I’ve worked with English kitchen manufacturers for most of my adult life. Doing so has even required that I learn the British jargon related to this industry. For instance, my British colleagues would say “dado rail” instead of “chair rail”…or “cornice” instead of “crown,” etc. When I was first starting out in this business, I remember having a hilarious misunderstanding with a manufacturer over my need for additional “knobs” for a project. Confused by my choice of the word “knob,” (which they would call a “handle”) they proceeded to send me every type of cabinet hardware offered in an effort to figure out what I required. Who knew we had so many different names for the same things! However, our differences in the kitchen design industry don’t end there. The U.S. and the U.K. markets have distinctly different perspectives when it comes to kitchen design. I actually find this quite inspirational, as the British market is always forward and backward-looking at the same time. Their long history of bespoke craftsmanship for cabinetry and their love of authentically old English kitchens is a real boon when incorporating that character and tradition into a new kitchen design. At the same time, their market is quite saturated with competent artisans who enjoy using their skill-craft to meet the aesthetic and functional needs of modern British families.
As Americans, we are enamored with English kitchens as well. After all, having an authentic, English bench-made kitchen is still the ultimate luxury item for high-end homes. However, across the pond, the British have a particular love for bespoke, name-brand kitchens. Kitchen companies practically have rock-star name recognition as compared to leading brands here in the U.S. The vast majority of them are named after the entrepreneurial designer at the helm, such as Clive Christian, Mark Wilkinson, Martin Moore, Tom Howley, Teddy Goodward, etc. While each one brings a unique touch to their product line, there are some overarching design features that seem to be dominating the British cabinet market right now. If you’re interested in bringing a bit of authenticity from the British Isles into your kitchen design, then you’ll appreciate exploring these design features. Think of this post as a recipe for creating an English kitchen…except that it’s a recipe created by your Great Aunt Edna, who sees individual ingredients as a mere suggestion, rather than required. That flexibility is actually the “secret” in this recipe. As you scroll through this post, you’ll notice that most of the authentic English kitchens I feature are really a blend of traditional and contemporary sensibilities that reflect the values of modern families. So, in short, don’t be afraid to mix it up! Great design lies in details, but also in knowing when to break out from the pack.