Kitchens are one of the biggest investments made in the home, and consequently everyone wants to know that they’re getting something that lasts – not just robust and easy to maintain, but timeless in design and incorporating technology that won’t become obsolete. Robert Burnett, head of design for Holloways of Ludlow’s bespoke kitchens, explains how to create a space with staying power.
Do you get the sense that people are a bit scared of making the wrong decisions when it comes to buying a kitchen?
I would expect clients to be worried about making wrong decisions. We try to alleviate that by guiding clients through a step-by-step process that always delivers a design they are happy to commit to. Nevertheless, I am regularly amazed by the confidence with which some of our clients embark on this design process: many provide very clear briefs, including magazine cuttings etc, and have some really great and original ideas, with a high proportion trying to achieve something unique and individual.
Which current kitchen trends do you think are more than just passing fads?
People continue to open up their kitchen/living and dining spaces to create larger more social spaces for their family and for entertaining. As a result, anything that helps to keep worktops free of clutter is likely to remain popular. Items such as boiling water taps (to avoid the need for a kettle) and soap dispensers (to avoid the need to leave out washing up liquid) are fitted in almost all of our kitchens these days.
Does opting for bespoke/high-quality cabinetry in itself lead to longevity? How does everyday wear and tear start to show if you opt for something of a lower quality?
It’s often the things that you can’t see that provide the kitchen with the strength and durability required for long-term heavy usage. As with everything, you’ll get what you pay for: for example, our standard drawer runners can carry 60kg of weight and have lifetime guarantees. Our carcasses are made from plywood, so they are very strong and stable. If the kitchen design involves handles, then the base material is solid brass. Our door panels and drawer fronts may be constructed from plywood, solid wood, Corian, stone, glass, metal etc – but never from chipboard.
How do you allow for some flex and adaptability in people’s lifestyles when designing a kitchen?
If the base materials are strong enough to last a lifetime, then the door and drawer fronts, appliances, worktops and other accessories can be easily changed and updated over time. Our door and drawer fronts are manufactured separately from the drawer boxes and frames, so that they can be easily exchanged or renovated.
What sort of materials would you recommend that are particularly long lasting, and why?
It’s difficult to generalise, as all materials have their Achilles’ heel. Stone can stain, steel can scratch, glass and lacquers can chip, grout and wood can discolour, Corian can discolour with heat. Conversely, these are all durable and hardwearing materials when used in the right way and in the right circumstances.
Painted cabinetry is very popular – can the doors and drawer fronts ever be repainted to give a different look?
Handpainted finishes are a very popular choice for clients who would like a ‘kitchen for life’. There are endless colours available, and it’s a very practical finish, which lends texture and warmth to a kitchen. We ensure that our kitchens are manufactured so that the kitchen door and drawer fronts are easily removable, so that repainting the kitchen is not too disruptive.
Which of the current gadgets and appliances are going to stand the test of time?
Boiling water taps, warming drawers and induction hobs all save time and they improve the functionality of the kitchen. These items no longer feel part of an emerging trend, and for us, are the norm. Steam ovens have been slower to catch on. Perhaps it’s because they require some initial time investment and a change in habits so there may be some inertia. I’m sure it won’t be long before voice-activated technology will allow us to tell our ovens what temperature we need, what setting we would like, and how long to cook for.
…and are there any features you think are on the way out?
I can’t remember the last time I saw an electric hob which was not an induction hob, and we are seeing fewer range cookers – perhaps because they are less convenient, take up more space and have less functionality.
Do you have any other design tips for creating a kitchen that has some longevity but avoids being too bland in the process?
It’s important to find a good kitchen designer with plenty of experience and extensive knowledge about materials, appliances and furniture.All images from Holloways of Ludlow.