What a success Blakes London has become Jamie – first off tell us where your creative eye comes from….
Creativity runs in the family, both my Mum and Dad are in creative industries in South Africa so a love for all things design, architecture and art related is in my DNA.
At school I always favoured art and loved history of art so an interior a design degree was an obvious progression.
You’re a real craftsman at heart, where does this come from?
Do you want the truth? A misspent youth! I crashed a few of my Dad’s classic cars so he sent me to work in his carpentry factory to pay for the repairs. I fell in love with carpentry and the way things are made, so I worked after school and at weekends to qualify as a carpenter while finishing high school.
I went on to study interior design at university in Durban, South Africa. On graduating I spent a number of years working in interiors and was always drawn to bespoke joinery design and manufacturing. I moved to the UK, worked for a number of our competitors, and then came Blakes!
You say you saw the need for a fresh approach to kitchen design…
While working for some of our competitors, I felt that an honest connection with a client was missing and saw a gap in the market for a more a more holistic approach to kitchen design, not just shoving a kitchen range down someone’s throat and forcing it into a space.
At Blakes London we’ve created a dynamic client-focused design and manufacture studio, staffed by people who, like myself, have a hybrid specialism in both interior design and bespoke joinery. Guided by an underlying ‘purpose over profit’ principle we incorporate surrounding accents such as flooring, natural light, colours and textures to design a beautifully crafted, fresh and exciting kitchen that is totally unique to our clients.
And who are your clients?!
Our clients are discerning. They are people who truly appreciate something unique and customised to their every requirement.
As a creative, I live by strong imagery. As such, I’ve always invested in professional photography for our kitchens and, thankfully, this has reaped rewards as we’ve regularly had our images featured in interior design magazines and more recently broadsheets. That said, a vast majority of our clients still come to us via word of mouth and more recently a few from Instagram and Pinterest.
What sets you apart from a regular off-the-shelf company?
Quite simply we don’t have ranges or off-the-shelf kitchen and joinery packages. Blakes is a young, dynamic client-focused design firm. We design and manufacture beautifully-crafted, fresh and exciting kitchens for our clients, who invariably become part of the Blakes family.
Tell us about the process when it comes to creating a client’s dream kitchen?
It starts with a detailed dialogue. We listen to how you and your family live, work and relax in your current space. As part of that process we learn about what you like – but most importantly what you don’t like! Our skill lies in being able to interpret all this information into a clear design brief that culminates in a beautiful kitchen.
It’s a really collaborative process: the most successful spaces are derived from a clear understanding of what makes the family tick. Working together with the client is fundamental but gaining clients trust in us to deliver is key. We learn new things with every client, it’s a journey we take together.
What is your signature style?
Our natural, rustic timber cabinet offering is something unique to Blakes London which we developed from scratch about six years ago. This rustic timber board design truly came into its own when we combined it together with the shaker cabinet, it went nuts and took the market by storm. It’s since been replicated by numerous other kitchen companies – they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…
How do you achieve the unique Blakes touch?
We are best known for what we call a contemporary shaker. A shaker cabinet is a shaker cabinet, but there are many models and details that make each one unique. We dress and make changes to the quintessential style and design to give it that wow factor that’s unique Blakes touch. It’s all about finding the perfect combination of accompaniments such as tiles, mirror, colour, wallpaper or metal accents.
Our secret lies in our desire to try new things, and having the right team with the necessary skills behind the scenes to deliver.
What are the key considerations for a hard-working, impressive kitchen?
A kitchen needs to work as hard as you need it to. Everyone is different and their needs are too. Some don’t want much from their space and others require an absolute workhorse and these factors heavily influence the overall material sections and design.
We work out how the client works in the space - interestingly how people believe they use a space and the reality aren’t always the same. We recommend people really think about how they currently work in their kitchen and identify key areas: who uses what area? What does he do, what do you do, what do the kids do? Where do you want them and where don’t you want them? One of the most common things people fail to fully appreciate till very late down the line is how they really use the space! Zoning is key.
What about appliances?
Modern appliances allow function as well as form, so don’t think just because it looks good or it’s different to what you are used too, that it won’t deliver. Most appliances are out of date and have been replaced by better technologies so be brave about adopting new appliances into your space.
What are the current trends impacting on kitchen design?
There has been a drastic change in the way we live in and use the kitchen, as well as the way we eat and how we store food. For example, online shopping and pre-planned meals have had a massive impact on the way we design kitchens for the modern home.
We’re increasingly designing two kitchens even for the most modest of homes where space is a premium. The first kitchen tends to be more open plan fitting into a kitchen/living/diner-type scenario. In addition, we add a smaller pantry-style kitchen that is hidden away and contains all of the heavy-duty appliances and messier aspects of kitchen life, think dishwashers, microwaves, second fridges etc.
The wine fridge is evolving into a bar cabinet and is fast becoming a showpiece for glam entertaining in the more relaxed and informal atmosphere of the kitchen.
In terms of style, timber and veneers are back! While darker kitchens are still very popular, there is a trend towards lighter, more natural colours and materials.
Feature tiling, such as tiled pantry cupboards, are an increasingly popular way to be a bit more daring in a kitchen while still allowing flexibility as tiles can be changed relatively easily and inexpensively - in the scheme of buying a new kitchen at least!
What materials are stylish and will stand the test of time?
Ah! This is a controversial question at the moment due to the (quite rightly) eco and sustainable questions being asked. Clients used to want something indestructible, however, this is often an ecological no-no due to the sheer volume of chemicals involved in production. Now clients are questioning the environmental and sustainable credentials of their kitchens and this informs their material choices. Readily available natural materials such as marble and timbers look beautiful. Clients expectations have evolved and as they educate themselves on the issues around manufacture, they are increasingly accepting things will tarnish over time and age beautifully. Nothing is indestructible, I’m a firm believer that natural materials age gracefully over time.
How do you advise clients struggling to make design decisions about worktops?
This is where it’s key to know your clients, how they live and what their lifestyles demand. Things like cleaning habits; how they entertain, if at all; what is more important - form or function; the environmental concerns they may or may not have. From there, you can strip it back and simplify the decision quite easily. But if push comes to shove, the real question is can you live with stains? If so, marble every time. If not, a manmade alternative, while not stain resistant, will likely suit you better.
And what about splashbacks?
Same as above but if you need to create a feeling of light in the space then think reflection – such as a mirror etc. What mood do you want to create, do you need a wow factor? All these things inform the decision.
What about in kitchen technology?
When it comes to technology, the key is to keep it simple and to consider your household’s needs, there’s something out there for everyone. Personally, I’m old school and prefer a dial to turn and a knob to twist over a touch screen.
Look at what you are needing the appliance to do for you, there is so much choice and not much in it.
– Extraction is one of the biggest decisions when thinking about appliances. Induction is the future as it allows for flexibility in design and it is safer than gas.
– Boiling water taps are a definite yes and sparkling water taps are becoming more affordable as there is now competition in the market.
– Sub Zero fridges are game changing for reducing food waste as they preserve everything in the fridge for up to 10 times as long!
What are clever uses of kitchen space?
Thinking clever about kitchen space is really important. For example, a hidden area out in the back kitchen for a second sink and second dishwasher is an effective use of space. It conceals mess and frees up the main kitchen resulting in less clutter etc and you don’t need a massive space in order to do this. As for larders - they are a must.
What’s trending for kitchen colour schemes?
Darker kitchens have been worked in the press over the last 5 years and are still incredibly popular. Of late, the tone has been moving toward greens and the trend is towards lighter shades of the darker colours. When styled in a space with materials such as light timber floors and marble tops - a dark kitchen still comes up trumps.
Which is the kitchen design sin you would never commit?
I would never put an extractor on the wall!!
Handles or no handles? A mix of both…
Shaker or panel? A mix of both…
Brass or chrome? I do love brass mixed in with a darker tone.
Dark or light? It depends on the space and its surrounding, both have a place. Don’t just follow hot trends as they are fickle and don’t tend to last.
Marble or quartz? Definitely marble.
Tile floor or wood floor? Love wood, but tiles have their place and practicality so think clever. In our open-plan studio we’ve mixed wood-effect porcelain tiles in high traffic areas and have used timber elsewhere, the overall effect appears to be one type of flooring so it doesn’t break up the space visually.
For more information visit BlakesLondon.com
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