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Posts Tagged ‘Bespoke Drinks Cabinet’

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

A Very Special Whisky Drinker’s Cabinet

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

I really enjoy designing drinks cabinets (from a furniture perspective of course!) There is something about them that just leads to elegant forms. Over the years we have done dramatic bars for private residences, drinks cabinets as feature elements within kitchens, corner cabinets, and free-standing pieces.

Around 5 years ago we did a spectacular free-standing cabinet for an existing client in burr sycamore and ripple ash, it’s always been a favourite piece of mine but I always wondered what it might look like in a dark timber – its alter ego piece in a sense. So in early 2015 when I received an enquiry from the interior designer Anna Bilton for just such a piece I was delighted. We decided to make two, one for Anna’s client and another as a speculative piece in a slightly different combination of timbers; the client piece being in black (American) and burr walnut and ours in English and burr walnut.

The cabinet is suspended within an offset framework with gently curved rails and sweeping legs. The doors are slightly curved in profile and covered in that stunning burr walnut, book matched either side of the scalloped handle detail. The doors have a bespoke pivot hinge made by specialist engineers in bronze to our design – nothing off the shelf would do.

Inside, the warm LED spotlights come on as the doors are opened revealing the rich interior hues. Bottles and glasses are displayed on adjustable glass shelves and there is a bronzed mirror in the back to create the illusion of depth but also to reflect that warm light around the cabinet space.

Perhaps it is a favourite piece because it comes closest to the cabinet I’d want to have for my own little weakness – I do enjoy fine single malt whisky. I used the opportunity to photograph it with own collection of Cask Strength Edition bottles from Chivas Brothers – highly recommended by the way. As well as being very attractive bottles these very special whiskies also echo the bespoke craft, time and dedication we put into our furniture. One day I’ll get to make my own drinks cabinet, and when I do it will look very much like this one.

It’s also a bit of a dedication to my father who passed away in early 2015. Captain George Pirie was a gentle Scotsman from the North East, where the best whisky comes from by the way! He taught me to appreciate a good dram, and it’s his hip flask – a gift on his retirement from his ship’s crew, that gleams on the bottom shelf. Slàinte!

There is an article on this blog dedicated to the furniture we have made for drink, but as I say in that “choose you drinking furniture wisely.”

The original cabinet in ripple ash and very a unusual burr sycamore next to the recent native walnut and burr walnut version

The walnut drinks cabinet is currently on display at our workshop showroom and is for sale at £6720.

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!

Simon’s Top 5 Favourite Projects

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Through March key members of the STP team will be selecting their top 5 favourite pieces of furniture from the archives. They could be old, they could be new! It may be that they loved the design, or some technical aspect of making it. It may be the timber or the combination of materials. There will be an image plus little explanation of why they selected it. These are Simon’s.

Simon Pirie, M.Sc is the designer but is also an accomplished furniture maker. He originally trained as a sculptor but then found his real niche when he enrolled at Hooke Park College, part of John Makepeace’s Parnham Trust. It was at this experimental college in the woods where he developed his making and design skills, but also a deep understanding of forestry and environmental issues. He is a visiting design lecturer at further and higher education levels and has sat on the boards of Walford Mill Crafts and Dorset Visual Arts / Dorset Art Weeks, of which he is currently chairman. His own workshops were established in 1998 in mid Dorset.

I’ve found it really difficult to select just 5 pieces. Over the past 15 years we’ve made so much, and we’ve experienced such a variety of projects that on any given day I remember something else. Anyway these are my top 5 favourites (this week!)

5. It’s really tempting to put a ‘Floating Bench’ up as the first of my top 5 favourite pieces. It would make sense to combine it with the Liberty Outdoor Living Launch this week where it is a key product, but instead I’m going back to the mother ship!

So no.5 is is the Tudor Arcade public seating project, which we completed in early 2012 in Dorchester. The ‘Floating Bench’ came out of this project as a pure stand alone piece; ‘pure’ because I’d intended to have all the arms on this public commission floating as well, but it was just too vulnerable to the rigours of outdoor space.

Despite that compromise – it’s ambition, scale and popularity make it something I’m very proud of. It combined very high tech CNC manufacturing with much more traditional methods like steam bending and scorching. Mike made most of this and did a beautiful job of it.

I walk past it often, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing people sitting on it, kids pretending it’s a train, bikes locked to it and dogs tied round it. It certainly is a very popular piece of public art and it has been lovely to do something so public, so locally.

There are a couple of videos of how it was made, showing the steam bending and scorching in the case study. Click here to see more.

4. Is the ‘Torii’ side tables. A very personal choice these… This is the last pair in scorched oak in a limited edition of 12 pairs. We have done them in lots of timber combinations over the years.

If you can see a Japanese influence you’re not wrong. These came out of a very special trip to Japan with my brother in 1995, although the first set of these was not made until 2000.

We made 12 pairs over 12 years, in sycamore, walnut, cherry, elm, lacewood and lastly scorched oak. There is something about the simplicity of the design which is very satisfying. You can find out more about my trip to Japan and it’s influence on me and my late brother on the blog by clicking here.

3. Last week John puled out an element from a kitchen he really liked in his top 5 favorite projects, so I think I’m entitled to do the same…

For me then it’s this gently curved and lit wall in a kitchen we did back in 2006 in Poole. I love the whole project but think this was my favorite little bit. The curve is very subtle and includes the ovens, fridge and a doorway through into an enormous larder space behind (which is always full to overflowing!) Materials are ripple maple and mazur birch, although the kitchen also contains elm and burr elm in places.

For the full story and lots more images of this project have a look at the case study:

2. At no.2 it’s this ripple ash, burr sycamore and walnut drinks cabinet.

Lovely piece and lovely timber combinations. Perhaps it also fits my own fantasy of a piece of furniture I’d want in my own home to fill with nice single malt whiskies!

Another common theme that runs through most of these choices is that they are usually a commission from a client that I get on really well with. This one is no exception. Dennis and Eileen are from North Yorkshire, but they came across me at a show in Poole we did with fellow Purbeck furniture makers Cameron and Talbot. They have commissioned various pieces, and for whatever reason they always seem to bring the best out of me as a designer: Perhaps it is just the complete trust they place in me to come up with something and their enthusiasm with the end results.

I think this piece had been in the back of my mind for some time, it just takes the right client to unlock that potential. I love the way the cabinet section is suspended in the framework. There are lots of subtle curves and angles so it’s a much more complicated piece then it first appears.

1. So after 20 years of designing and making furniture, 15 years of running my own business what’s my favourite piece? Well this was designed exactly 20 years ago, while I was at Hooke Park College and was the first chair I ever designed – the ‘Oryx’:

Perhaps I’ve never bettered it, there is a kind of naivety in doing something for the first time where you are not held back by the most efficient way of machining something or using timber most cost-effectively. As a result it’s a pig to make, taking twice as long as an ‘Impala’ chair, nevertheless we do still make slightly revised version, ‘Oryx2’ today. I’m still very found of it, it is beautifully, almost classically proportioned and supremely comfortable. When I sit in the armchair it’s like therapy, the arm detail lets my hands wrap around it, the curved slats support the back and that lovely top rail rail does the same with the shoulders. I’m not alone in thinking this, I have friends who make a bee-line for it as soon as they are through the door. I do have a really early version here at home and it’s still looking great. So while some of my other choices in the top 5 may be fluid, this chair would always be at no.1.

That first set in 1993 was designed for Bournemouth University, for their main lecture theatre furniture. It’s been used as the platform table for many debates over many years. These where all in sycamore, the idea being that they stood out and had a real presence in such a large auditorium. I took this shot soon after it was commissioned, it’s a rather poor shot taken before the room was renovated and the colour scheme matched the furniture, hence the black and white image. It’s in sharp contrast to the image above, which again is the first and still the best!

They have been made in many materials over the years, but I think they still look best in oak. The classic combination is oak and walnut, best seen in this fantastic 14 seat dining set for the Lulworth Estate completed in 2009. There are 2 armchairs, with the rest being the ‘Grand’ 8 slat version of the dining chair. We also do a smaller 6 slat version of the dining chair just in case you don’t have a castle! You can see one in the background of the main image above.

Click to see Mike’s top 5

Click to see John’s top 5