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Posts Tagged ‘Interior Design Dorchester’

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

2013 Shows and Open Workshops

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Our show line up is taking shape for the first half of 2013:

21st Century Furniture 4
The Millinery Works, 85/87 Southgate Road, London. N1 3JS
10th February – 10th March. Opening times: Tues to Sat 11am to 6pm, Sunday 12pm to 5pm

The 4th Millinery Works – 21st Century Furniture makers show. It is rapidly becoming the major London showcase for bespoke designer-makers and a fabulous place to see the work of contemporary makers next to more historical names like Edward Barnsley, CFA Voysey, Betty Joel, Ambrose Heal, C R Ashbee and many others. It’s no accident that ’21st Century Furniture IV’ exhibition is subtitled the ‘Arts and Crafts Legacy’.

The 2013 show includes the work of around 30 of the countries best contemporary furniture makers. We will be exhibiting a number of new pieces. For further information click here for the Millinery Works Website.

Purbeck Art Weeks
Open Studio at the Courtyard Workshop, Briantspuddle, Dorset DT2 7HJ
25th May – 30th May & June 8th/9th (provisional dates – we are not open for the whole event). Open from 10am – 5pm

We are opening our own workshops as we do every year for Dorset Art Weeks / Purbeck Art Weeks. The gallery space will be full of our furniture plus guest artists and makers. It’s always a pleasure to open our own space and talk to visitors. We will be one of dozens of venues open around the Purbecks. There are also other performances and events as part of the festival. More info at Purbeck Art Weeks.

Dorset Art Fair
Kingston Maurward House, Dorchester, Dorset. DT2 8PY
31st May – 2nd June, opening times to be confirmed

A 3 day art and design extravaganza in the heart of Dorset with exhibitions, instillations, room sets, live demos and performances set in the beautiful grounds of the Kingston Maurward Estate, just off the A35 at Dorchester. Not entirely sure what of where we will be exhibiting but we’ll be there somewhere!

More in due course on the Dorset Visual Arts website.

Around the Workshop – Autumn Arrives

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

The workshop has had just one focus and one project since August – our English walnut and sycamore kitchen which is bound for the outskirts of Bath. In that time the seasons have changed from Summer to Autumn and I don’t feel I’ve even looked up.

The deadline was always tight and by the time we landed this fabulous commission we were already starting 3 weeks late, time we hoped to make up during the 8 weeks of making. The kitchen is part of a complex refurb of a stunning Georgian House, so timing and schedules really can’t be stretched without all sorts of knock on effects.

If you saw the last ‘Around the Workshop’ post you will have read the ups and downs (mostly downs) of using English walnut. Sure enough most of that has come to pass – I love this stuff but the firewood pile has consistantly been 3 times bigger than the component pile. So we have had to go out and find more, that’s never easy at the best of times. Luckily i’d been speaking to contacts in the business just in case we did run low, so I called in some favours and parted with more cash.

Although the outer doors and surfaces are all English walnut, the internal carcasses and frames are all made of solid sycamore, another favourite wood of mine. It’s great to be able to make all of a kitchen in solid native timbers, from a making point of view it’s the ultimate challenge, something we could all really enjoy getting stuck into. As always my design work incorporated lots of curves so that adds to the making challenge.

Curves also mean we have had to cut our own ‘saw-cut’ veneers so they match the solid straight components. Essentially we make a our curved doors by slicing up pieces of thick timber into veneers through the bandsaw, (around ten 2mm pieces out of 2 inch stock.) We then re-glue them over a curved mould. It makes an incredibly strong, light door but it is time-consuming, particularly if you have lots of different radius curves to make. It’s another thing we have become very good at – but it has been made a lot easier with the big dimension sander. The design detail on all the doors and drawers has a 3mm shadow gap around the framed centre panel. Its a bit of a play on a traditional frame and panel door, but as always we are playing with subtle twists – using traditional form and proportion in a very contemporary way. It’s not minimal, instead we are trying to bring the best out of this wonderful timber.

It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire for Connor our new apprentice, straight in at the deep end, but he’s done well. When the pressure is on like this we probably don’t have as much time as we like to talk him through stuff and put each process in context. As a result he has ended up doing things that make no sense at all until a couple of days later. I’m always saying to him and other people we have trained over the years, that a critical part of being a good maker is the ability to be thinking about a dozen processes ahead of what you are doing now. That comes as second nature to John, Mike and I (most of the time), but for someone out of a school environment used to being taught in a systematic way to pass an exam, that’s a giant leap. The great thing is you can see those eureka moments on Connor’s face when it all falls into place. Or perhaps it’s a sense of relief that the people he’s working for aren’t mad after all!

We have already part fitted some of this kitchen, partly because the lead time between granite templating and fitting was so long. So two weeks ago we got all the base cabinets in ready for templating. We are back on site next week to fit wall units and the island. That will coincide with the granite fitting. We still have one or two elements to finish after that, the main one being the free standing cabinet for recycling bins. Again, rather a nice piece in English walnut and sycamore for this unglamourous job. That will be complete by the end of the month and see a conclusion to this project.

We have loved making it, but I’m sure it will run over time. We have also been working long hours, including weekends, and are all knackered. So for us and the clients its conclusion can’t come soon enough. We have been filming the making and fitting of this project so there will be some video in a month or two, as well as the usual still images. Mind you I’ve not photographed the last kitchen we finished yet! It will be like buses – all at once.

I’ll blog some more images at the end of next week, by which time it should look much more like a finished kitchen.

Case Study – North Dorset Kitchen Project

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

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

Well I’ve been talking about this kitchen almost as long as I’ve been writing the blog, so it’s lovely to finally be able to show it off properly. A job like this isn’t complete in my mind until the photographers have been in and done their stuff. I say it’s a ‘kitchen’ but it spun on into major office and bar area projects as well, taking just about every hour over an 18 month period. It does look great though. Let me take you for a walk through…

This is what you see as you enter from the dining hall, that sounds a bit grand but it does feel like one of those medieval hall buildings, just on a more intimate scale. The clients also commissioned friends of mine Zoe Cull and Alex Evans of Stoneform to make a magnificent fire surround in that room as well. As a house it’s hard to place period wise, it feels very arts and crafts from the outside, bits of it are very old cob construction, while much of it was a 1980’s addition. The kitchen is an entirely new build element along with a new master bedroom and a pretty major reworking of the upstairs spaces. The work done ties it all together, but as a house it retains a quirky, idosyncratic and homely feel.

So back to the kitchen; the brief was simple; the heart of a family home – to socialise, chill, eat and be merry. It had to be beautiful but practical, modern but sensitive to the architecture, have great gadgets but only those that would get used, but most of all, have that ‘wow’ factor.

Needless to say, it’s that island, built round an Aga that is the first feature that hits you. Lots of storage in doors and drawers, as well as a breakfast bar to seat 4. It has three soft ‘D’-end cupboards which helps aid flow around the room (both visual and physical). The sharp eyed may notice something odd about the Aga – no flu pipe breaking out the back disapearing through the ceiling. It’s one of the new generation of Electric AIMS Agas and we were able to hide the flu under the floor to an outside extractor. It puts the Aga in a very different context to how you normally see them, hard up against a wall or in a chimney alcove.

The island contains slide-out spice and oil racks, a prep sink with pull-out hose tap and an induction hob, which for most of the time is covered by a sliding chopping board. The hob is a back up in case the two hot plates on the Aga are in use.

OK, we can’t ignore it any longer, the ’small’ pink fridge thing… Actually it is quite big and technically it’s ‘rose’ coloured. Made by Meneghini it oozes Italian retro style with those big chunky handles. Getting the cheese out becomes an event like opening a bank vault. As well as the fridge and a freezer there is also a wine cooler within. It’s what you might call a statement piece, but it’s also great fun and acts as a counter-balance to the darker tones and colours in the room.

The timbers used on most of the cabinetry was a specialy selected black walnut. I was looking for something that had character, but not so much it became distracting. It runs horizontally and is ’slip’ matched (without being turned), rather than the more traditional book-matched method. We also used a couple of dyed Itailian ‘Tabu’ veneers – a very simple black for the handle details and kick-boards, and a rather more vibrant pink ripple sycamore. But more of that later…

It is also worth mentioning the beautiful and unusual granite called ‘Meteorus’. I’m not sure any of these shots do it justice, close up it is black, grey and silver with layers of what look like bamboo shaped leaves cris-crossing. To top it off there are cherry red berry shaped flecks throughout. It’s like on of those Japanese screen paintings made by some Zen master with a sweep of a brush stroke. Stunning!

Before we move away from the granite I should also mention the double sink, made from that same material, a bespoke piece made by Stone Circle. That sink has two taps on it, one of which is a Quooker instant boiling water tap, making the kettle all but redundant.

If we keep walking round we get to the curved units at the back of the room. The two outer corner cabinets contain general storage, the dishwasher and the large crockery storage drawers. In the centre is one of the feature pieces of the kitchen, a tambour fronted sideboard. I love throwing in items that break up that fitted look, pieces that visually and in this case, actually, stand alone. The tambour uses the flat black veneer but reveals that bright pink ripple sycamore within when the doors are slid open. It’s like a beautiful tailored jacket lining.

In between two pairs of double doors that lead out to a patio with views of the North Dorset countryside, is another ‘piece’ of furniture – this one a modern twist on the kitchen dresser. It is actually my favourite element, perhaps because its proportions work so well, or maybe its the isolated stand-alone simplicity that appeals to me. As for function, well apart from displaying stuff on the shelves its role is to house all the breakfast items, including the all important Nespresso coffee machine. The narrow drawer is designed to store those enticing little coloured capsules in perfect order. Arranging them became a mild obsession during the photoshoot. I thought I was over it until I saw the images again! The dresser is located closest to the breakfast bar on the island. I’ve rarely gone into the house without seeing one of the family sitting there, breakfast time or not.

So we are heading back out of the room – but what’s that huge shinny black thing! Well, it’s the larder actually, full height and the best part of 4 metres long. The two outer sections are kind of walk in, at least they feel that way once the doors are open. The centre one contains the microwave and bread maker with the pan drawers below. In the outer two there is space for a generous wine rack, vegetable drawers, a granite work-surface and more storage than a UN warehouse. You get the picture. The clients wanted somewhere they could hide ALL the kitchen clutter.

The gloss black is a lacquered surface, which although dark is highly reflective. We used the same pink ripple sycamore within the handle scollops as a bit of a giveaway to what was inside. As you open the doors the lights come on to reveal the vibrant pink glow inside. A real contrast to the minimal exterior.

Turning round and looking at what we have achieved here does give me a real buzz. You get that initial ‘wow’, but it’s also all those great little details, many of which only we and the clients know about that make this kitchen so unique. It’s a room full of great furniture that happens to also be a practical kitchen, but perhaps most importantly an everyday living space.

I have to thank Kim and Peter for being brave enough to commission something so different. Of course any room like this is a collaboration of ideas between designer and client, but it takes a mutual trust for it to work out as well as this project.

We still have the office and bar area to look at which are located in a converted barn just next to the house. These projects are featured in their own case study which can be found by clicking here.

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