I often mull over what makes a kitchen a happy place to be. When visiting friends’ or potential clients’ houses I mentally undress the space, same when I watch a movie or look through a magazine. I’m not judging taste as such, although I do enjoy guessing what kind of people they are, where they like to shop, and what they do in their kitchens. Do they play music for example? Our best speakers are in our own kitchen and my kids and I use it as a music room though Becca, my wife, prefers quieter Radio 4. A few weeks ago I visited one of my recently-completed kitchens and the client told me it was the best place in their decently-sized house to dance with his kids. How family culture works is a source of endless fascination and it affects what kind of space the kitchen becomes - active, noisy, chatty, studious and/or creative and food-focused.
All generations of the Grey family attempting to cook together….
I like to find physical evidence of enchantment or cheeriness: an old rocking chair, a secret dog spot, children’s artwork, a pan stand, an artisan pottery jug collection, industrial light. One of my favourite clients has a ‘wall of shame’, a collage of photos of his wicked past next to photocopies of his cheques to HM Revenue and Customs. Anything that makes you smile helps a kitchen feel more inviting. Found furniture from skips or an original antique like an Irish dresser gets me excited as they tell a strong story. Each one is different with quirky details from delicate carvings to applied comb mouldings, geometrically challenging fretwork, real or fake drawers, and craftsmanship on a variable scale from fine to farm grade. When as a student I ran a country furniture antique business with my bother Rupert, buying Irish dressers and cupboards one of our most exciting and unpredictable activities (not to mention the places we found them in). Detecting dates and styles was not enough as you valued them for their charm and their lack of woodworm or foot-rot. While restoring them was labour of love, they always sold quickly.
Courtesy of John Cornall Antiques
I’ve put this experience and many of the ideas above into my first academic paper, the Rise of Kitchen Furniture, keynote speech at the Current Issues in Global Furniture conference at Bucks New University. This is open to design professionals, journalists, academics and anyone from the kitchen and furniture industry, as well as interested members of the public – please contact me for further information or go to the university website. The conference is on 20 November at Missenden Abbey, part of Bucks New University. It is easy to reach from London by tube or rail.
For full details of all the speakers and the agenda, http://bucks.ac.uk/events-conferences/Conferences/current-issues-in-global-furniture/.