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  • Johnny Grey

The creative art of recirculating

Sustainability is about so much more than repurposing, and repurposing is so much more than the practical act of avoiding waste (valuable though that is). It goes a lot deeper. It is about creative use of components, reconfiguring materials and making something truly special out of resources that might otherwise be squandered.

I have always loved antiques. As a schoolboy, I enjoyed discussions with my mother about buying something for the house. She loved searching out the right item of vintage furniture to make our house better and more homely. Also more stylish -the quest for furniture viewed by her (and me) as an opportunity to change the mood of a room by bringing in different historical associations. My mother, Diana, disliked Victoriana. To her it was fussy, over-detailed and lacking in grace. I remember her getting rid of an Edwardian chest of drawers for similar reasons. We then visited a local antique shop and bought a Welsh pine chest of drawers with an unusually simple design and deep drawers. Nothing very fancy but it had the right heritage, eighteenth century, and was made by a village craftsman in a modest cottage style. Its simple detailing would sit comfortably in our cottage on the Hampshire-Sussex border. Until the availability of mass-produced furniture around the mid ‘thirties, this was the way nearly everyone furnished their houses. Furnishing was not about buying built-in cabinets, but being surrounded by objects you feel comfortable with and that tell a story.

Kitchen furniture

For forty years I have been building kitchens based on these principles. I make kitchens with furniture which, although often custom-made to fit specific spaces, had to come in modular sections for transport and installation. In these pieces, skilled craftsmanship combines with an eclectic approach to design, with references to different historic periods. This is how I avoid making kitchens that go out of fashion, shortening their lifespan. Jonathan Chapman discusses the problem of style obsolescence in Emotionally Durable Design (2005): he points out the way that so many products, or kitchens, are discarded while still in good condition.

Despite their relative agelessness, my kitchens too occasionally become surplus to someone’s requirements. This tends to be when a house changes hands. We have recently started making these kitchens available to new clients as it turns out that they repurpose particularly well and their stories can start a new chapter.

Johnny Grey Kitchen

Our small range of repurposed kitchens have very distinguished histories. Their makers - Jonathan Morris, Nigel Brown, Adrian King, Piers Paterson, Gordie Hopkins, Steve Cordell, John Barnard amongst others – produced them to exceptionally high standards in small specialist UK workshops. The beautiful pieces are now ready for creative new placement. They provide an opportunity for clients to upgrade their homes in ways a bit like my mother’s all those years ago. It also makes sense not to let such valuable furniture go to waste in these days of inflation and cost of living pressures. And of course reusing things is an increasing well-chosen way to care for our environment.

The kitchen illustrated will be coming on the market in August - if you would like more information, please contact us.


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