National Trust Killerton Kitchen

For the first time in the 117-year history of the National Trust, one of Britain’s largest and most respected charitable organisations, an external agency has been brought in to oversee a major interior design project. Absolute Interiors were commissioned to breathe new life into the tea rooms at Killerton House, the 18th Century mansion located on a 6400 acre Devonshire estate near Exeter. After a record visitor year in 2010 (in excess of 140,000) the National Trust felt that the ground floor venue needed a facelift.

To create a new restaurant space that would pay tribute to the heritage of the estate and its period features in a contemporary but sensitive way, Absolute spent one month weaving elements of the Killerton story into the renovation work and adding layers of detail inspired by various physical aspects of the existing estate. The ‘Killerton Kitchen’ restaurant as it is now known includes reclaimed furniture and floor stencils that allude to the interiors of Killerton’s Prayer room, Flower room and Housekeeper’s Room. Meanwhile, quirky touches such as a recycled yoghurt pot counter-top, teapot lights and bespoke montage wallpaper featuring family photographs of the original estate owners and founders, the Acland family, give the new space a fresh and endearing ‘talking point’ quality.

“We felt deeply honoured to be working with the National Trust,” says Absolute Helen Stephens. “The estate itself is magnificent but there was a clear need to revitalise the ambience and character of the restaurant space. With a project like this we obviously wanted to respect its historic value and heritage while adding a new sense of appeal and interest for visitors. There was also a need to be highly practical with the design work as the interior is regularly well-used. We hope people will feel the new restaurant has a genuine ‘wow factor’ but also that it blends seamlessly with everything that Killerton represents.”

Killerton’s General Manager Phillip Smart adds, “This was a real first for the National Trust so we had to get it right. Killerton is a lovely place that continues to draw thousands of visitors every year. To move forward and retain the appeal of the estate we needed to ensure that the new restaurant area would be something that retained the spirit of Killerton but also something that would really turn heads and add to the visitor experience. It was a pleasure to work with Absolute as they made it their mission to completely understand exactly what we needed to achieve. Their creativity and ideas were refreshing and incredibly perceptive and the feedback we’ve received so far about the design work has been excellent.”

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