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Posts Tagged ‘Bournemouth Bespoke Kitchen’

A Cook and Wine Lover’s Kitchen

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

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.

To see more images of this stunning kitchen and read the full story click here to visit the case study

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

Case Study – The English Walnut Kitchen, Bath

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

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

Our latest kitchen is a bit different from our previous projects. This is entirely made out of solid native wood; English walnut and sycamore. In many ways it is also the most subtle kitchen we have ever made, being in a beautiful Georgian rectory on the edge of Bath, it needed to sit comfortably with the period architectural detail and yet be modern and practical.

We have made film that follows this project all the way from cutting the first boards of walnut, through the months of cabinet work, to the fitting and final completion in December 2012… It was recently described as “the best kitchen video ever made” by KBB kitchen journalist and blogger Grahame Morrison. See what you think!

The project came about through having already made a number of pieces of furniture for the clients, including a stunning pair of English walnut pivot drawer console tables. It’s through this I realised they had a love of native walnut, not only commissioning these but having a number of very high quality antique pieces in the same material. It was some months later when they contacted me to see if we might be interested in designing a new kitchen.

Unusually they had a very clear idea of what they wanted with lots resolved, even down to some basic CAD floorplans and an appliance list. Despite being a big Georgian house with high ceilings the kitchen space is relatively small, so the design needed to be compact. It was the island that still needed the most resolution but we quickly came to a conclusion on a shape that would fulfill all the storage, seating, work surface and practical needs, whilst being an impressive focal point. Needless to say we couldn’t resist adding soft curves to make the space flow and circulation around the island easier.

The key question was still material. They wanted something warm and rich, but not too dark. The list was narrowed down to oak, elm of English walnut, much lighter and more characterful than the American Black walnut which is widely available. All these woods are from the UK, I was (I always am) keen to use native timber, as were the clients. Now it just happens that we had a good stack of native walnut that we had sourced and cut ourselves in 2009, it was ready to use and the colour was perfect – light compared to many trees. This is one of the challenges using the walnut, every tree is full of individual character, colour and texture. Finding two that match can be hell. The other issue is that they have a very high wastage factor – you do end up throwing alot of it away due to faults, knots, shakes, and a light and sometimes ugly sapwood. On top of that the woodworm love it! So not an easy material, and we only just had enough by the look of it.

We also had to find another timber for the internal solid timber panels and interior elements. In the end we fixed on sycamore, partly because it added visual lightness but also it was a beautiful partner to the walnut. The main island worktop was also made out of sycamore. I like the fact that there is a strong tradition of using sycamore for tops – you often see it in the kitchens of large estate houses where it is scrubbed daily, creating a lovely patina.

But if this kitchen is about one thing – it is celebrating what I believe is the most beautiful timber on Earth, English walnut. Ironically, because it is so full of character it actually makes it very difficult to use: For example laying up 3 pieces to form the centre of a door panel – sometimes one piece just won’t work because of grain or colour, even though it’s stunning it gets rejected (hopefully to find it’s place in another panel somewhere). Of course the same issue arises between sets doors on a run and individual cabinets that are adjacent to one-another, it all has to appear visually harmonious which is much more difficult to achieve than you might think.

At first glance the kitchen furniture looks quite traditional, but look a little closer and you will realise there are subtle things going on. We have created solid frame doors with a solid centre panel, but the panels sit flush with the frame, highlighted by a 3mm recess all round the centre panel that creates a crisp, graphic shadow line. Also instead of the stiles (the vertical rails running up each side of the door) going the full length as is normal, it’s the top and bottom horizontal rails that are dominant. This means we can use one piece of timber across 3 or 4 doors with the grain running through. These long runs create ‘landscape pictures’ in wood. These details also carry across the curved doors which we made by cutting up solid timber into a pack of consecutive veneers then laminating them back together over a curved mould. Lots of work to make sure there is no visual difference in appearance. The other reason for using those horizontal rails across door sets was to help balance the very tall squat nature of the room – strong horizontals making the kitchen seem lower and wider. It works!

The clients selected a granite called Antique Labrador from Bristol Marble, they went with a sample of the actual timbers so they could get a good idea of what it would look like. Like the timber this is a subtle choice. It has strong blue/grey tone which does not make an obvious partner to the warm orange/green/browns of the walnut, but it does work. We also picked out the blue by using a similar blue leather on drawer linings throughout. As far as other colours go, the other major feature of the space is the impressive Black Everhot range cooker. This is the largest 150cm version and looks much more contemporary than the traditional Aga. The top of the cooker has lots of visible stainless steel which links it visually to other appliances and items around the room. The walls are a warm off white and then off course there is the sycamore top on the island. The dominant colour and theme of the room is that rythmic walnut though.

From a design perspective it’s a really cohesive space, but as always there are favorite bits that stand out to me. The real triumph is the addition of a sideboard type piece into the island. Sitting higher than and protruding from the rest of the island helps give this element a separate identity – a piece of furniture within a piece of furniture. Because it has a granite top it also acts as a serving area for hot plates and dishes before they get taken to the adjacent dining area. The drawer at the top is a single wide cutlery drawer which shimmers with shinny silver things when opened.

What else, well I love the fact there are no handles to distract from the purity of the timber, that big slab of very slightly rippled sycamore on the island top (too much ripple would have been overpowering), the bookshelves over the microwave, the bespoke walnut trays in the tray alcove and even the recycling bin cabinet! That was the last piece in, it’s free standing and looks just like a tall boy cabinet, but it’s life is as a glamorous bin – well 4 bins to be precise, such are the complexities of modern life!

I love this kitchen, because at first sight you might just walk through, but like the best music, it has depth and grows on you. Using solid hardwood to make anything other than a very traditional looking kitchen is a challenge, it’s no accident they look that way. What you see in a Shaker style kitchen for example is very efficient use of the material; working with its strengths and aesthetics. In many ways our cabinetry is also bound by those tried and trusted rules but, we subtly changed them, using the limitations of designing in solid wood as a positive start point to develop from.

Is a solid wood kitchen better than a veneered one? I think this is a question I will come back to and explore in more detail. As a designer I can certainly be more flamboyant using veneers – playing with grain direction, using woods and combinations of woods in a more decorative way, forming curves and shapes more easily. But there is something honest about real wood that I feel as a designer, I know the makers also feel that on the bench. It has soul, it feels like a priviladge to use, especially English walnut.

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