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Archive for the ‘Bespoke Kitchens’ Category

Around the Workshop – Best of 2016

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

I’ve been struggling to find time to write the blog recently, a reflection of just how busy 2016 has been. It has been an amazing year now I look back on it; in terms of the amount of work, the size and ambition of the projects undertaken but also just the sheer breadth of what we’ve done.

This time last year we were just finishing off work on two museum projects; one being some stools for the newly refurbished V&A Europe 1600-1815 galleries learning area, the other being furniture for the Watts Gallery in Surrey. On both of these projects we worked in close collaboration with ZMMA Architects, a dynamic London practice we have strong connections with. You can in more depth about these museum projects on the blog by clicking here.

And it’s very much that collaborative theme that continued through the year…

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Highly challenging museum work with ZMMA Architects for the Watts Gallery (right) and the V&A Museum (left).

As the museum projects came to an end we were just gearing up for our first big project of 2016, the interior of a large contemporary CLT (cross laminated timber) built house on the North Norfolk coast called Bliss Blakeney. It’s not our normal stomping ground but the project and the clients meant it wasn’t one we wanted to miss out on, besides getting to know a new part of the world is an added bonus. We were asked to design the entrance hall and stair areas, kitchen, living / snug area, bar, library, bedrooms and dressing rooms. The first half of the year was very much focused on the Bliss project, we ended up completing the abstract stair panelling, the very funky kitchen, the snug and the library areas before drawing a line under it. The next elements are due in 2017, so hopefully this time next year there will be more images to see.

What I loved about this project is it was the clients who were pushing us for more radical design solutions, they are not scared of risk taking or bold design. That’s always a thrill for a designer when it happens and inevitably leads to new and exciting work – I see Bliss as very much a joint project between us and very creatively minded clients. Not sure what I’d pull out as a favourite piece or element of the Bliss project – the kitchen island perhaps? I also love the sideboard / media cabinet in the black sycamore wall panels of the snug, and the stair wall panels in fumed oak / pink ripple sycamore and intense blue, and the library and….

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Bliss Blakeney on the North Norfolk Coast, full of colour and creativity and came to define the first half of 2016.

We still need to get the space properly photographed, but even from our site snaps you can see this is a bit special. Despite being a long way away the site fitting was always a pleasure because we could get put up in the luxury ‘Cabin’, a four bed self contained wing of Bliss where the team could chill out after a long day’s work. The local pubs were great and so was landscape of North Norfolk coastline. It’s not often we do describe the fitting part of a project as a ‘pleasure’, but this was certainly true of the Bliss Blakeney project.

For more about Bliss and staying at the stunning Cabin yourself click here…

Cabin at Bliss

The daily breakfast meeting discussing the fitting day ahead in the ‘Cabin’ at Bliss Blakeney.

The other big news of 2016 was our collaboration with Sitting Spiritually, the garden furniture and swing seat makers from Lyme Regis. Late in 2015 they approached us to design a new contemporary swing seat for them. They had seen the work we had done on the Tudor Arcade Public Seating project and our prototype ‘Floating Benches’ with scorched and natural oak and wanted to harness that look in a new swing seat. Out of this came the ‘Yakisugi’ swing seat in 2,3 and 4 seat versions. We also licenced the Floating Bench to Sitting Spiritually and developed one and two seater versions as well as the original generous 3 seat bench. This became the ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’, sold exclusively through Sitting Spiritually, but designed and made by us.

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We don’t have a high profile in the garden furniture world, but Sitting Spiritually do and they take a stand at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show every year. It’s the build up to that where the Yakisugi Swing Seat but especially the Floating Bench got huge attention – getting shortlisted for RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year. Images ended up in every paper and supplement imaginable. Post Chelsea it was a key feature in two RHS Gold Medal award winning gardens at Hampton Court and Tatton Park, with plenty of BBC TV coverage to boot. It’s nice seeing other garden furniture suppliers trying to play catch up – the scorched and natural oak combination was definitely the hot theme of 2016!

Floating Green

I don’t think I’ve ever designed something that has ever got quite so much attention in a short space of time. The middle of the year saw us making healthy batches of the swing seats and Floating Benches and we are already discussing what’s going to be on the RHS Chelsea Sitting Spiritually stand for 2017. Sworn to secrecy though!

A little film to celebrate the Sitting Spiritually / STP Collaboration in 2016.

For more about the Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range which is sold exclusively through Sitting Spiritually visit the Sitting Spiritually website.

On the collaboration theme we continue to build relationships with interior design practices, high-end developers and architects. They come to us for our very bespoke skill set and the fact we can help them elevate their concepts into something real and exquisite. One such project was with Jigsaw Interior Architecture and AMD Developments in a new property by the river in Christchurch. This stunning contemporary build utilised a very calming neutral interior palette which is both elegant and subtle. We were asked by Jigsaw to work on the staircase liaising with the metal fabricators to produce the timber stair treads and landing elements as well as a couple of large room divide / display storage shelves. These were made in a birch ply and a black face veneer. They look simple but were much more tricky to make then they initially appear. One of these had a large siding end grain panel on industrial castors that covers half of the display space.

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The living and dining space shelving in ply and black tulip wood at Wick Lane – Scheme by Jigsaw Interior Architecture.

There is more detail and more images of this project on the blog – click here.

We are working on other schemes with Jigsaw, as well as with other interior design and architectural practices on some very exciting varied projects for 2017/18. Three years ago we decided to pursue more of this kind of work (as well as our own generated furniture, kitchen and interior commissions) and it has certainly paid off, giving us a much longer project horizon. It means we have have stuff penciled into the schedule 18 to 36 months ahead and properly firmed up for up to 18 months. From a business perspective it just means we can plan ahead and feel secure.

If the first half of the year was shaped by the Bliss project, the second half would be equally dominated by another project with a snappy one word name: ‘ACE‘ is a new apartment block on the desirable stretch of coastline at Sandbanks, Poole. We were only involved in the Penthouse flat, which has views over Poole harbour to one side and the open ocean, with panoramic views from the Isle of Wight to Old Harry Rocks on the other. We were invited to tender for all the fitted furniture elements except the kitchen on this by Woadden Nash Interiors in conjunction with Westcoast Developments. The building was being built by Colmar Construction who we had worked with very successfully on the ‘Fire & Water’ kitchen in 2015.

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We have known the team at Woadden Nash for some time and had come close to working with them on a couple of projects before, so it was lovely to finally secure something this big. The finishes are rich and opulent throughout the scheme, with lots of use of Italian coloured Tabu veneers on the furniture as well as a very dark brown sprayed oak throughout as a constant repeating theme on the furniture and internal joinery.

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Images of work during fitting at ACE Sandbanks, the project that has defined the second half of 2016.

We worked intensively with the Woadden Nash, Westcoast and Colmar team on developing very narrow 35mm skirtings, picture rails and decorative door linings throughout the apartment and these were the first elements to be fitted. The furniture consisted of all the wardrobes and dressing rooms in the 4 bedrooms, dressing tables, master en suite bathroom cabinetry, master bedroom furniture and panelling, shelving and TV cabinet for the living area, as well as the shelving for the night lounge / study. Last but not least is the two sided bar cabinet which stands in the centre of the room – my favourite piece on the project.

Still to get professional shots of the ACE and Bliss Interiors but i’m hoping the portfolio book and websites will be bulging with lots of exciting images and full length case studies very soon.

For all this talk of big projects and doing complete interiors we do still love making small individual pieces of furniture, it is after all at the very core of what we are as makers and designers. When you are working on projects that take months to design, months to make and almost as long to fit then snag, it’s rather refreshing to see smaller commissions designed, made and delivered in weeks. It’s important for us to get a nice mix of projects, so I’m as happy designing a small side table as I am a kitchen or library. We’ve had a few furniture pieces that have stood out this year and perhaps some images can say more than words here.

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Top left – ‘Perch’ chairs in elm as ruby wedding present to match existing STP table and benches. Top right – Stunning olive ash and fumed oak dining table – chairs to come! Bottom – Media sideboard in oak with scollop detail panels.

Next years projects are already beginning to take shape in the workshop. We are currently working on a beautiful study, which is the first element of a major new build near Beaulieu in the New Forest. We also have two large kitchens and interior projects lined up for the spring / summer, a classic 1920’s modernist interior in Hampstead, the next stage of the Bliss work in Norfolk, 60 Officers Mess chairs for a Guards regiment, a church alter and lots more we are in discussion about. 2017 looks like it could be even more exciting than 2016!

Bliss Fit 2

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Bliss Outside 1We have just returned from our second scheduled fit at Bliss Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast. This time we were concerntrating on the main living space which includes the kitchen and TV/snug areas. I say second ‘scheduled’ fit because John & I did an extra fit over the Easter break where our families came along and stayed in the cabin with us – they had a mini holiday while we worked our socks off. They had a great time and it is a lovely part of England to explore.

For this fit we had lots to do so brought our full team. We have taken on a another maker (confusingly another Mike) who just happens to be the son of our upholsterer. We were staying in the Bliss Cabin again which is a real comfy home from home with plenty of space and luxury to chill out after a long day. The other advantage is it’s a very short walk to work. It’s so much nicer than staying in a B&B where you can’t really relax in the same way. Despite the luxury, the convenience, the good local pubs when you can’t be bothered to cook, fitting is nevertheless very hard work. By the end of the week we are all knackered and aching in places that have never ached before.

Bliss snug Fit 1

Effectively we divided up into two teams one concentrating on the kitchen island, the other working on the TV/snug area. The kitchen island went together really quickly, by lunchtime on the first day the basic structure was assembled and in position so we got our real sense of the scale of this piece. At 4m by 1.4m it’s easily the largest single island we have made. While it certainly is big in the context of the space it’s perfectly proportioned and really does form the centrepiece and focus of this key space. In many ways the island is the kitchen – all four faces have a purpose – some more practical, some more sociable. Fit 3 at the end of May will see us build the back wall units which contain the ovens, more storage, the surrounds for the fridges and a lit copper inset work surface, but the priority this time was to get a functional kitchen in as the clients are already living in the house.

Bliss Island Fit 1

The one piece stainless steel worktop hit problems at the fabricators so did not turn up at all this week. The island should have been completely finished but in the end we had to rig up a temporary plywood surface until it arrives – hopefully next week. The copper sheet that forms the plinths and the under-surface detail also came late due to issues with suppliers so when we left at the end of the week we hadn’t seen it with the protective film taken off except on one corner of a drawer detail. It looked incredible against the the dark grey ripple sycamore panels. That combination of copper, charcoal figured sycamore and the stainless is certainly going to create one of our most dramatic kitchens ever. Very different to our contemporary but curvy, woody and mostly walnut kitchens. Don’t get me wrong, we love doing those, but this is a refreshing change of direction and palette towards something modern and very cool.

The first stage of the project was stairs walls and library area where the predominant material was the pink figured sycamore (click here to see Bliss Blakeney Stage 1 fit blog story.) In the snug and kitchen it is a similar dark charcoal grey version of that material that links these two areas together. The snug is very much about that dark grey sycamore – creating a rich enveloping space that quite literally ‘wraps’ around you – on the walls and the ceiling, incorporating the TV wall. There is also a built-in cassette type fire which is surrounded by slate in a similar dark grey. The slate and the sycamore have a repeating horizontal shadow line every 450mm which creates a really striking ‘wrap’ detail. The only contrast to the dark grey of the sycamore and slate is the floating sideboard piece that houses all the AV equipment. This is in solid grey fumed oak and is a key material that repeats all over the house.

Bliss Snug Fit 2

The stone fitters were unable to complete their installation and as a result we couldn’t finish the panelling on either side of it. Same is true of the island and the stainless top. In fact we got to the point where we ended up not being able to finish either part of this stage of the project so ended up leaving a bit early on the Thursday evening instead of Friday. We’ll be back at Bliss at the end of May to finish both the island and snug and build that back kitchen wall.

Can’t wait to see this area finished, even from these rather busy fitting snaps with tools all over the floor you get a sense of the stunning space to come…

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Case Study – ‘Fire & Water’ Kitchen

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Our ‘Case Studies’ are an opportunity to take a more in depth look at projects from a design perspective…

Our latest kitchen is our most spectacular and complex yet; it has two islands, a drum walk-in larder, stunning elm, burr elm and walnut timbers, a rare and beautiful stone worktop, and if it’s all too much to take in you can take a seat on one of our bespoke stools at the island bar and open up the incredible drinks cabinet.

Watch the film that follows the ‘Fire & Water’ project from start to finish; from making in the workshop through the on-site fitting to the completion of a kitchen masterpiece.

Well-known kitchen industry writer Gramhame Morrison’s take on the film…“All of detail that goes into this outstanding kitchen is captured in the Fire & Water video. While it is possible albeit extremely unlikely that you may see a better kitchen in 2016 (and don’t forget that this is a real kitchen in a real home), you ain’t gonna see a better video.” For the full review click here.

When Simon was approached by a potential new client to design a kitchen for his substantial new-build home near the South coast, the brief was a dream: ‘to come up with something really different” for what is an enormous space by most domestic standards. Sounds simple and straight forward and with lots of space to play with it seemed the only boundaries were in Simon’s own imagination. However, to design a kitchen which is practical and beautiful as well as unusual is much harder than it sounds.

Having this much space is a luxury but it needs to be managed skilfully if it is to be put to its best use. A single island in the centre of a large space can easily end up being too big to be practical – what use is an island if you can’t reach the centre of it, or if it feels like you to walk a marathon in the preparation of even the simplest of meals? Conversely, to put all the aspects of the kitchen against the walls would be to create a barn-like space with no atmosphere or ambience and is wholly impractical. Other designers had been in and come up with just that, a single large square island and a wall of floor to ceiling cabinetry containing most of the appliance. Nothing wrong it that, but the clients were looking for a more creative solution.

The answer, it turns out, is simple – two islands; practical, beautiful and unusual. Creating two islands which complement each other and work in harmony with the rest of the kitchen was the next challenge and it was the third or fourth attempt at drawing them which was to whet the client’s appetite. Inspired by the concept of Yin and Yang, the design grew from the separation of the two key elements required in the preparation of food – fire for cooking and water for cleansing.

The islands run at an unusual 30 degree angle to the back oven wall. Opening out and creating a clear route to the glazed ‘orangery’ living space via the drinks cabinet and island seating. It was always conceived as a very open and sociable space, allowing the activities of work and conversation to happen very naturally.

There is also a nautical ‘boat’ feel to the shapes of the islands, emphasised by the dropped ceiling canopy which floats over the centre echoing the forms and looking like it’s heading out to sea; very apt considering the location on the South coast and the client’s interests. The elm trim around the canopy helps that illusion of floating, especially in the evenings with the gentle wash of warm led lights in the alcove above.

In this big space it’s hard to get the sense of scale; the ‘Water Island’ alone is nearly four and half metres long. Along its straight, inner edge, it contains all the water services: sink, hot water tap, integrated dishwasher and waste disposal unit, as well as plenty of practical kitchen storage, drawers and even some specially designed bespoke trays. The outer curved side incorporates a feature burr sideboard with cupboard storage as well as cutlery and crockery drawers, effectively serving the kitchen dining table.

The ‘Fire Island’ is shorter because of the angle it sits to the back wall. It contains pan drawers, general storage, the all important induction hob flush, to the granite worktop, as well as the cantilevered raised bar area to seat two. There is no wasted space anywhere in this kitchen, every centimetre is efficiently put to use.

Although it is the islands and canopy that immeditely grab the visual attention, the backdrop of the oven, coffee, fridge-freezer and larder wall units gives balance to the space behind. We were determined to make this run of wall units full of appliances exciting to look at with varying elevation depths, lit recesses, curves and different height cornices.

The run starts on the left with the feature curved drum larder unit. It’s a real ‘tardis’ inside those big burr elm doors. As they are opened, the internal LED lights come on to reveal vast amounts of storage on shelves and in deep drawers. There are also adjustable racks on the backs of the curved doors for more bottles, jars and spices. All the dry non-perishable, food items are in one place at the heart of the kitchen.

The central element of this run contains all the ovens, large pan drawers, the coffee machine and a deep, lit alcove and work-surface to line up the coffee cups or put a hot roasting tin straight from the oven. Added interest is created by arranging the Miele appliances in an ‘L-shape’ configuration.

To the right of this wall run is the fridge and freezer cabinet. There is only so much you can do with the fridges and freezers; they are big ‘lumps’ to be blunt. We did what we could to soften the hard shape of integrated Gaggeneau units adding detail with the scalloped walnut door handles in horizontal elm panels.

The wine cooler which stands to the right of the main double doors into the kitchen is also a top of the range Gaggeneau. Like Miele it is a beautifully made and engineered German appliance that doesn’t disappoint. The wine fridge again is integrated into our cabinetry. Its bulk is visually softened by the glass door and our treatment of the cabinet, but it is still an imposing piece in the corner of the room. We had space to incorporate a rack for 2 further cases of wine. After all, you can never have too much wine storage!

We have used the burr elm on the 3 feature pieces in the room – the sideboard element in the ‘Water’ island, on the drum larder and finally on the large display and drinks cabinet. This is a real ‘piece of furniture’, a big statement piece which in the large space looks well proportioned. It contains a beer and mixers fridge in the bottom section, lit glass display sections to either side, and the main drinks cabinet behind curved sliding tambour doors in the top middle section. We all love this piece because it is quirky, striking to look at, but also technically a challenge to make.

It’s just a step away from the raised bar on the ‘Fire’ island where you can perch on one of our ‘Guinness & Murphy’ stools and talk to people while they work in the kitchen. We have produced lots of bars, cabinets and drinks related furniture over the years, in fact there is an article here on the STP blog dedicated to it!

The final element is the kitchen dining area. We made a set of 6 ‘Gabriel’ chairs with seats covered in lovely woven purple and gold fabric which beautifully sets off the elm and walnut. We made the table top in hand cut radiating elm veneers; very simple but stunning when combined with the fluted café style metal base. This, along with the foot frames of the stools, was bespoke bronze plated, and they all look incredible.

This was very much a whole room solution rather than just a kitchen. It is designed to echo with the client’s lifestyle, interests and needs, with the social aspects as important as the practical working needs of a kitchen.

Our clients are completely delighted with the project. During the photo shoot one of them said to me, “We love our kitchen, is so beautiful and yet so practical.” As designers and makers of very bespoke kitchens we know we’ve done our job when we hear that. The best kitchens come out of a successful collaboration between client and designer. That takes time and effort, but it will be worth it!

If you’d like to talk to Simon about a kitchen project please get in contact, initial conversations and ideas cost nothing. For more of our kitchen case studies click here.

All images taken by Double Exposure Photographic / Video work by Watershed PR

Choose Your Drinking Furniture Responsibly!

Monday, March 30th, 2015

An odd subject maybe, but one I have been thinking around recently due mainly to a couple of exciting commissions coming up, but also on the strength of our ‘drinking related furniture’ portfolio past…

The relation between food and furniture is often expressed in the dining furniture and kitchens we design, furniture that aids the practical making of and social consumption of food. Food is everywhere, when we are not making it and eating it we seem to be watching others making and eating it. But what about drinking and the furniture we make for it? Well let me show you…

Over the years we have made plenty of bespoke drinks cabinets, kitchens for the wine obsessed and even private cocktail bars in hidden country barns. We’ve done breakfast coffee dressers and cabinets that act as a sculpture plinth, a homage to the mighty Gaggia expresso machine. Dedicated drinking furniture is a serious genre!

I really enjoy designing drinks cabinets (from a furniture perspective of course), there is something about them that just leads to elegant forms. We have done corner cabinets, freestanding cabinets and those that fit within fitted furniture. My favourite over the years is probably the burr sycamore and ripple ash piece pictured here. We actually made a pair of these, one for a long standing client in Yorkshire which was made entirely of sycamore and this similar showroom version who’s frame was in ripple ash instead. The speculative one sold to a London client soon after. Perhaps it is my favourite because it comes closest to the cabinet i’d want to have for my own little weakness – I enjoy fine single malt whiskys’ and one day I’ll make my own version of one of these.

The really exciting news from my perspective is we have just been commissioned to make this piece’s alter ego, a similar cabinet in dark burr walnut with a black walnut frame. Once again we will make a slightly different second speculative piece, this showroom version will be made with an English walnut frame. It’s always fun making a piece you know well in a very different timber, it completely changes its character, I can’t wait to see it. Both new cabinets should be completed by June 2015.

The other new piece we are working up the designs of is a very large drum cabinet. Normally these have been walk-in larder units within kitchens, but this one is destined to be a bar. Should be stunning – fairly restrained on the outside in fumed oak and greyed ripple sycamore with a blaze of bright lit colour on the inside (still deciding what colour!) It will have curved doors that open up with the drinks bottles on retained shelves on the inside of the doors, a wine rack that pierces the outer skin of the drum, a small mixing sink internally with coffee making facilities and a ‘Quooker’ boiling water tap. There will be lots of internal storage for glasses, cups, bottles etc and a couple of our bespoke ‘Guinness and Murphy’ bar stools (yes I know, drinking related again!) to prop up the stone bar top with. It will be a really striking, fun piece to make for the new showroom display for the Big Kitchen Company, whom we work in partnership with on their larger bespoke projects and who we use supply most of the appliances on our kitchens.

And it’s kitchens we turn to next. This is where the relationship between drinking and furniture becomes very serious. It all started as a conversation between me and long-term clients who have become firm friends over a good bottle of wine about remaking the doors on their kitchen. The kitchen had always been too small for the rest of the house, particularly as they loved entertaining, cooking and particularly drinking – very fine wines. I suggested it was pointless just hanging new doors on this miserable little space and that they should build a new space for the kitchen. Over the course of the evening it somehow became a two storey extension – not for a bedroom above though, but for a dedicated wine cellar below! Two years later they got their shiny kitchen, complete with bespoke balestrade and stairs down to the temprature controlled wine cellar. Of course we had to find space for a wine fridge or two upstairs as well. There is a full case study of this project including a film elsewhere on this blog, just click here to read…

But for serious drinking evenings and sheer exhuberance one project really stands out from over the years. That’s partly down to it’s scale, but also down to the way it looks and the material palette. This was the barn conversion in North Dorset, half of which was going to be serious office / study, the other half a cocktail bar and entertainment / cinema space. We had a great time designing and making this out of elm, a man-made dark brown check veneer and a blue madrona burr veneer. It feels more like a lush luxury hotel bar somewhere exotic than the Dorset countryside. It had a fully equipped professional stainless steel catering bar behind our warm toned timber work which includes everything you need to serve a complex cocktail to a simple cold beer. For late at night (or early in the morning) there was a proper Gaggia expresso coffee making machine in its own recessed alcove and cabinet.

I love the lighting on this project. That blue burr veneer just came alive with the other elements and has a surprising warmth for something so firmly in the blue scale. I think my favourite part is the drinks display shelves on the wall behind.

The family use the space lots and have 4 grown up children, so i’m sure it’s been the scene of many memorable parties over the years! It’s always graitifying to know a space you have been involved in designing gets so well used. Again there is a full case study for this project elsewhere on the blog…

The Warnings Bit! Of course I shouldn’t be flippent about drinking here, alcohol is a source of great pleasure to many but it is also a drug – remember to drink responsibly. Equal care should be taken with the furniture – choose your drinking furniture responsibly, that of course means coming to us!