celebrating 40 years of kitchen design
1976 - Elizabeth David’s ‘Dream Kitchen’
The 'dream kitchen' was an idea slightly ironically explored by David in The Kitchen Book (1977) by Terence Conran. Inspired, Johnny took on the challenge of turning this imaginary ‘dream kitchen’ into a reality in his aunt’s Chelsea house. She had already made her views on the trend for fitted kitchens known in strong language. The project Johnny and she worked on ended up being a cross between a traditional French farmhouse kitchen, a writer’s study and an artist’s studio.
1978 - House & Garden
Condé Nast’s magazine kick-started Johnny’s career with an in-depth feature, including his own illustrations, on his new but historically-informed ideas about kitchens. His friendship with H&G editor Sue Crewe lasted decades, although this first article was commission by Robert Harling, an editor particularly interested in the personal impact of high profile designers. Johnny’s vision rattled orthodox ideas about what makes kitchens work in a way that resonated with readers at the time.
1980 - Sunday Times
This was when Johnny happened to tap into a mass of pent- up demand for an alternative to fitted kitchens. Instead of a run of ’70s units, he proposed once again making a kitchen out of freestanding pieces of furniture. These included a court cupboard with seat extension for perching and a chopping block complete with waste chute. He was so overwhelmed by the public’s response to this article in the Sunday Times that new clients had to wait while he worked his way through 2000 enquiries.
1985 - Sting
Contacted by an old student of his from the Inchbald School of Design, Johnny went to a meeting at a Highgate house that had previously belonged to Yehudi Menuhin. A short way into the meeting with the woman client a man in helmet and leathers came into the empty kitchen space pushing a motorbike. As the floor had been removed – the house was a building site – he struggled to push his bike across it. ‘For God’s sake Sting’ said the client - Trudie Styler. For this project Johnny designed a special elm kitchen table and Sting specifically requested a large Belfast sink as he had been bathed in one like this as a baby.
1993 - Metropolitan Home
Time now for Johnny to make the journey across the Atlantic. Met Home was his PR vehicle, a cutting edge magazine on a mission to bring European-type design to the American public. When its editor invited Johnny to talk to magazine staff about innovative kitchen design the article opposite appeared as a result. His key idea was to build the working kitchen space around a high-functioning central island, a fundamental shift from the customary units placed around a wall.
1994 - 'Soft geometry’ in the New York Times
It was still a new idea to make kitchens with curves when the NYT met Johnny. In an interview held in a limo, the journalist tuned in teasingly to the spirit of his interviewee's various enthusiasms and obsessions. These included really fresh vegetables and circular cabinetry. The article introduced him to clients on the West Coast and down south.
1994 - The Art of Kitchen Design
When Cassells commissioned Johnny to produce a book on kitchen design, he remembers so bursting with ideas that his first publication almost wrote itself. The Art of Kitchen Design went into many editions, remained in print for 14 years and sold 100,000 copies. In the US public libraries took large numbers out of interest in its educational and historical content.
'96 - The Hardworking House and The Kitchen Workbook
The Hardworking House, Johnny’s next book, offered him a chance to display his non-kitchen work. The Kitchen Workbook from Dorling Kindersley is a primer on kitchen design published in 13 languages. In it Johnny presents his design principles in the most accessible, practical format.
2000 - House & Garden Top 100 designers of the TWENTIETH century
In this special millennial issue of the magazine, Johnny joined Terence Conran, John Pawson, Nina Campbell, Tony Lord, Sally Storey, Henrietta Green, Christopher Farr and other designers in a distinguished list of British talent. Sue Crewe, editor of House & Garden, hosted the group for lunch on a sunny day at Chelsea Harbour. Some met for the first time despite long-term admiration for each other’s work.
2004 - Kitchen Culture
Reinventing home space through a focus on the kitchen was the main theme of this book by Johnny. Design analysis, taste, emotional intelligence, use of light and many other aspects of the kitchen are explored. The cover opposite is the Russian edition.
2006/07 - Australia, New Zealand and Canada Design Tour
The theme of this speaking tour was sanctuary and sociability in the kitchen. Sponsored by Hettich, the Australian Housing Institute and Fisher & Paykel, Johnny addressed groups in Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Auckland and Perth. Workshops with live presentations were included. Coming through immigration early one morning, Johnny was greeted by an officer with the words ‘Welcome to New Zealand. I heard you on the radio’. She seemed to know more about the details of his visit, including a TV appearance that evening, than he did.
2007 - Showtime dexter kitchen
In Gramercy Park in Manhattan, 10 designers were invited to interpret any Showtime TV programme into a working interior design. Johnny chose the modern gothic series Dexter. He incorporated flesh-eating plants and body hugging furniture shapes with beautiful images of red blood cells painted on canvas by Australian artist Lucy Turner. The colour scheme made reference to the patterning of light and darkness in Miami, Dexter’s location.
2013 - Launch of Kitchen Design foundation Degree at Bucks New University
An exciting development: kitchen design becomes a degree subject at university level. Johnny co-wrote the course offered by Bucks New Uni with Prof Alison Shreeve. Run by David Gillett and senior lecturer Craig Matson of Roundhouse, it aims to turn kitchen design into a formally- recognized profession. As visiting professor Johnny enjoys setting projects, interacting with students on the residential weekends and choosing speakers to make the time spent together in the blended learning environment as rich as possible.
2015 - Kitchen Education Trust
Set up by Johnny along with David Gillett and chaired by Craig Matson, this trust provides financial assistance for the study of kitchen design at degree level. It includes grants for the training in and study of craft and manufacturing skills associated with the kitchen. The trust has the financial support of around 10 companies including Roundhouse, Miele, BSH, Blum, Callerton and KBSA, with many more interested in joining.
2015/16 - Smart Kitchen Summit
For the second year running Johnny spoke at this event in Seattle, in a talk entitled The Disrupting Kitchen in 2015, this year with Choreographing the Emotionally Smart Kitchen.
2016 - Designer Kitchen and Bathroom Awards
As an individual ‘whose contribution to the kitchen and bathroom sector goes way above and beyond the normal’, Johnny received the Services to the Industry Award in 2016. It is the second time the panel at the Designer Kitchen and Bathroom awards have picked him. The first was when he was given the Simon Taylor Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008; the most recent recipient of the Simon Taylor Award is Zaha Hadid.