Considering a kitchen renovation? Acquaint yourself with these brands, from the budget to the bespoke.

For most of us, the kitchen is the heart and hub of the home. These days, it is not only where we cook, but also where we socialise; the warm, convivial place in which we convene and break bread with family and friends. It is imperative then that we love it enough to want to spend a lot of time in it.

The good news for those considering a kitchen renovation is that there is a huge and growing number of excellent design brands delivering good quality kitchens, from the bespoke, hand-crafted, custom-painted and artisanal to the ready-to-fit. The options are unending, whether your aesthetic sensibility leans towards the traditional, the sleek, Shaker- or country-style.

To help you navigate the plethora of options available, we’ve compiled our very favourites brands, from the high-end tailor-made to the stylish choices for those on a tight budget.

Plain English


How could we start a list of the best kitchen design companies without kicking off with Plain English? The company was conceived by accident 27 years ago when Katie Fontana and her husband, Tony Niblock, swapped life in the capital for a rural idyll in Suffolk. Unable to find a kitchen that was neither fussy nor flashy, they resolved to do it themselves.



More than a quarter of a century on, Plain English is still the cognoscenti’s favourite, its incomparable honest craftsmanship and its spare simplicity outstripping other, slicker, contenders. Plain English’s joiners operate from a Georgian farmhouse in bucolic Suffolk, which makes a certain aesthetic sense. After all, Plain English’s style is inspired by that most elegant of periods in architecture. ‘Tony and I often marvel at the Georgian houses in London. They are so simply beautiful. When I was younger and I used to go shopping for antiques, I didn’t know much about what I was looking at other than my immediate response to it. But invariably everything I ever liked turned out to be Georgian. They just had the proportions right. I work hard with our creative team on proportion.’ It shows.



As for her Georgian forebears, Plain English’s making process takes a satisfying length of time; here there are no cookie cutters. During the three months you’ll have to wait, there are consultations, fittings, redesigns and, of course, meticulous craftsmanship. Good, honest, non-branded cupboards to dress up or down: in short, the dream, though, we caveat, they don’t come cheap. A PE kitchen will set you back at least £45k, which is the price they start at. If that’s within reach, explore the online show room here. Like what you see in the kitchen? PE also offers interior design for the whole house too.

British Standard




Happily, for those on a budget, Fontana and Niblock established British Standard in 2011, a sort of diffusion line where customers can buy off-the-peg cupboards in the Plain English style. ‘It got slightly side-lined for various reasons,’ she says. ‘Now I’m giving it my full attention again, because we’d begun pricing ourselves out of the market as we expanded.’ The range of options is the same as some of those with PE but the materials are simpler, and there is no design service.



Fontana is patently excited by its renaissance. ‘It’s like having a second bite of the cherry. I want to set it up in a different way, perhaps a little like Jamie Oliver did with his Fifteen apprentices. I see us having a rolling stock of 12 new apprentice craftsmen each year who then graduate and go on.’ With a parent company as consummate as Plain English and a creative director as capable as Fontana, success is plainly assured. Explore the beautiful cabinetry here.

Neptune




It makes sense that Neptune's first-ever product was created around a kitchen table since, though it offers beautiful interior design throughout the home, it is the beating heart of the house that we most associate it with. Twenty years on from its launch, the same approach and onus on natural materials and traditional crafts remains. There are four kitchens to choose from: the Chichester, which has a traditional country aesthetic; the Henley, which goes heavy on north American oak; the Limehouse, which is sleek and contemporary; and finally, the Suffolk, which is shaker-inspired and perfect in its simplicity. Whatever your sensibility, you can peruse the whole collection here.

IKEA




Installing a new kitchen is, so often, a vastly expensive endeavour. But, as ever, we can rely on trusty IKEA to save the day when it comes to interiors overhauls on a budget. Where it excels is in simplicity and clean lines; you can pick each individual element, from cabinets to worktops to appliances. We like the BODARP kitchen for contemporary spaces (see the gallery here); the BODBYN Dark Green (images here) for more traditional homes; and the AXSTAD grey for shaker-style rooms. You can also use IKEA’s online kitchen planner to see if its styles are right for you. And if you want to pimp your IKEA kitchen, there are companies that can create bespoke cabinet fronts for you, so you get the artisan look without the price tag. If this appeals, do consider Holte Studio and Plykea, both of whom specialise in deftly raising these off-the-peg kitchens’ games.

DIY Kitchens




DIY Kitchens started out in 1982, its mission being to deliver stunning yet cheap kitchens for those who wanted something beautiful on a budget. Operating from its West Yorkshire workshop, it offers a plethora of choice with over 50,000 branded products that run the gamut from kitchen units to appliances to accessories. Modern, traditional, shaker-style, custom-painted and handleless options are all available, starting from just £917. Bargain.

Naked Kitchens




You won’t find Naked Kitchens showrooms on the high street, and there’s a reason for that. The company believes in keeping its overheads low so that it can deliver value for money. What it does pour its energy into is supreme attention to detail, engineering and exemplary design. We love Ladbroke, a stunningly simple handle-free kitchen, as well as the heavenly craftsmanship of the Long Acre kitchen.

Martin Moore




‘It was 1975, and the handmade kitchen market was dominated by modern German and Italian styles,’ goes the bio on Martin Moore's website. ‘Martin, a design engineer, and his wife Barbara had just returned to England from their extensive travels around the world. Having bought an old Victorian house in need of much renovation, Martin set to work designing and making furniture that was perfect for their house and family life.’

Forty-five years on, the thriving family business has been joined by the couple’s sons – Richard and Michael – who head up a team of designers, cabinet makers, installation managers, fitters and painters, many of whom have been with the company for decades. And if their workforce is loyal, so is the clientele – all thanks to the exquisite and meticulous artisanal craftsmanship. The collections include The English, The Classic, The New Classic, The Architectural and The Modernist. There is a wealth of ideas to mine in its portfolio of completed projects too. We adore this vivid and colourful kitchen in Kent, which has suddenly sent the idea of orange soaring to the top of our wishlist.

Smallbone Of Devizes


Smallbone has been one of the most revered names in kitchen design since its story began in Devizes, Wiltshire, more than forty years ago. Founded by Charlie Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson, the signature exquisite craftsmanship ensures its work features regularly in the pages of glossy interiors magazines. Similarly, Smallbone is known for its work with a myriad of property developers on prestigious projects, its exceptional work known and trusted amongst the elevated design cognoscenti.



We love its Macassar kitchen, a neo-classical affair inspired by the legendary Sir John Soane, as well as The Iconic, otherwise known as the original hand-painted kitchen, having spearheaded the movement and inspired countless imitations. The first and still one of the very best. Browse the kitchen collection here. Everything, including the opulent black and gold-motif website, oozes high-end bespoke luxury.

deVOL




deVOL has been creating beautiful bespoke kitchens almost 30 years from the beautiful Cotes Mill, an historic water mill dating back 1000 years. For many, deVOL represents the absolute benchmark against which all other craftsman-made kitchens should be measured – and the fact that the company has expanded to have showrooms in America too attests to its enduring worldwide popularity.



If you want to get to grips with deVOL’s work, it has a whole section on the website dedicated to videos, in which you can explore what goes into the making of its kitchens. We especially love this stunning tour around the mill, as well as this film of the making of deVOL’s collaboration with Sebastian Cox. You can explore the full range of kitchens here, encompassing the Sebastian Cox, The Real Shaker Kitchen, The Classic English and The Haberdasher’s Kitchen. Do also peruse the portfolio of completed projects here. If you’re in the market for one of these beauties, the only difficult thing will be to decide which to go for. The agony of choice.

Wren Kitchens




A great choice for anyone looking for a knock-out kitchen on a budget, Wren Kitchens has a fantastic range of inexpensive kitchens (many starting at under £2,000) in a good variety of styles. If sleek Italian gloss is up your strada, then plump for the Milano range (we like the Milano Ultra in Dove). If your home is of a more traditional persuasion, then the Edwardian Kitchen is a great bet. And if you like your kitchen to come with a more bucolic flavour, then the Country Kitchen in Drawing Room Green is a winner. Browse the whole selection here.

By Nancy Alsop
July 2020

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Nancy Alsop

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