A Bespoke Kitchen Design, Handmade in Aberdeen
I recently had the pleasure of completing a set of visualisations for a local cabinetmaker in Aberdeenshire, who designs beautiful kitchens, interiors and furniture using locally sourced hardwoods. Lethenty Cabinetmakers (website here), which has been around since 1980 and flourishing ever since, is a real old-school joinery of the type I didn't actually know existed in Aberdeen! As well as sourcing, cutting and milling their own hardwoods from a collection of local estates with whom they have built up working relationships, Graeme and his team also season, air dry, prepare and finish their work in-house, so every aspect of the design is under the control of the client, with an expert hand to guide things in the right direction.
On my first visit to the workshop just outside Inverurie, I was amazed to see so many things going on under the same roof- from the finishing rooms for custom paint jobs and spraying, to the large assembly areas where the bulk of the units are manufactured and dry fitted prior to being completed, the Mill building, rebuilt following a severe fire in 2016 seemed like a paradise for any joiner, cabinetmaker, or like myself, passionate amateur woodworker.
How to Bring a Kitchen to Life
Bringing a design to life during the design phase is really important, as there are so many cases where the client struggles to appreciate exactly what they are getting, and how the design will look when complete- so many times I have heard people saying things like 'I wasn't happy with how this bit came out', or 'If only I understood how it would be I'd have changed this part', and the annoying thing is that this is entirely avoidable!
Reading plans and architectural drawings is not something everyone is familiar with, and even as someone who is pretty conversant with the language of design, trying to bring together hundreds of different elements and materials and try and picture the whole thing together is too much for my own brain to handle- invariably I always miss out some small but quite significant aspect, like the lighting, the combination of materials or the scale of something.
As Graeme's kitchen design for his client was pretty complex, and involved lots of bespoke elements, we decided the best way to translate his ideas into a readable form for the client was to create a few visuals of the kitchen as it would appear when finished.
An Overall Picture
The first visual I created was one which shows the overall design, as you would see it looking in from the lounge. From Left to Right we have the kitchen area, with built in iroko shelving, a large integral fridge/freezer unit with microwave oven, a belfast sink with wall mounted storage cabinets and shelving, a large Aga range with over mantle, and an island. To the right is a custom seating area which Graeme is building with the client's own elm, source from several trees felled on his ground. The table is also a custom design, and features a spindled base- plenty of room for all the family to gather!
As with many of Lethenty's designs, the style is traditional and classic, but the lively grains of the elm and richness of the iroko give it some visual excitement. The cabinets and units are finished in a bespoke colour chosen by the client, and of course the purpose of the visualisation is to show how these finishes look together, and see if they are complementary- if that alone changes your mind then I would say it has already been worth visualising it! Part of the reason, dull though it may sound, is to make the changes and alterations on screen, not in real life- they are much cheaper this way!
Aga and Over Mantle
Before meeting Graeme and having a tour of the workshop, I never actually knew what an 'over mantle' was!
Turns out it is that nice piece of cabinetry above the Aga, which is reminiscent of an ecclesiastical detail, and gives the whole thing a much grander appearance- not only that, it serves a really useful function, by providing small storage areas at either side (for lighters, spices, nick-nacks) as well as concealing the extractor fan, and providing task lighting down to the cooking area.
Speaking of lighting, Graeme also had a really nice idea of incorporating various task-lighting into the design of this kitchen, as well as focal lighting under the small shelves to the left- the way things are going, I think all of this calls for a nice night-time shot, to show exactly how the proposals will look on a cosy winter's evening:
Night Time (Lighting) shot
By showing exactly the same view in both day and night time it makes it really easy for everyone to picture exactly how the lighting is going to be integrated into the design, and what a difference it will make to the appearance. Unfortunately many designers overlook the power of well considered lighting- it can be used to literally transform the character of a space if done well, and also makes the using the space easy and pleasurable- and I'm delighted to say Graeme is not one of those people! There is task lighting, feature lighting, highlight lighting and as it has all been designed in from the start it is seamless and yet does what it needs to.
The 'Work Zone'
Many people are familiar with the 'work triangle' layout used in kitchen design- basically the aim is to make the flow between the fridge freezer, the oven and the sink work well- getting the food, washing and preparing it, and cooking it should be easy and quick to do, and this kitchen certainly does that- the grand element to the left integrates the fridge freezer, larder cupboards and the microwave oven together in a way which looks grand, and the sink, Aga and associated work surfaces are well laid out with plenty of room to get that delicious steak or salad ready to serve!
Bespoke Seating Booth- Using the Client's Own Elm
This was a really unique part of the project- not the least because it uses the client's own elm, sourced from some trees he felled himself! Does it get any more personal than that for a furniture maker?
As the Elm needs around a year to acclimatise and dry before being milled for manufacture, this part of the design is somewhat far off, but the visualisations here were most instrumental in developing the design, and helping picture how it could be improved.
Initially Graeme had a sketch design of this area, along with the overall scale and the seating layout, but seeing the visuals helped explore some other ways to look at it- the extended worktop behind the seats was formerly carried on at the same height as the existing iroko top, but seeing how it looked Graeme came up with the idea of raising the chair backs higher up, to give more back support and a more graceful proportion that is reminiscent of Charles Rennie Mackintosh chairs. There was also the idea of incorporating a small drawer into the area beneath the chairs to give extra storage, and the visuals were easily amended to show how this could look...
See the before and after below:
Also, if you have't come across Lethenty Cabinetmakers' page, you should definitely check them out for some truly stunning kitchen and furniture projects: Lethenty Mill Website
Graeme and the team have also been shortlisted for a Trades award this year, under the Home/Building Improvement, Interiors category, so you are bound to see and hear a lot more of them over the following months!
Until next time,