Interview: Kitchen design in 2021

Miles Hartwell, Co-Director of Splinterworks, on how to design the ultimate social kitchen, the popularity of sculptural islands, and how to be creative with your space.

Over the past decade, the kitchen has become the social hub of the house; a place for entertainment, work and for the family to relax. As a designer, what challenges does this present to you?

At Splinterworks we prioritise sociability in all our kitchens. We like to think of the kitchen as a living room in which you can cook.

By encouraging good sight-lines, we can offer space between the different zones of activity while still ensuring eye contact and social interaction. We consider the best locations for the social aspects of cooking, to ensure you are facing each other, not the walls!

We map out the various ways you use your kitchen, taking into account the culinary journey from start to end. From prepping, to cooking, serving, clearing and cleaning, the whole cycle is considered. This ensures everything has its place and clutter isn’t generated where it’s not wanted!

We also consider hidden zones within the layout, so that clients don’t end up with an unsightly mess in their social space, and the less glamorous jobs are not on show. Providing what we call a ‘set-down area’ where you can put your keys, phone and wallet when you come in, can make all the difference to creating a tidy, welcoming space. The smells and grease, that are inevitable when cooking, are also taken into account. We always include really good extraction in all our kitchen designs.

Clever dishwasher drawer storage in fun family kitchen

Has the kitchen become one of the rooms in the house that has become more bespoke for clients?

Prior to the 1930s, when the architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky created the first fully fitted ‘Frankfurt kitchen’, the typical kitchen was really just a collection of free-standing furniture and appliances and not a social space at all.

Since then, we’ve been on a steady march towards more and more bespoke spaces, and there are endless options for appliances, cabinetry and decor styles – you can now personalise your space completely. Anything is possible.

Does this allow you more flexibility to be creative with your design?

Because of the seemingly infinite options for personalisation, there is scope for creativity that perhaps wasn’t there 20 years ago.

But it’s not really this that gives us more flexibility to be creative. It’s that people’s expectations and their exposure to new ideas has increased, largely through social media. We now find that clients are more willing than ever to explore more creative and personal options in their kitchen design.

What are the current trends we are seeing in the kitchen?

Splinterworks are known for creating sculptural and curvaceous designs. What our clients are asking us for at the moment is to design statement, sculptural islands that still have function, such as hob and sink, but that are also dramatic centrepieces in the room. This centrepiece is then often paired with a much simpler backdrop, where more pragmatic considerations can be prioritised such as fridge, ovens, dishwasher and cupboard space.

Curved kitchen designed by Splinterworks with a sculptural kitchen island
Original design for modern kitchen built over a split level with a sculptural kitchen island

Any thoughts on what the kitchen of 2021 will look like?

Our kitchens normally take between six months to a year to complete, from initial brief and design through to build and fitting. We are currently working on an exciting project at a new home in The Hamptons, New York. It’s an incredible property with a second floor kitchen that will have three full height glass walls overlooking Sag Harbour. The brief from the client is that he doesn’t want it to look like a kitchen and he wants the island to look like a piece of art. Great brief!

Do you think the current pandemic will alter how the kitchen interacts with the home?

Yes, we are really getting a sense that people are finding a renewed enthusiasm for the sanctuary of their home, and people are investing in it accordingly. I think there is a period of nesting going on right now. With our home lives becoming our new social lives, the kitchen is likely to become the stage for a lot more of our day-to-day interactions, over the coming months and years.

Unique kitchen in mirror polished stainless steel designed by Splinterworks
Unique kitchen designed in polish steel by Splinterworks

Is there a particular design, or innovation, that you have worked on that you are most proud of?

With each client, we start with a truly blank sheet and can create almost anything. With each project, the innovation comes when we open our clients’ eyes to the possibilities that they had never before considered.

Sometimes this can be about taking a more artistic or sculptural approach, such as that seen in our Tipping Point design (pictured above). In other cases it can be as simple as breaking down dogmatic kitchen design. In Concrete + Copper (below) we did this by skewing the cabinetry out of alignment with the walls. By putting the cabinets at angles led us to create an island formed from colliding units. It makes for a really refreshing and usable space.

So it’s about innovation on a personal level, how you use the space differently. We’re always looking for creative opportunities in a project, to get the very best outcome for our clients.

Concrete and copper work surfaces in family townhouse kitchen designed by Splinterworks

Tell us a little about what Splinterworks can offer clients?

Ultimately, what we offer is a way of thinking about the kitchen differently. We are not a cabinet company looking to maximise the amount of boxes (profit) in the space. We are a design company looking to maximise the creative opportunity and pair it with the pragmatics of each individual home and client’s requirements.  The term ‘bespoke’ is an overused phrase in the kitchen industry (even a basic kitchen is made bespoke to the space) but what we offer are completely unique kitchens, no two are ever the same. We design from scratch. By taking cues from the owners’ personality and imparting character to the space, the considered design of our kitchens makes them a pleasure to use.

Getting this much out, requires putting a lot in, so our clients need to devote some time to the process.  We usually have around five phases of design, each punctuated with client reviews. For this reason alone we only produce a limited number of kitchens each year. We just do them really really well!

This interview originally featured in InBath magazine. 



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