Mark Wilkinson rally call for British Kitchens

Furniture designer Mark Wilkinson has boldly claimed that the British kitchen manufacturing industry is “way ahead” of the Germans and Italians and that the industry should be prouder of its achievements.

His comments came in the wake of the accusations made by kitchen companies attending last month’s kbb LDN, who had been reported as saying that a “lack of investment and an over-cautious attitude were stifling British innovation.”

Well respected in the kitchen industry, Mark Wilkinson commented that  “How anyone can say that there is a paucity of design in English kitchens when we can boast world-class creative talents like Johnny Grey and Maureen Goodfield leaves me baffled. Who needs the opposition to rubbish us when we so readily do the job ourselves?”

He does have a point and as a neutral Kitchens Kitchens have mentioned many UK kitchen companies in the past, including Mark Wilkinson, Roundhouse, Second Nature, Burbidge, Plain English etc etc all of which are well respected brands with different product, creative and manufacturing set ups.

Wilkinson’s rallying call joins that of fellow top-end designer Craig Matson, of Roundhouse, who insisted the UK kitchen industry is “continuing to develop its own innovative, dynamic bespoke design”, and should be lobbying government to support manufacturing.

“Well done Craig Matson for highlighting the erroneous notion that the UK lags behind the continentals,” Wilkinson continued. “Do we see continental makers include leather-clad handles of my Milan style, or embrace the multitude of curves, or the Adam & Eve crystals behind the handles of my Metro range? And have I seen a German manufacturer adorning styles with Velum? I think not. 

“So come on UK, stop it! Be proud. When it comes to individuality in kitchen design – whether it’s the furniture or the room – we are way ahead. We are the market leaders. No more bashing ourselves over the head. Be loud, be proud!”

Meanwhile, Simon Collyns, marketing director of kitchen supplier Symphony, said he also disagreed with suggestions that Britain would always be behind in design, “Historically the UK may have followed what their European counterparts did in terms of kitchen design, but I think the times have changed and in the last few years UK manufacturers are now leading the way with new product development…” he insisted, “…yes, it can be expensive to stay ahead of the game, but in order for businesses to be a success, then continued investment in market research, creative design and new product development is essential.”

Whilst the article in kbbreview should be given some due consideration in that there are some great British brands, there are also some terrible ones, and whilst there are some great independent kitchen companies out there that buy in the doors and furniture from the likes of Second Nature or Burbidge, there are others that only buy the doors and fit them to poorly constructed furniture (to maximise profit) and whilst some UK brands can manufacture great furniture the perception is that (like German built cars) that “German made” is a better product, when knowledgeable people in the industry know that German made is indeed better than the likes of Bettaliving or Ikea or Homebase for example, but not all UK brands.

So, whilst German brands like Nobilia, or Schuller kitchens and Italian brand Bontempi are far far superior than the likes of Bettaliving or Ikea or Homebase for example, they are mid level brands which cost £17,000 to £25,000 against a market in which a Bettaliving kitchen is maybe around £8,000 and a Roundhouse kitchen for about £40,000+ and about £65,000 for a Mark Wilkinson kitchen so (being Devil`s Advocate) they aren’t as easily comparable as one might first think, hence the criticism levelled at KitchenCompare.com.

There is no denying that a Mark Wilkinson kitchen can ever be considered under par against the Germans or Italians anymore than the British built Jaguar F type is under par against the VW Golf or BMW 3 Series but the Jaguar F type doesn’t solely represent UK car building anymore than Mark Wilkinson solely represents British made kitchens and as such whilst we should be proud of some British kitchen brands, as we should about some British cars, there is a lot not to be proud of and perhaps, just like Alfa Romeo in recent years came out from under the cloud of burning clutch smoke tarnishing its reputation for build quality, perhaps with a few more mid range British kitchen brands (to rival Nobilia etc) we can be proud about the section of the UK kitchen market and not just the premium end?