The natural beauty of wood, its adaptability and firm place in our tradition of craft are all reasons why it’s still playing such a big role in our kitchens today
Above This kitchen design by Kettle of Fowey (designer Tom Raffield) features an island with a dark charcoal colour stain, concrete worktops and sliding doors that can conceal the sink and surrounding shelving. The build of the extension cost a total of £190,000.
Sebastian Cox, designer-maker and craftsman of Sebastian Cox Ltd talks to us about the beauty of a crafted wood kitchen and what we can learn from working with wood.
Where does the beauty lie in a crafted wood kitchen?
For me, I believe the beauty in a wooden kitchen lies in its understandable form. Wood is one of the oldest materials and has been used to make furniture for kitchens for hundreds of years. I think that being able to see the way a piece of furniture is made and understand its form makes it incredibly beautiful.
You work almost exclusively with British hardwoods. What is at the heart of the reason why you’re championing this and what makes it such a good choice for kitchen cabinetry?
I choose British hardwoods because I think we should manage more of our woodlands. Note ‘more’ and not ‘all’. If we can encourage people to choose British wood for their furniture and increase the demand for, and as a result the value of, our timber then the forest industry can respond with supply. I hope that as a result, more of our woodlands will be managed. Importantly, I also want people to see the huge breadth of wood that is available. There are so many gorgeous species, from elm and sycamore to London plane and ash which, if we use them, can make our home lives more beautiful. The kitchen is an area of the home which is rich in working surfaces, storage, wall units and, as such, is somewhere you can really maximise the truly unique natural, warming, tactile and comforting qualities that wood has.
Why are we seeing a renewed interest in craft at a time when technology is changing the way we think about design?
There is no doubt that we’re seeing a renewed interest in craft and I’d liken it to the development of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. That was primarily a reaction against industrialisation and a way of seeking a simpler, more handmade material culture. Although we live in a different time, the digital world is taking us further away from the ‘real’, and craft and traditional materials are a super way of reconnecting us with the non-digital world around us.
Can you tell us about the Sebastian Cox Kitchen you created with deVOL?
It was a way for us to reconnect people with British beech; a material that was historically used in kitchens but has fallen out of favour of late. We wanted to find a new, tactile and interesting way of conspicuously using wood in a kitchen. We didn’t want it to be painted or covered up, we wanted it to be textured and detailed and become the hero of the design so we used washes of colour and bandsawn wood to keep texture and wood grain visible but with contemporary colour.
For anyone who wants to learn more about wood, what would you recommend?
It isn’t easy to learn about wood because the high street offers a carefully selected choice which doesn’t always reflect what’s in the forest. The selection of wood from your local hardware store probably doesn’t either. We’ve had to create our own species library to show the breadth of what is available when customers come to us for furniture. We begin with this library which is the most joyful starting point of a new commission because people can see and touch the wealth of opportunities and choice that they have to take advantage of.
Below Showing how wood can look striking against contemporary matt black handleless cabinetry, the Model Dinesen kitchen island is made of Dinesen Heartoak floor planks and treated with natural oil. It has a stainless steel top and a black linoleum plinth, all designed by Garde Hvalsøe. Dinesen oak costs from £100 per sq. m depending on the thickness, width and length of the floorboards. A kitchen similar to this would cost from around £70,000.
Below This solid wood kitchen by Kent & London is painted in the company’s own colour, Mettle. The flexibility of handcrafting wood means that handy storage solutions can be made, such as these corner drawers. Bespoke kitchen prices start from £12,500.
Below The hand-painted design of the Cook’s kitchen features cock-beading that softens the profiles of the doors and generous bun handles in hardwearing, naturally stained oak. Prices start from £40,000 for bespoke, handcrafted kitchens from Mark Wilkinson Furniture.
Article by: Emma Foale