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Posts Tagged ‘walnut and cherry 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

Around the Workshop – February

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Lang Sq1Lang Sq2Lang Sq3Fit 4Fit 5Fit 6Fit 7Fit 8Fit 9Fit 10In truth it’s been one of those months where we have not really been around the workshop much at all, so perhaps the title is a bit misleading. Mike and I have been out on site near Salisbury for the past few weeks fitting the walnut and cherry kitchen.

We had planned the schedule to be fitting this just before John went on paternity leave, but both the kitchen and John and Emily’s first baby decided to come along late and of course at the same time! So we had to get super-sub Duncan in to help break the back of the fit in the first week. It’s been a while since I’ve been so involved in a fit – but I really enjoyed it – a good break from the design work and it means I’m the one dealing the consequences of those decisions I made months back on CAD.

We have really sharpened up our project and site management procedures since the last kitchen we built and the differences and time savings have been very noticeable. It also all links back to the original design work: Right from the start this project was about building to time, and not getting drawn into design detail that was unneccesary. In effect this was about designing the essence of a Simon Thomas Pirie kitchen, elements we knew worked well and knew how to build.

End result of that is we ran about 7 hours over on build time after 650 hours, I can live with that. We also ran almost to schedule on the fitting (if you don’t count the builder running 8 weeks late and my office / showroom being a storage space for that long!) We ended up probably taking a day longer on the fit, all that extra time can be put down to the floor. It was very uneven between the old part of the house and the new extension, with a big lump running through all our units. There was a 15mm rise along the length of the sink run wall for example.

It’s a real shame, the quality of the build in every other respect was good, it was just that floor – both in terms of the levels from old to new and the tiling afterwards. It is really that difficult to get a floor flat? Result for us was more scribbing than usual which added the time. Even after all that though, it was still a very efficient fit with no real drama not until the very end anyway, a stubborn dishwasher, again down to the floor.

I took a sequence of images from the same spot as we built the kitchen, starting at the empty room stage to completely fitted, so you get a clients eye view of the build as it takes shape.

The clients, Martin & Jillian are overjoyed with their new kitchen (with the exception of the floor.) I’ve known them for a long time, I think they bought their first piece of furniture from me back in 2001, since then we have become good friends. It was over breakfast after a heavy night before we started talking about kitchens. Their existing space was much too small for the size of house, it had no connection to the rest of the living space. Basically for a couple that loved to cook, loved wine, enjoyed company and had a growing family, the house, and particularly the kitchen was completely useless. When Martin asked me to if it was possible to just change the doors and worktops on the existing kitchen I pointed all this out. 3 years later and here we are, finally…

So they have effectively more than trippled the size of the space by building on another 6 metres of extension. Jillian, who has recently had their third child, now has one space where she will be able to do everything; watch over the kids in the garden, be comfortable on the soft seating with a baby, sit round the big dining table (which we are currently making), entertain guests as they cook and drink and hopefully find some moments to relax. It’s a true heart of the home space.

One thing I didn’t mention is Martin’s love, more than that, obsession with great wine. You will have noticed the red big wine fridge in the middle of the larder units and the wine racks above. For most that would be plenty of wine storage. However, part of the thinking of this extension was that as the garden slopes away you effectively get a cellar space below the kitchen. Huge foundations were dug and Martin now has a room underneath dedicated to wine. At the moment it’s a big black hole with no stairs, but it won’t stay that way for long I know.

I’m really pleased with the way it has all worked out. The risks are higher when the clients are also good friends, it’s rarely that there are no tensions on a big project like this. As the furniture / kitchen fitters we are pretty well last in. Often the clients are already exasperated and running out of patience due to over-runs from the builder and related trades. I’m constantly amazed that building seems to operate outside all client and consumer based thinking. In any other business if you treated clients in this way there would be outrage. It is the norm to be aloof, not give written schedules for everyone to work to, bugger off by 3.30, have days where there is no-one on site at all without telling the client, and generally not communicate at a most basic level.

It’s a relic of the stone age and will have to change. I’m sure there are building companies out there who have ‘got’ this. I’ve just not come across them yet. In time as we do more kitchens we may start to project manage things ourselves to get round this. Put my money where my mouth is!

I will get this professionally photographed in a month or two and then do a proper design ‘case study’ on the project. We still have to deliver the cherry and walnut dining table and fit cherry skirtings in the room so I will take a few more shoots then as well. The day we left the sparky was still fitting sockets and lighting so I couldn’t really get many shots. Looks fantastic though. Think the bit I like most is that larder wall, perhaps because I expected the least from it. It has turned out to be a beautiful cabinet in it’s own right.

I’ll leave you with this though. What the previous tiny and rather manic kitchen looked like….

Lang OLd 1Lang Old 2

Around the Workshop – The New Year

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Always takes a while to get going again after the excess of Christmas, although most of the excess is in miles rather than calories. The Pirie’s were in Scotland and Cumbria again and feel like I need a holiday after the drive.

Lang Larder 1

It was nice to come back into the current big kitchen project though, especially as we are right on schedule, the same can’t be said for our client’s builders though. Lang Larder 3Instead of a late January fit we are now talking a late February one. A real pain as John will probably be on paternity leave just as we start fitting. Oh well best laid plans and all that…

We had the larder wall cabinets to complete and the sink wall units, which includes the lit shelves behind. We finally put the larder run together last week to check out what it was going to look like, and we liked the look! It is big as John clearly shows by standing in the centre, and in case you are wondering the bit in the middle has the wine fridge in with bottle racks above.

Our new project management systems have worked well. On a 620 hour estimated make we were only 7 hours out. We struggled to bring the timings and costing under control on some of the earlier big interior projects, but that’s because there is a lot of detailed design work going on in our kitchens. Every piece in every kitchen has a twist which elevates it well beyond even some ‘famous’ and supposedly ‘bespoke’ big brands I could mention.

We have also been cracking on with the Tudor Arcade seating, converting our little oak mountain into components. Pretty cold out there to be cutting timber though!

TA Timber 1P1010005

What we are all really loving about this job is the mix of hi-tech and lo-tech solutions: steam bending and getting elements CNC cut – that’s a computer controlled router that works straight off the computer designed drawings (CAD) put simply. It does some up our pragmatic approach to furniture making, but nevertheless it is unusual to be able to utilise both techniques in one job.

Tudor CNC 5Tudor CNC A

We use a CNC machine just up the road from us at another furniture makers called Marcus White. Marcus embraced this technology early on and uses it very successfully in his own work. It has been mostly large manufacturers that use CNC, but it is increasingly finding its way into smaller more specialised designer-maker type workshops. It really comes into its own on curved complicated shapes that traditionally you would need to make shaping jigs for and run past the spindle moulder. In the case of the Tudor Arcade benches there are 16 shaped slats each with two faces. That would be 32 enormous jigs with very subtle radius changes – dull and time consuming to make.

Tudor Steam B1At the other extreme is the steam bending. This very ancient means of bending wood is not a simple option, it is an inexact art-form but also a science. It does have a great deal of integrity from a visual and structural perspective and it is also very physical!

We have to make big former jigs to bend the 2 inch oak to shape around. On the Tudor benches the back rests, outer and inner frames all need bending. There are 6 different bends across 24 components. The timber is steamed for 2 hours making it malleable . It is taken out and put quickly into the steel strap. A scaffold bar is needed to leaver the cam down over the jig. Wedges are hammered into place to lock the bent wood in place. Done. It then sits in the former mould for 24 hours before being released. Invariably it does ‘spring back’ a bit and part of the art is experimenting to know how much there will be for each bend. Perhaps counter-intuitively the tight curves hold their form best.

Tudor Stean B3

This image is of the last bend we did for the 3 seater bench element. We needed Alice and John on end levers on this one. Mike was strap man, I just do the photos!