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Beautiful and Useful: A Creative Couple’s ‘Beautility’ Room

Seb Cox utility room

Having recently taken a tour of Seb and Brogan Cox’s handsome, handmade kitchen in the coastal town of Margate, we were naturally keen to see how they’ve transformed the adjoining utility room, which Brogan has cannily rebranded the “beautility room.”

Seb Cox utility room
Above: The light-filled room is sparsely furnished with a bench from Seb’s Underwood collection, made from hand-coppiced Kentish hazel and ash.

“Looking back at the images, I’m reminded of how much structural work we actually did in that small space,” says Brogan. Seb opened up what was a “sad, pokey little window”, creating a floor-to-ceiling aperture that overlooks the garden. While removing the render on the outside of the house, he also uncovered the original arched brickwork of the second window above the bench, which prompted the decision to reinstate the original proportions here, too. A new skylight ensures this transitional space is flooded with natural light.

Seb and Brogan Cox utility room
Above: The green door (painted Citrine by Little Green) is also a new addition. Previously, the outdoor “privy” was only accessible via the garden. Now, it has two entranceways, so the couples’ young daughters can access the WC from the garden and the utility room.
Sebastian Cox kitchen pantry
Above: The entrance to the utility, via the kitchen. For a full tour of the kitchen, see our previous post.

The floor has been laid with handmade Kentish clay brick slips from Spicer Tiles. Although just 14mm thick, they give the appearance of a solid brick floor. “Rather than lay them with grout, we’ve brushed coarse sand between them, which is how they would have been laid originally,” explains Seb. “It also hides the filth that comes with having young children who live by the sea,” Brogan adds.

Seb Cox utility room storage
Above: This lightweight, woven closet hides the washer, dryer, and freestanding fridge.

The freestanding washer, dryer, and fridge are housed in a closet constructed from tiger oak and woven ash panels. “The panels are made from ash thinnings,” explains Seb. “Thinning is a woodland management technique. By removing thinner, younger trees, you decrease light pressure, which allows more mature trees to grow taller, straighter, and stronger. That process produces thin timber which has low or no commercial value. But what is also produces is lovely, straight, supple, weavable wood which we try and use as much as we can.”

Seb Cox washer-dryer cupboard
Above: The woven panels are lightweight, which makes them perfect for sliding doors.

“The weaving creates a surface that comes together quite quickly from this material which isn’t really useful for anything else,” Brogan adds. “It’s a technique that is at the heart of our Bayleaf collection. And, actually, the woven pieces are the most popular pieces in that collection: people love them.”

Seb Cox washer-dryer cupboard
Above: The frame and adjacent cabinets were constructed from tiger oak—a descriptive term for oak that has been infected with beefsteak fungus, which produces this distinctive graining.

Next to the closet is a run of overhead cupboards made from lightly oiled, creamy sycamore. These were kept deliberately pale so they don’t intrude on the tight space. Beneath is a stone sink and zinc counter. “The stone sink is the only thing I’ve ever commissioned myself,” says Brogan. “It was roughly hewn out of a single piece of stone and I love it.”

Seb Cox utility room sink
Above: The utility sink and painted wooden splashback with shaker pegs; the deck-mounted taps are by Perrin and Rowe; the brush on the right is by Rosa Harradine.

The zinc countertop was a bone of contention. “Aesthetically, Brogan’s mind was made up but I was very reluctant on the grounds of metal being an extremely high carbon material,” Seb explains. When they looked into it, they found that zinc is a relatively low carbon metal so they ordered a thin sheet that has been bent around a piece of plywood. Left untreated, it will patinate gradually over time.

“There was a lovely moment last Christmas,” Brogan recalls. “We had just finished the utility room and we had all of our family over for mulled wine. As everyone broke off into groups, we found that the utility was the most popular room in the house. People were sitting on the bench, just kind of enjoying the views. That’s when we came up with the thought that this is more than a utility room – it’s our beautility room – a desirable space that people want to gather in.”

The units seen here will form the basis of a new kitchen range, the Sawyer, which is now available to order via sebastiancox.co.uk

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N.B.: This post was first published on Remodelista on Sept. 7, 2022.

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