As renowned designer Johnny Grey says on his website “Kitchens work hard. They are places where cooking meets sociability and space can be tight. Johnny’s design philosophy is based on forty years balancing practical demands and aesthetic choices, bringing architecture, ergonomics and happy home life together.”
And in a piece in the kkb news site kbbreview Johnny said “Kitchen design isn’t all about the island…It’s not all about the kitchen at all. If I come into an open-plan kitchen that I’ve designed and all I can see is the island then I’ve done something extremely wrong. My skill is to introduce feel and flow so that no one element screams out at me.”
Airing his frustration that rectangular kitchen islands are boring it is hard not to agree with Johnny but for Kitchens-Kitchens, the boring persona isn’t just limited to a rectangular island as many features in modern kitchen designs are all to familiar and perhaps this is endemic of a wider problem in design in general, the copycat?
When Architect/Designer led designs become mainstream
As editor of this site and a media veteran in the home interiors industry having worked with dozens of brands and independents alike Johnny is right in what he says but the problem is that for the high end architect led projects with £100k price tags, you have a team of people all looking to expertly craft a bespoke and tailored solution but still nevertheless use tried and trusted methods and materials, the only difference is that these are diluted by the mainstream messages from the kitchen brands like PWS, Wren, Kutchenhaus etc as £100k+ kitchens make up such a small percentage of the market that we as consumers see 100 times more kitchens from under £20,000 than we do over this limit.
You can be more individual and experimental with a bigger budget but the average homeowner spending £15,000 to £30,000 on a kitchen “safe” is the operative word and for me, I am much more impressed seeing an independent kitchen designer being creative and ingenious on that budget than I am when the budget is over £100,000.
Sadly, being safe, also leads to being ‘boring’ in many an instance and what you end up with is a state of play were german kitchens are now mimicked across the board and the furniture manufacturers play it safe and mass produce products they know will sell as german kitchens are best sellers not because they are leading the light in fashion but they are thought of as robust, whether they are or not. And this has led to ‘copycats’ in that even the likes of flatpack cheap and nasty retailers are marketing ‘german’ although there is nothing remotely german about them.
Kitchens, Fashion, Cars, Phones, all the same thing
Unless you are the likes of Bill Gates, Elon Musk or a Saudi Prince chances are that your budget is limited to buying a stock item from a manufacturer. Before you balk at the idea of having something someone else has think for a moment about private jets, Bugatti Chirons and super yachts. None of these items are truly bespoke one off creations. Albeit limited in production they are still part of a production run )and not unique) and what makes private jets and super yachts bespoke in particular and to a lesser extent super cars, is the degree of personalisation and bespoke tailoring the owners opt for.
A designer kitchen is somewhat lower down the value proposition than a private jet but even with a £15,000 to £30,000 german kitchen from Schuller for example, there are things a good designer could (and certainly should) do in that design to make your kitchen feel individual.
However, as with much of the buying public, the most often phrase a kitchen designer hears is “i want that one”.
Regardless of the budget, if the client isn’t creative or imaginative and just wants the kitchen they saw on Kevin McCloud – Grand Designs “but cheaper” then there is little any kitchen designer can do and just like consumers want the next best thing in cars, fashion, or Apple devices; kitchens thanks in part to home improvement shows, are becoming more mainstream and less and less bespoke.
There will always be those home owners wanting to push the envelope and with the designers and budgets behind them to match their expectations, the shepherds if you will. And then there will always be the consumers, the public, (dare I say the sheep) who shouldn’t be lambasted for wanting to have the next best thing however, as in terms of kitchens, even the next best thing across the likes of Nobilia, Pronorm or Smallbone is always better than the tired and old kitchen it replaces and whilst budgets are restrictive and designs subjective the important thing to remember is that if you want a new kitchen its your dime so to speak, so buy the best kitchen you can afford from a brand you like and from a company you trust and chances are you will be happy, and thats all that matters, your happiness!
As Johnny Grey says, there maybe a bit of ‘boring’ around but boring is safe and boring is mainstream, and not all of us have the budget for more than boring so we should accept our fate to some degree (in terms of budget) but try as we might to make our own unique stamp of individualism on our homes and be the shepherd for once, even if its just for your bold choice of wall paper…