reception room and the kitchen-diner was wide but not very deep. Upstairs, the large L-shaped main bedroom stretched from the front to the back of the house and took up far too much space. 

“We wanted to create a long-term house for our daughters, Grace and Ruby, so they’d always feel like they had a home, whether on their own, with partners, or visiting in later years with their families,” says Emma. “My downtime is all about cooking. So, we made plans to have a beautiful open-plan entertaining space that carried on to the outside and a kitchen that worked seamlessly.”

Green kitchen with plants on the wall and terracotta flooring, Aga range cooker and butler's sink.
Emma loves to entertain and the extended kitchen is her favourite room in Toad Hall.

The kitchen extension

The couple reworked the layout with an architect, creating three ensuite bedrooms, turning one of the reception rooms into an entrance hall and carving out a section for an office. The main transformation, however, was extending the kitchen with a pitched roof and metal-framed glazing.

“We kept the cottage’s traditional appearance at the front with a dark, cosy sitting room, but we wanted the back to be bright and light and have as much glass as possible, so we could bring the outside in,” Emma explains. 

Kitchen with open shelving and Aga cooker in a cottage kitchen.
The Aga and white marble splashback allow the soft green Shaker kitchen to do the talking. Touches of oak and brass on shelves and ironmongery add warmth to the design.

By the time the building work got started, the couple had fallen in love with the cottage and its location – and taken a leap of faith. They’d decided to convert the triple garage into a yoga studio, build an outside kitchen and five guest lodges.

“The decision was the start of a new chapter: Gavin gave up his job and now manages Toad Hall Lodges,” says Emma. “We both feel a real connection to nature here and wanted to create a retreat experience for guests.”

Designing the green Shaker kitchen

The green window frames and doors of the lodges are mirrored inside the house, most notably in the kitchen, and the colour was inspired by the stone cottages of the Cotswolds. “We thought soft green looked lovely with the stone,” Emma explains, “so went for a similar tone but with more vibrancy.”

Green kitchen with large pantry cupboard, plants on the ceiling, terracotta floors and red radiator.
The large ceiling-height cupboard contains a mix of drawers and shelves and acts as a pantry.

The use of green became integral to the kitchen, where the cabinetry is mostly painted in Little Greene’s Boringdon Green from the National Trust collection. “Being in nature is important for our wellbeing and we wanted to bring that feeling inside,” explains Emma.

For ease, Emma decided to get a handmade kitchen, designed and made by a local furniture maker. “I immediately connected with Grahame Bolton – he’s a skilful furniture maker and worked with me on the door design and layout,” she says. “The whole process felt personal and we got just what we wanted, including a second kitchen, where we hide all the noisy equipment and mess so we can have a true entertaining space.”

Large dining room that opens out to a cottage garden.
The trio of pendants with waffle glass are from Pooky; Anais chairs and marble-top dining table by Heal’s

The colour palette

Neutrals and earthy tones are the backdrop here and throughout the cottage, where plain walls are decorated with green or warm undertones.

“The neutrals lean towards my love of simple Scandi design,” says Emma. “But with no original period features, we decided to be more experimental than usual, bringing in interesting textures and fun, quirky textiles, art and tiles.”

And the reclaimed terracotta makes a statement as soon as you enter the cottage. “When I came across the hexagonals, reclaimed from a house in France, we were both delighted, as we love interesting shapes and patterns,” she says. “The look is maximalist but not in a way that’s busy or clashes.”

Green shaker kitchen with terracotta flooring, neutral bar stools and neutral pops of colour.
Toad Hall’s style blends country and modern.

Buying British

Elsewhere, Emma sought out British brands such as Thomas Crapper sanitaryware and geometric textiles from Margo Selby, Linwood and House of Hackney. The radiators are also British-made, from Zehnder Charleston, with interesting finishes of textured brass, anthracite and copper.

The couple’s project took two years to complete and now they welcome guests to stay in the idyllic location, too. “All the changes we’ve made in the cottage have been about connecting us to the landscape and creating a calm, honest place to be,” says Emma. “I love my kitchen the most and, with all the amazing produce from the farms around us, it just makes me want to cook, cook, cook! We feel very blessed.”

Light and white bedroom with colourful accents like the green windows and yellow pillows.
The bedroom is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White.
Colourful bathroom with bold patterns as tiles and wallpaper.
Country Hexagon Cotto wall tiles, from Baked Tiles.

As originally told to: Jane Crittenden | Styling:  Marisha Taylor | Photography: James French

Loved this green kitchen? Click here to tour this countryside self-build next

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