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Archive for the ‘Case Studies’ Category

Case Study – Walnut and Elm Kitchen, Surrey

Monday, December 11th, 2017

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We have made a lot recently of our collaborations with architects and interior designers but this project in Surrey took us right back to our roots, working directly with the client to produce a truly bespoke kitchen meeting their individual needs.

The initial contact was made during a 6am email exchange on a Saturday morning (we were both clearly morning people) and was followed by a face to face meeting later the same day back in November 2015. This was the start of one of those special client and designer relationships where personalities just seem to ‘click’.

They had approached us a few months before building had started on their project to build a new home on their existing plot in Surrey. This was the perfect time frame for us to get involved, just after the main contractor had been appointed and the build plans had been finalised. A key feature was a huge family room across the back of the house to incorporate sitting and dining areas and, of course, the kitchen. The whole of the wall overlooking their substantial garden was to be glass, as was an internal wall bringing natural light into the centre of the building. This was to be the room that the family would spend most of their time in and they had spent a significant amount of time researching kitchen designers which had helped them to clarify precisely what they wanted. However, all the designs they had been presented with had a similar ‘cookie-cut’ feel and they were after an altogether more bespoke kitchen, unique to them. Images on our website and that early morning email exchange helped to convince them that Simon had the passion and the vision to deliver what they wanted.

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By the time we got involved then, the clients had a very clear idea of what they wanted. Simon helped to refine the design, listening carefully to their requirements, making suggestions and adding a number of details. This large and very light space required some careful selection of timber, too light and the cabinetry would look bleached out; too dark and the contrast would be too great. The conclusion was to go for cabinets made principally from elm with black walnut details and with stunning burr elm highlights on the key feature doors and drawer fronts. As the client explains, “Simon’s greatest value was in putting the materials and woods together and in sourcing the timber.” This intense pallet of timbers is counteracted by the choice of very stark white Corian work surfaces and the rich intensity of Jo Downs’ handcrafted, sea-green glass which together create an atmosphere of fresh calm.

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The long back wall houses all of the key kitchen appliances. The tall elm cabinets contain Miele main oven, warming drawer, steam oven and microwave combination oven. Behind burr elm doors are the integrated Liebherr fridge and freezer and the lower section houses the Miele induction hob. In order to protect the simplicity of the back wall and to leave it free for the beautiful, green glass splash-back and decorative wall plates, we fitted a Westin downdraft extractor. Having the central hob unit flanked on either side by the ovens, fridge and freezer creates a pleasing symmetry and creates an almost stage-like appearance.

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To the left of this cooking ‘stage’ the sink is at a right-angle to the rest of the kitchen. It is fitted with Quooker Nordic round twin tap which provides instant boiling water and negates the need for a kettle. Next to the sink, a horizontal tambour door, disguises the smaller appliances such as toaster or food mixer which the client uses regularly but did not wish to have on permanent display.

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The largest feature of the kitchen is the large rectangular island. Unusually for one of our kitchens, there are no appliances or water services in this island. It incorporates a range of elm cabinets and drawers down one side and seats four, on our ‘Guinness and Murphy’ stools, along the other side. There are also storage cabinets at either end and these are very subtly curved to provide a sense of movement and flow through the kitchen space.

The gentle curves of the island are echoed in the front of the more decorative breakfast cabinet which features large, curved, vertical tambour doors and contrasts with the simplicity of the island. The doors are constructed of intricate, burr elm slats which slide open to reveal a lit ripple sycamore interior that the client particularly loves because it “looks like a sheet of silk”. On either side of the tambour cabinet, there are display shelves and tucked behind these are side slivers of shelving ideal for storing cookery books.

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Another large elm cabinet with walnut details houses the Liebherr wine fridge. This is conveniently positioned so as to be easily accessed during dinner at the 12 seat dining table which features a glorious, hand-selected Wych elm top supported on a walnut under-frame. The Wych elm has a delicate green sheen which works exceptionally well with the green glass, chosen by the client for its suggestion of the movement and colour of the sea.

For us, working in such close partnership directly with the client has been refreshing and rewarding. This kitchen has been a joy to work on and we are immensely proud of the final result. At the end of this project, it seems only fair that we leave the last word to the client: “Simon communicates well and is responsive. The quality of the deliverable fully met our expectations…the kitchen was going to be functional, but our kitchen has beauty…”

All images by Double Exposure Photographic

Case Study – The Rickyard Public Seating

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

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

In 2011 I embarked on a collaborative project called ‘Common Places’ with Adam Zombory-Moldovan of ZMMA Architects, to research ideas for public art in Shaftesbury, Dorset. That ended in a rather ignominious heated public debate with an ex Lord Mayor of London, a well-known television archaeologist and an array of characters who played tennis together closing ranks to ‘save’ the town from modern art. Although in the end the ‘Common Places’ project research did not lead to public artworks in Shaftesbury Town centre, the ideas did take physical form not so far away.

We had been approached by Persimmon Homes through the project sponsors, North Dorset District Council and the Dorset Design & Heritage Forum, to look simultaneously at a site on the new East Shaftesbury housing development. This major expansion of the town had been contentious as they often are in rural locations. One of the many conditions of planning permission had been to integrate public art in various open spaces within the development to give the scheme more local character and individuality.

Initially we were asked to look at The Rickyard, a small open green space in the middle of a cul-de-sack of new 3 to 4 bed houses with a footpath running through the middle from corner to corner. This was part of an existing public footpath that connected the town to a network of roads and trackways (some very old) linking to other settlements and features in the landscape. It was partly this enforced juxtaposition of the new houses and the ancient landscape we were interested in exploring, but also use of local materials and the links to Dorset myths, sacred places and sight lines. We were really playing with the idea of sense of place and time.

The Rickyard had been ‘landscaped’ in the way that new developments are planted – rather contrived; but all these developments have to start from something – and it doesnt take long for these new spaces to become imbedded as ‘place’ to the people who live there. So our job was to add some intrigue, meaning, focus and of course, somewhere to sit.

When the project included the wider remit of potential sites in Shaftesbury town centre the plan had been to make links using public art between these old and new communities, highlighting the old trackways into the market town with objects, markers and words. Now as a stand alone site these resonances are more obscure, but nevertheless The Rickyard is still hopefully a place to pause and contemplate old and new, time and place.

In the world where cars transport you from your new home to work, or the supermarket, or a day out with the kids in comfort, arriving at a place is all too easy. The Rickyard is probably best experienced as a surprise encounter on a journey by foot, from the Saxon origins of the market town’s streets, through estates of houses from the post-war building boom, though the 70s low lying bungalows, the 80s red brick, the 90’s brown window frames, then finally into the latest offering from Persimmon Homes: The new ‘mini town’ with a ‘village’ feel and its patches of open public space (at least it has them), and this one has something rather different, even ‘unusual’ in it.

Perhaps what is here has resonances with an even more ancient landscape that is all around but is not always obvious; the hill forts, burial mounds, ditches and features that are prevalent in this part of the world.

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‘The Rickyard’ installation seen from the corners of the cul-de-sac where the public rights of way emerge into the space. The scorched oak uprights serve to mark the way across the space. Our proposals also incorporated a hard pathway through the seating but this element is yet to be completed by Persimmon Homes.

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These public space projects take time to come to fruition. For various reasons 4 years past from the initial ideas to final installation. The completed benches remained at my workshops for 18 months before finally being transported to site in late 2015. Apart from the lack of resolution on the surface of the pathway through the seating and uprights (it’s not mean’t to be grass) The Rickyard is very much as Adam & I envisaged it in the early concepts.

This kind of work is very different to the precision high-end bespoke furniture, kitchens and interiors that we normally design and make. But my first degree was in sculpture, so in many ways this work takes me back to my artistic roots. It is also a bit of an escape from worrying about getting a 1.5mm gap around a door perfect. This is chunky, organic and a bit brutal – split, scorched, bent, twisted and heavy! You have to work with the curves and the material – the oak logs are what they are in terms of size and shape and the design of the whole installation is defined by that. We had a lot of fun making these benches, but it was technically challenging and very hard physical work at times…

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The Rickyard is maturing nicely now from the stark and barren site it started out as. The trees and shrubs have already grown significantly and the new build houses look lived in and loved. As modern developments of its type go, it looks like a nice place to live. I can imagine that when visitors come, the seating and uprights in the middle of the green come up as a topic of conversation. The residents I have spoken to really like their unusual centrepiece. It is part of their ‘landscape’ and their ‘place’ now.

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Textures of natural weathered oak logs against the stark scorched uprights. The benches are tied together with a beautifully engineered and vandal-proof stainless fixings.

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Like other public seating and artworks we have done I really enjoy going back occasionally, seeing it mature and if i’m lucky seeing a bunch of kids playing around it or a family chilling out for a moment on a walk through the development.

Part of the challenge Adam and I both enjoyed with this project was working with a major house builder. It would be fair to say they were engaged in a rather ‘arms length’ way and would probably not have chosen to put public art works on the site if it had not been a condition of planning. Indeed on the other site we worked up proposals for on the development, Mampitts Square, nothing has happened! I suspect the outcome there may be rather ordinary and ‘off the shelf’ in the end. Despite everything though, the Rickyard project got built and we helped create a new ‘common place’ for Shaftesbury where an ex Lord Mayor of London, a TV archaeologist, a couple of tennis players and I could partake in a good chinwag!

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Children defiantly get it! It’s something interesting to climb on or play around.

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If you’d like to talk to Simon about a public art or seating project please get in contact, initial conversations and ideas cost nothing. To view our Tudor Arcade Public Seating case study click here.

To find the Rickyard yourself and explore old and new Shaftesbury click here for the Dorset Explorer map.

Most images in this Case Study were taken by Double Exposure Photographic

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

Case Study – Walnut & Cherry Kitchen, Salisbury

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

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

We have been busy making films again, but this time approaching it from the perspective of our clients. What’s it like to commission a Simon Thomas Pirie kitchen, what are they like to live in and most importantly to work in? In this first film we look at a black walnut and cherry kitchen we recently completed for long term clients near Salisbury. Martin and Jillian love cooking, entertaining but especially love their wine. The space was designed not only to accommodate our stylish interior but incorporate a specially built downstairs wine cellar. On top of all that it also has to cope with the rigours of being a family space for five.

Like all our kitchens this one is full of sensuous curves, beautiful timbers and clever design features. The walnut on the cabinets runs horizontally, creating echos of the big open landscapes of the surrounding Salisbury Plain. Listen to what Martin has to say about his new kitchen as he cooks Simon a ‘quick’ lunch and opens something appropriate.

This was a really important project for us, partly because the customers are long-term clients and friends, but also because this was a test of our new project management regimes. On previous kitchens we had run over time, this was to be a trial to see how close we could stick to our manufacturing and fitting schedules. This philosophy went right back to the design stages – to designing elements we knew we could make to time and therefore to budget. Of course none of this could compromise the way it looked, like every Simon Thomas Pirie kitchen, it needed to take your breath away – proper ‘wow’ factor stuff.

The conversation started with the clients Martin and Jillian over dinner a couple of years ago. They had bought the house new and liked it, but the kitchen was disproportionally small, cheaply fitted out and an awkward wedge shape to boot. They had a growing family and loved to entertain. Martin shoots so often cooks exotic game and meat dishes, and this is all washed down with his other great passion – wine.

Although they didn’t want to spend much money, they did want to do something about it, so asked if I could just change the door and drawer fronts for something better. I don’t normally turn down work but I felt that was a bit pointless, as the layout of the room was never going to suit the way they wanted to live. Perhaps the wine helped the conversation along but by the end of the evening we were talking about creating a completely new kitchen / living space with an extensive wine cellar below. 18 months later and we were finalising designs for this stunning kitchen as the new extension was taking shape. Not a cheap or particularly quick solution, but the right one.

The new room is 3 times bigger than the old kitchen at around 56m2, the cellar below adds another 20m2 of cool wine storage, accessed by a half step staircase. Much of the new kitchen still sits within the tapering end of the room (the red dashed lines in the floorplan above show the original wall before the extension.) Despite this the space now feels positively cavernous, with room for a generous dining table, the stair banister (both of which we made) and soft furniture. It has become a proper family area where the 5 of them spend most of their time.

There was a lot to consider in the design stages. I didn’t want that narrow end of the room to feel dark or dingy, particularly as we had decided on black walnut for the cabinet fronts, one of the darker timbers. We needed to add light and reflective surfaces to that end of the room, this was primarily achieved with a big stainless Liebherr fridge on the short end wall. It looked great and set the tone for the other appliances – the microwave and range cooker were also stainless steel.

Because the main access into the room brings you into face the side of the fridge, I wanted to avoid the first impression to be one of cold stainless steel, it was meant to be a warm inviting family space. Instead what you see is a cabinet side panel with that walnut running horizontally. An elegant clock is integrated at the top, below that is a slate blackboard, then more walnut below. Invariably there are shopping lists, reminders and kids scribbles all over it. We are setting the tone. Once you are in and turn the corner, the room opens out from this, its narrowest point. It’s like the tardis!

Running to the left is the fridge and a short run of over-worktop units with a built-in microwave and cupboards. Then we have a long run of very crisp looking cabinetry which includes large 1000mm drawers, the recycling bins, the sinks and integrated dishwasher. The run is all below worktop and all the surfaces are extra deep at around 750mm. The detail I love the most on this run are the floating shelves which are LED downlit giving them a lovely ‘hovering’ appearance. They also visually link the cabinets on the back (fridge) wall to this low ‘landscape’ block, stepping higher as they go.

I use that term landscape a lot in reference to the veneer and its long horizontal and repeating grains. We ‘slipmatch’ these consecutive veneers across a series of doors and drawers, and the patterns we carefully create do become like landscapes, very apt here in the rolling plains around Salisbury. It’s a simple way of making the room feel larger.

Although the doors, drawers shelves and frameworks are in black walnut we chose cherry as the material for the kickboards and recessed handle detail. It’s a classic and subtle combination we know works. I’ve avoided using protruding handles again so nothing interferes with that crisp look. The granite is a dark Uba Tuba but on closer inspection it is full of rich green and gold tones that come alive in different lights. The floor is a light travertine, again this helps bounce a bit of light around along with a similar off-white wall colour. It’s a strong yet subtle palette of colours, tones and textures.

The island is obviously central to the space, visually, practically and emotionally. Again those long landscape veneers wrap right round the two d-end cupboards. It’s almost boat like. All the curves within the kitchen also aid flow around space. As I said earlier cooking is key here, so it’s no accident that the generous Rangemaster Continental range cooker ends up here in the island. No accident either that the bar area is designed for the cook to be facing those seated guests, so conversation, drinking wine and eating entrees continues through the food preparation. The solid 3 metre cherry bar top is elevated above the granite worksurface, it’s a well used busy place by kids and grown-ups alike. The island contains plenty of storage in those vast semi-circular end cupboards. To the left of the range are two pull out spice and bottle racks (ideal for oils, vinegars etc.) To the right is another very large 4 drawer stack, for everything from cutlery to utensils, to the obligatory pan drawers. It’s a cooks area, with everything close at hand. Turn around – the sinks, bins, dishwasher and other 4 drawer stack are right there.

To the left of the island from the narrow end of the room are all the tall units, connected into one long symetrical run. Right at the centre of this is another Liebheer fridge, but this one is specifically for wine, along with the bespoke bottle racks above it. The deep red colour on this appliance is echoed in the wall colour on that side of the room. It’s a nice touch that just seems to give the space a bit of oppulence. On either side of the wine fridge are almost floor to ceiling larder storage cupboards cabable to taking a huge volume of stuff. One is fitted with a mix of full and half depth shelves, the other has deep storage drawers with shelves above. At each end of the units are quarter round shelves to create soft display. Tucked right in against the wall are a narrow bookshelf at one end and the broom cupboard at the other. These kitchens are practical as well as beautiful!

This kitchen comes closest to a kitchen I’d want myself in terms of elegant design simplicity, warmth, practicality and sociability. It works, i’ve experienced it, which must be the ultimate test for any designer – to be in the space you designed being entertained, wined and dined. Martin put it beautifully when I asked if there was anything he’d change now; “the kitchen is perfect, everything is just where I want it, I wouldn’t change a thing.” Mind you it was after a few bottles of very good wine!

There are images of what the previous kitchen looked like if you are feeling brave enough! Just click here. As part of the same blog story there is also a sequence of images of the kitchen being fitted, taken from the same place. It gives a great insight into how much care we put into fitting our bespoke cabinet work.

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