INTERIORS – what do people want from a new kitchen?

Article from FOCUS Magazine – Autumn 17 issue.

Barbara Chandler talks kitchen aspirations with experts from around the trade

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So what do people want from a new kitchen? “Everything!” cried kitchen designer Hayley Tarrington-Robson, when on the panel at a recent home design seminar, hosted by Homes & Gardens magazine.

Intrigued by Hayley’s enthusiasm and evident expertise, we caught up with her later, for an insight into current trends. She has many years of experience in kitchen and bathroom design, and recently set up her own showroom (called DayTrue) in Maida Vale (129 Elgin Avenue, W9) with her partner, Tony Robson, who has been in design and construction for over 20 years. Now they also have a showroom in Chelsea (302-304 Fulham Road, SW10; www.daytrue.com)

In times gone by, they explained, clients looked very much to “the experts” to start the ball rolling and initiate the design process. Now it’s different.
“Clients today know what they want, because they have many more tools to help them visualise and research,” Hayley said. She is talking in particular about Pinterest, the website for sharing ideas and creating files and moodboards, and Instagram, where people see and share design ideas in the time it takes to snap and click. Houzz (www.houzz.co.uk) is also hugely popular. This website was launched in America in 2009, and came to the UK in 2014. It offers thousands of professional photos of interiors, exteriors and gardens, daily newsy editorial, and a comprehensive directory of interior design products. It also puts users in touch with over 35,000 home improvement experts, and with hundreds of thousands of other UK-based homeowners.

Hayley ‘s clients also love the home interiors magazines, and their websites, specialist TV shows, and London’s numerous design shows. “It’s so much easier for my clients to show and tell, rather than try and explain with words only.” She encourages clients to take reference photos on their phones, and to build moodboards on Pinterest, which she can share online. And to collect tear sheets from magazines, and pick up colour cards and samples wherever possible.

Hayley ticks off a typical new kitchen wish list. (There’s plenty of scope: a recent survey by Houzz found that around three quarters of kitchens being renovated had not been touched for ten years or more. However durability and longevity were cited as key criteria). Top of the pops is an open plan layout, combining living and dining space. Hayley calls this “fused living”. Yes, it’s all about space, she explains, and ways of finding new volumes of space and maximising natural light, at the same time merging outdoors with inside. “Of course it goes without saying that a kitchen must be functional – and that’s where our expertise really comes into play.” However, even here, clients are now very specific – they’ve seen steam ovens, induction hobs, griddles, juicers, bread ovens, sous vide, and touch controls on TV, and they want the latest appliances. “People are cooking and entertaining more at home, they want machines that make cooking easier and more professional,” adds Hayley.

Extraction is also critical in open plan kitchens. Hayley loves a new product called Bora (www.bora.com) that combines the hob and extraction, creating a cross flow of air at a greater speed than the rising cooking vapours, to capture fat and smells before they even get airborne. This is perfect for an open plan kitchen where cooking is on an island. And the space above remains clear, for a decorative pendant or a feature skylight.

WHW Kitchens Weybridge

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Island Living

Islands themselves are now a key component, adds Hayley. “They can create a sociable workstation usually for cooking and for an informal seating area.” Other experts from around the trade concur, and contribute some pointers of their own.

Vincent Glue is senior designer at Smallbone – perhaps the best known and most prestigious of all British kitchen brands, dating back to 1975, when they pioneered timber handmade kitchens that were more an assembly of hand painted dressers, chests, shelves and cupboards than a “fitted kitchen”. Solid wood was lovingly adorned with a variety of “paint effects” – dragging, stippling, marbling, colour washing, all finishes which are having something of a revival. Even now, each Smallbone kitchen will carry the label of the joiner who made it. Today the Smallbone look is sleek and modern (indeed their latest kitchen island design is called Modernist), with a flagship showroom at 220 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, SW3.

Vincent Glue, says kitchen islands need rigorous analysis. “What will the island be used for?” he muses. “Storage? Food preparation? Cooking? Occasional seating? In most situations, the island will be a combination of the above – but it’s worth identifying its primary function, as this will influence the design.” And he has a word of warning. “There is a fine line between a well-proportioned workstation, and a large, expensive obstacle so plan the overall size carefully. The space around the island is just as important as the island itself; you need a minimum of 1000mm around all sides for access – more if seating is on one side. If possible, mock-up the island in the space, using some boards and trestle tables. You will see immediately if the size is correct. If the room is very large, two islands may work best.”
Lighting is also crucial: “Make sure that there is sufficient light above the working area, and take care when hanging pendants – you don’t want these to obscure your working area.”

Founded in 1996 by John Sims-Hilditch and Giles Redman, Neptune is a rapidly expanding home retailer, with 20 stores. They call themselves “a lifestyle brand” with a complete package for interiors, but their kitchens hand painted in Swindon in one of 28 “house” colours are particularly popular. Each store has its own kitchen designer. Connie Ward, kitchen designer, Neptune Farnham, also has some points to make about islands, and agrees that function is crucial. “Our customers are happiest when their island has a clear function. Some want it purely as a food preparation area, so we’ll provide a smaller, integrated fridge, a chopping board cabinet, a drawer cabinet with a cutlery insert to keep knives and utensils together, and a plumbed-in sink, too. And maybe a hob built into its work surface. Or, clients might want a space purely for storage, so we’ll custom-make cabinetry that suits that purpose perfectly, perhaps with potboards at the end so it’s not one solid block.” She adds that seating is almost always a request – “and where possible, we’ll include a wine rack to make it the perfect place to relax and unwind with family and friends.” (www.neptune.com)

In Battersea, the recently refurbished Hub Kitchens specialises in sleek Italian ultra-modern kitchens complemented by top German appliances – for example The Cut, designed by London-based architect Alessandro Isola and produced by Record è Cucine, exclusive to Hub Kitchens. (www.hubkitchens.com) Says co-founder Daniele Brutto: “Customers want islands to be the focal point for the kitchen. They like the island to make a statement, either with bespoke design, standout colours or by combining finishes. The island works best when it is a multi-functional piece of furniture. It should become a go-to area for cooking, eating or entertaining. Flexibility is key, often an island will include a pullout table for alternative eating or office space and the best island designs create a hub for different lifestyle needs”.
An island can be an exotic design statement.

During the London Design Festival Italian kitchen specialists Boffi installed the Cove kitchen by the late great architect Zaha Hadid. Billed as a “monobloc”, this sculptural unit with its sweeping curves has areas for cooking and washing combined with space for “socialising.” It comes in two sizes in a choice of exclusive finishes including Corian, natural stone and wood. You can also see a 7m long kitchen island by German designer Norbert Wangen, with units in elm, doors in black “ecowood” and worktop in a stunning black marble. Boffi Chelsea is at 254 Brompton Road, London SW3.

Kitchen by Smallbone

ABOVE Kitchens by Smallbone, perhaps the best known of all British kitchen brands, dating back to 1975 when they pioneered timber handmade kitchens. For further information and your nearest showroom visit www.smallbone.co.uk

Love Your Larder

Running alongside the trend for islands is the revival of the larder. So much food, including cheese, fruit and salads, tastes better if stored for at least a short while out of the fridge at room temperature.

“Yes,” says Connie Ward of Neptune, “the larder also tops people’s current wishlists. “If you can make room for a beautifully designed larder cabinet – be it slim or cavernous and double-doored – then it’s a worthy investment. Look out for ones that make the most of all the available space but also offer storage in different forms, such as adjustable shelving in the body of the cabinet, drawers beneath and shelving racks on the inside of the door(s). Remember though, a larder doesn’t have to be a cabinet and it doesn’t have to be large. If space is limited, you can create a mini-larder by using a countertop cabinet instead, filling it and styling it as you would a pantry. Or, use open shelving to do the same thing, which can be ideal if you have a slim space remaining at the end of a cabinetry run.”

Vincent Glue of Smallbone is also a larder expert. The simplest larder, he said, was a tall cabinet designed to hold food, but now clients are demanding much more.
“Kitchen larders are, in their simplest form, tall cabinets designed to store food and provisions, but modern larders have evolved hugely from this simple beginning. With the advances in space saving technology, and client expectation ever increasing, larders are required to perform a variety of combined functions.” Food storage itself is increasingly sophisticated – “the jar you need always seems to be hiding at the back… tall bottle racks on the back of the larder door, coupled with shallower shelving inside, will increase access to smaller items. Bespoke pull-outs and vegetable baskets are both useful and attractive.”

The larder must also cope with small appliances, said Vincent, listing juicers, blenders, and coffee machines – an ever increasing list. “An internal worktop with sockets in the back panel leaves a convenient home for several gadgets. Hideaway pocket doors mean the larder can be left open for access without the doors obscuring the adjacent cabinets.”

Top of the league is the walk-in larder – these suit larger projects, especially if there is already a small room available. “At their simplest, these can be simply shelved from floor to ceiling. The more complex designs can include bespoke storage for bread and vegetables, preserved goods, and temperature/humidity control for the room. Separated from the kitchen by a glass wine wall, this can look stunning – a showcase for your produce.”

Mixed Materials

But let Hayley at DayTrue have the last word on kitchen aspirations: “Choice of materials is so much more adventurous than it used to be. And people want to mix materials in the same installation – different types of woods (pine, oak, walnut, ash, plus exotic veneers), metals (from dull bronze to glowing copper and shiny stainless steel), and stones, from dramatic marbles to flecked granites, dull slates, and creamy limestones. Plus a touch of concrete for that industrial look.
“Colour is certainly in demand,” adds Hayley – “I can’t remember the last time we did a white kitchen. The demand now is for darker heritage shades, with perhaps a combination of colours and textures.” It all adds up to individuality, she says. “Everyone wants something original. A client’s inspiration often comes from several styles and the fun for us is layering those ideas and materials.”

Hayley believes personality is paramount in home design and one of the most important things to achieve in your home. “It not only reflects you and your family, it makes you feel comfortable and relaxed and creates a welcoming inviting surrounding for guests.”

Surrey Woodburners, the Surrey wood burning stove specialist with a showroom in Woking, has established a reputation for high quality, personal service and has now extended its product range with the ESSE range cooker distributorship. ESSE has been handcrafting British cookers since 1854 and has been the choice of clients including royalty, the Savoy Hotel, the River Cottage restaurant and the explorers Shackleton and Scott, who took them on their Antarctic expeditions.

While traditional quality is at the heart of the collection, there’s nothing old-fashioned about it. The ESSE range cooker has continued to evolve in an era where energy efficiency is all-important. There are models with four ovens and an induction hotplate, designs that don’t need a flue and wood burning ranges that dramatically reduce electricity consumption. ESSE cookers continuously maintain their oven and hotplate temperatures and many models can also provide central heating needs. Some models can be controlled by a timer.

Charles Cavaliero of Surrey Woodburners said: “ESSE is a fantastic addition to our range of products. All ESSE wood burning stoves and their cookers are made in England and are renowned for their quality, design and reliability. ESSE is a company which shares our ethos of providing good, old-fashioned, personal service. Buying a wood burning stove or a range cooker is an investment and clients are entitled to expect that everything is compliant and that there is someone on hand if they encounter a problem with their appliance. We plan to offer cookery demonstrations at the showroom so that clients can see the incredible results these cookers can deliver.”

Surrey Woodburners offer a complete installation service for both stoves and cookers. The cooker display will complement their comprehensive display of over 35 woodburners in both modern and traditional styles and in varying heat outputs. Visit their showroom at St Johns Road, Woking, where staff can advise on the best options for any set of circumstances and site surveys are offered. The company and fitters are gas safe and HETAS approved. (01483 727 534; sales@surreywoodburners.co.uk, www.surreywoodburners.co.uk)