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Archive for the ‘Case Studies’ Category

Case Study – Elm and Quilted Maple Kitchen, Poole

Friday, October 19th, 2012

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

My blog started in 2009, so there are major projects we completed before then which have not been featured as ‘Case Studies’ that we are very proud of, this is another one of those.

I first meet Richard and Alison during Dorset Art Weeks 2006 when they visited my old studios at Slepe. Since then we have continued to design interiors and furniture for their home in Poole, and have more planned for 2013. Sometimes you meet potential clients and you know (well think you know) that things are going to work well, both from a design perspective and a personal one. Over the 15 years my business has been running I’ve been lucky to have worked for some great clients, many of whom have become good friends. Richard and Alison would certainly count among them.

The property is a classic red brick Edwardian house with lots of original features, lovely proportions and a very high build quality. They wanted to add an extension at the back of the house that was in character, but also bridged the outdoor space with a new kitchen / living area – a space where they and their children would spend much of their time. Of course they had seen previous spaces we had designed – in particular the Surrey walnut and elm kitchen (featured in a previous case study) and loved the use of soft curves which help the space flow and create visual drama.

Within the kitchen space we also had a walk-in larder to incorporate and a dining table and chairs to design, so plenty to keep us busy! The start point for me is always to understand how a family live and interact, how they cook, what they cook, how they socialise (my clients always do!) and how they envisage this might change over time. It’s a detailed interogation, but the more I can get from a client at this stage the more longevity this crucial living space will have. Understanding the clients leads to good spacial design ideas.

They responded very positively to the more exciting ideas like building a huge curved wall across the room to house the fridge and ovens, but also hide the larder behind. They also loved the fact we had created so many storage ideas like the sideboard / drinks cabinet, curved glass glazed units and the protruding eliptical work-surface and cabinet below. Alison also wanted an island with lots of storage, worktop, bar seating, and all the wet services in. There is lots going on in this space but I think we somehow succeeded in making it work and perhaps more importantly look uncluttered and sophisticated.

Materials wise – they were happy to be brave with colour, texture and timber choice. The palette runs from mazur birch and quilted maple on the lighter scale – seen working together most effectively on that curved fridge wall. Then as the mid range tone we used red elm, most obviously on the island. The ‘feature’ doors were in a dark burr elm which also had a hint of redness. This was deliberate and echoed the red of the Aga and other objects in the room. We often use a strong colour to break the brown mid tones of the woods which can get a bit mono-tonal, especially if used with subtle wall paints and flooring as in this case.

There is lots of curved surface in the kitchen, in fact there is not much that’s straight. I’m certainly not a designer that could be described as ‘minimal’- but there are plenty of others pursuing that crown of dullness. We have become experts in creating those timber curved doors and drawers over the years. We also utilised curved glass on many of the display cabinets, not a cheap option and not very forgiving either. If you get a radius slightly wrong – you can tweak timber, but you can’t tweak glass. We also used a black laminated glass top for the island bar top after lots of discussion about the right material. All the other worktops are a lovely Madura Gold granite, with lots of subtle colour and character.

I love the fact this space is so exhuberant – full of touches that are not neccesary, and yes – they do add expense. Yet it’s those elements like the gently curved fridge wall with the hidden door into the larder space (insanely difficult to make by the way) and the rounded display shelves at the end of that run that are my favorite.

Other favorite bits – I love those bespoke handles on the feature doors, designed by us; we used a small engineering company for the stainless work. There is a real pleasure in finding other people who want to deliver the same attention to detail in another material. IP Engineering are a tiny outfit but they love a challenge! The other handles weren’t exactly ‘off the peg’ either, they came from one of my favorite metalworkers called Ged Kennett who makes wonderful stuff in all sorts of metals.

Earlier this year we redesigned the utility area in the room behind to match the materials in the kitchen and maximise storage. In doing this I spent a lot of time in the house again and realised just how much I like this kitchen. It’s five years old now but still looks as fresh as the day we walked out after fitting. That’s partly because my kitchens are not fashionable: I see each one and the clients that will use them as a unique design challenge which demand a completely new solution.

I’ll leave you with my favorite view as you walk into the kitchen…

The kitchen was designed by me but made at Halstock Cabinet Makers, whom I worked very closely with for many years. At the time my own workshops were too small to do this kind of work, something we resolved in 2007 by moving to our new workshops at Briantspuddle, Dorset. We now design and make all our kitchens and interior projects ‘in-house’.

Case Study – Tudor Arcade Public Seating

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

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

Tudor Arcade Bench 006 Low

Simon Thomas Pirie were asked to replace the existing public seating in Tudor Arcade, a medium sized retail development in Dorchester, which was going through a substantial renovation and refresh. The new public seating was to act as a focal point, a meeting place and conversation piece on top of its existing seating and resting functions.

We were approached by Hutchison Kivotos Architects of London to develop design concepts. They came to us as they wanted to source high quality craftsmanship within Dorset. ‘Craft’ was a key element in the refurbishment of the arcade; this was also reflected in new skylight roof structures for which we also helped source sustainable local materials for.

Tudor Arc 009

The final form of the bench is a snaking question mark, providing over 11 metres of seating in one run. The scorched oak seat slats follow the gently curved shape. Contrasting natural oak chair and bench forms rise to form seating opportunities on all faces; single throne like chairs, love seats (side by side but on opposite faces), 3-seater benches as well as areas of open bench.

This helps to create all sorts of sitting opportunities and social interactions (or not in the case the single seats at each end). The inside face of the curve offers some natural protection from the stream of shoppers passing and trolleys heading into the Waitrose store just metres away.

I wanted to create a strong contrast between black scorched bench area and the seat / bench elements. I had this vision of seeing the first end-on bench that faces up the arcade appearing to float like some kind of throne. The making processes of steam bending and scorching can be seen on the following video:

The bench is made from locally grown oak from the Illchester Estate. The estate woodland is managed by Andrew Poore, who was one of the first to establish FSC certification in UK forest management. Sourcing local materials whenever possible goes back to my Hooke Park College training in 1993/4 (part of John Makepeace’s Parnham Trust). As it happens Andy Poore was the Forestry consultant on that course.

Tudor Arc 021The other aspect of the Tudor Arcade bench project which gives me great pleasure is the combination of using very high-tech CNC manufacturing, combined with the rather low-tech discipline of steam bending. Both were key in the making process along with a great deal of hand craftsmanship. The contrasting finishes of the natural oak chair elements next to the black scorched and scrubbed oak of the curving bench slats is another very distinctive feature of the piece. This is clearly not an ‘off the shelf solution’ and that is something almost everyone recognised as we were installing it and talking to the public.

Since fitting the bench in early May 2012 we have heard and witnessed all sorts of lovely feedback. The seat is very well used by people of all ages, at lunchtimes and on sunny days it is often completely full. One of the nicest stories we have heard is of a large extended family pretending to be on a bus with dad walking along the bench issuing tickets to the children. In 15 years of making furniture professionally it’s the story which has given me most pleasure.

There is also another video which focuses on the fitting and completion of the bench, click here to view.

Tudor Arc 005

All still images by Double Exposure. Video work by Watreshed PR.

Branding & Website by We Are Creative.

Walnut and Elm Kitchen Surrey

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

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

My blog started in 2009, so there are major projects we completed before then which have not been featured as ‘Case Studies’ that we are very proud of, this is one of them.

Searchfield K1

Andrew, the client came across us through a feature in ’25 Beautiful Kitchens’ magazine – of our very first kitchen project. He was a serial entreprenuer who had become increasing interested in building luxury homes. So whilst this was my second bespoke kitchen it was also his second such exclusive development – a huge 7000 sq ft house in Farnham, Surrey. He’d already commissioned a Smallbone Kitchen in his first home so was used to the ‘language’ of bespoke kitchens but found the restrictions of fitting into the ranges frustrating.

Searchfield PlanWe got involved when the building was at the foundation stage, it was clearly going to be something dramatic. That’s also what he wanted for his kitchen – a big impact, with an eye on the resale value. So the brief was pretty expansive, design the most stunning kitchen possible. The space was huge which allowed me to be playful with the layout: The shape of the island, the cabinets of the oven wall and even the steps down into the kitchen from the hallway are all based on a series on circles radiating from a centre point, which is a low level drum cabinet with chopping surface. It’s not often I have the scope to be such a geometric purist.

The kitchen is adjacent to a large ‘family room’ through a set of feature glazed doors, the dining room is through another similar set. I talk about the client as a property developer but he is also a family man with a wife and two children, so that ‘wow’ factor needed to be balanced with creating a practical series of spaces with the kitchen being its functional core.

Searchfield De1After lots of playing with different timber combinations we produced some sample cabinet fronts – something we always do on a project like this. It was decided that black walnut and elm would be the main woods, but even within this we were looking for timbers and veneers with very specific grain and colour qualities. This involves actually going and selecting in the timber yards. It’s something we just do to get the detail spot on. As well as the main timbers we were also on the look out for a burr American black walnut, but something that had a large open swirling character rather than a busy intense burr, these open burrs are known as ‘clusters’. The granite and floor stone were of course given the same level of consideration.

The handles are also worth mentioning. Commissioned from a blacksmith called Ged Kennett in Somerset they are completely unique. Designed by Ged, myself and Andrew in hammered bronze to compliment the colour and texture palette of the kitchen. Ged ended up doing most of the door handles in the house, and there were lots of them! I do really enjoy working with other craftspeople and designers who are aiming at the same level of excellence as we do and a huge buzz to find people on the same wave length. (more…)

Case Study – Art Deco Penthouse, Sandbanks

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

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

Conning Tower View

So is this the best view in Dorset? Well it’s probably up there. A fantastic panorama across Poole harbour, Sandbanks and Brownsea Island across to the Purbeck Hills. The sky is dramatic and a single kite surfer adds a bit of primary colour. This is what my clients look out on every day, but when they turnaround and see what’s on the inside of their home the view’s not bad either!

Sandbanks has become a playground for the rich and famous, becoming its own glamourous self-perpetuating myth. To be blunt it’s a slightly surreal place lots of the time, but you can’t get away from the natural beauty and drama that underpins it all.

Over the decades there have been many great buildings put up (although there are a lot more bad ones in truth) and there are some really stunning Art Deco buildings among them. The one that the clients live in is a local landmark by modernist architects A J Seal and Partners in the mid 30’s. This residential block was renovated and modernised in the 1990’s, it was done fairly sensitively and the original building retains its character and many of its original features. I actually went to look around the penthouse show flat at the time, out of intrigue more than anything, but I did want to have a look at that fantastic stairwell. Little did I know that 15 years later I would be redesigning most of the interior in that very show flat.

I had just finished a big kitchen project down the road and the architects that worked on that job recommended us. We got on well and were soon asked to come up with proposals for a completely new kitchen and lots of free standing furniture for the living area. An exciting brief and lots of work.

We started with the kitchen. Despite being a luxury penthouse in a pretty high-brow location the quality of what was fitted in the renovation was truly miserable, both in terms of design and quality. It does upset me that just because it’s Sandbanks developers don’t feel the need to try, getting away with specifying the minimum seems like a way of life down here. I’ve seen some horrid things, in some of the most prestigious houses, this was no exception.

There were some structural changes being made, making the place more open and letting more light in. The kitchen space was a tight one and a difficult shape, wrapping round a curved stairwell wall, to be honest there was not much we could do with the general layout of where things went. But we could make it look and work a thousand times better, have sensitivity to the architecture and make the most of the environment it sits in. That’s kind of a no-brainer.

Kitchen a

The clients wanted a light palette of timbers and textures that fitted with the deco aesthetic. That timber palette runs through all the furniture in the connected living, dining and kitchen space on the top floor. We used ripple ash, burr oak, native elm and a very rare burr sycamore in varying combinations to great effect. The colours used in the space were neutrals, blues and greens that reflected the maritime location rather than clashing with it.

The kitchen granite worksurfaces are a subtle green stone called ‘Wild West Green’ . The breakfast bar is in that material and wraps around the now open stairwell, connecting the kitchen to the rest of the space. Before you would have felt very cut off from any social activity and the views.

Davies Kicthen 2Davies Kitchen De1

It had to be very compact, but we still fitted in every possible modern appliance, including washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, double sink, waste disposal, filtered water tap, induction hob, extractor, fridge freezer and amazingly 4 Miele ovens (conventional / steam / microwave-combi and a plate warming drawer). We had to maximise storage and make the most of every space. For example, the space next to the oven unit has bi-fold doors which hide a utility area. In this tiny space are the boiler, washing machine and dryer, as well as all those awkward things like ironing boards and the associated paraphernalia of laundry.

We used the burr oak as the dark material on feature units with curves, but also on the oven cabinet pan drawers which were 120cm wide. Instead of using a mono-tonal oak to go with the burr oak we used elm instead. It is similar in tone to oak, but has a much more interesting grain and colour – with silvers, reds, browns and a distinctive green stripe running through it. Elm is getting harder to find and it is certainly not something you you find in a high street kitchen showroom. Even the more high-brow Smallbone or Mark Wilkinson’s would stay clear of it as it is hard to use, hard to source and it is inconsistant from one tree to the next. For this reason we tend to buy whole logs for one job. The more straightforward doors and drawers were made with ripple ash, another wonderful native timber we don’t seem to make the most of in this country.

Davies Lit DisplayDavies Kitchen 4Davies Ash Cupboards

The area by the sink has a corner glazed window which lets lots of natural light into the space. The kitchen is light, airy and simple, especially when you consider how much we crammed into it.

Davies Handle DeBut it is also worth mentioning the details like the specially designed deco influenced stainless steel and timber handles which compliment the timber on each piece of furniture, or the detail grills on doors and plinths. Everything has been thought about in great detail, which makes every detail great.