Oysters and champagne chilled on ice beneath a worktop that glides open at the touch of a button; a meat- and cheese- maturing cabinet lined with illuminated rock-salt tiles; a floor-to-ceiling dresser with built-in cocktail bar – the latest kitchens not only cater for serious home chefs, they have all the entertainment value of a PT Barnum show.
“Many of our clients are successful entrepreneurs who frequently entertain at home for business. There’s a bit of showmanship and the cooking process is part of that,” says Chanda Pandya, brand director UK of Rossana. “We design a lot of statement islands that don’t read like a kitchen until you open them up.” Its K-In K-Out kitchen (from £55,000) features an Arabescato monolith that transforms at the touch of a button – stone slabs glide across the island to reveal a barbecue, teppanyaki or regular cooktop; and the overhang becomes a counter large enough for 12 diners, providing ringside seats to the host’s culinary performance. A similar experience is provided by German studio Eggersmann (kitchens from £40,000), whose islands can incorporate a sliding top that conceals a hob and glides open to serve as a dining surface. Fans of the most directional kitchen studios increasingly enjoy sharing the thrills and spills of the cooking process. Accordingly, Molteni&C | Dada’s new Ratio kitchen (from £60,000) places a beautiful contemporary cooking space at the centre of the action. “If you have a party in your house, 80 per cent of the time people will gather in the kitchen,” says design and product development director Andrea Molteni. “So we apply the same attention to detail as we do in the living room.” As such, Ratio (available from September) is a showstopping combination of natural stones like Rapolano travertine with timbers such as black palm, designed by the brand’s creative director, famed Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen.
Molteni&C | Dada is not the only brand to offer kitchens by design luminaries. Schiffini’s collection includes the work of Alfredo Häberli, Jasper Morrison and Vico Magistretti, whose elegant Triangle bookshelf, made in 1996 and never previously produced, has been issued as wall-wide kitchen storage with dramatically backlit shelves in its Cinqueterre (from £15,000) and other models.
Lanserring’s design director Alex Beaugeard says many of his clients hunger for hands-on cooking: “People still want a memorable experience but something a bit more raw and primal. Among more affluent buyers, there’s a desire to connect with cooking in a more visceral way –using open flames, for example.” Increasingly, ingredients are the star turn. “We recently worked with an east London-based tech entrepreneur who asked us to build a special meat- and cheese-maturing cabinet, which we lined with illuminated rock-salt tiles, creating a naturally antibacterial and low-humidity room that’s ideal for this,” he says. Beaugeard’s new design, The Delancey (from £60,000), features a bamboo island that cantilevers off a marble cube. The bamboo prep surface can be tailored to house a barbecue or hob and an inset trough filled with ice to display shellfish or chill bottles.
Smallbone of Devizes (kitchens from £90,000) caters to equally sophisticated tastes. Among its recent projects is a skyscraper penthouse where the owner not only desired a kitchen but also a lavish wine and cigar lounge, made from ebonised black walnut with velvet seating and a honed marble bar.
If the kitchen is to be the home’s primary entertaining space, the layout not only needs to accommodate the cook but also their guests. “People want to work in front of their friends who will be there with a glass of wine, and don’t want to turn their back on them. That means locating the cook area on an island,” says Charlie Smallbone, who has been designing luxury kitchens since the 1970s. Smallbone puts “companionable dining” at the heart of his designs; his new enterprise Ledbury Studio has launched the warm, inviting Metallics Collection kitchen (from £50,000), with its gorgeously verdigrised copper fronts. “I enjoy luxury materials,” he says, “but I don’t only use the obvious ones. We’ve now developed the collection to include zinc and pewter hand-finishes, and we’re working on a bronze design.”
Metals, particularly copper, bronze and darker metallics, are having a moment in smart kitchens. The new Shape by Poliform (from £36,000) features handsome chamfered bronze handles that look spectacular when paired with cabinets made from bog oak. And Andrew Barr, director of Espresso Design, says his clients are becoming enthusiastic about anodised black steel. “It’s proved popular in combination with reclaimed wood and Nero Marquina [black marble] countertops, and we’ve recently installed this design in two chalet projects,” he says. Luxurious touches on Espresso kitchens (from £25,000) include bespoke leather handles made by Turnstyle Designs, crafted to please both hand and eye.
Entertaining kitchens are seasoned with touches that guarantee they will be talked about, including ingeniously concealed tea and coffee bars. Clive Christian Furniture Co (average kitchen commission £100,000-£250,000), a British brand celebrated for marquetry, makes cabinetry inlay depicting anything from a client’s favourite city skyline to a portrait of a beloved racehorse. For a home in Marbella, product manager Oliver Deadman designed a display for the owner’s “40-plus menu of fine tea blends” within a Metro Deco kitchen “We proposed a barista-style setup with individually lit display niches and space for warming crockery and hot-water taps, concealed behind a series of pocket doors in a grey maple, accented with brass,” he says. Truly, the guest who can resist sharing this remarkable ensemble on Instagram does not deserve a second invitation.
Another designer bringing a theatrical flourish to practical features is Tom Howley, creative design director of Tom Howley (kitchens from £25,000). Statement storage – that opens to reveal wine, glassware and beautifully packaged ingredients – is his favourite way to generate a wow factor. “For me, the most memorable part of the most fabulous kitchens is a double pantry, laden with bottles of infused oils, rustling packets of the finest truffles and artisanal jarred vegetables,” he says. “The act of opening the doors lends the process of cooking and entertaining a real sense of occasion.”
The Quantum kitchen (£185,000) at Linley is a case in point. Aligned with this witty reinvention of the traditional English oak kitchen is the Quantum bar (£60,000), a freestanding drinks cabinet with a charcoal oak exterior intersected with copper stringing. The cooking space features dark-grey oak cabinets that appear quilted, having been sculpted with Linley’s own 3D ripple technology. Above the oven is a hidden condiments cupboard that pivots out to become a showcase of veneers in similar colours to the pillars of English cuisine: HP sauce, Heinz ketchup and beans and Coleman’s mustard.
Some of the loveliest luxury surfaces are to be found on a recent project by Jack Trench (kitchens from £60,000), working with interior designer Filippo Mondadori. Unlacquered polished brass clads the focal point of a kitchen made for a couple of entrepreneurs in Fitzrovia whose specific brief was for a space for entertaining. The floor-to-ceiling dresser divides the cooking area from the dining space and serves as a cocktail bar, central island and breakfast pantry. The reflective finish of the cladding bounces light around the room, mirrors the central statement light – a 1960s Italian piece by Stilnovo – and lends the dresser a surprising lightness and grace. “The brass is unlacquered and will age beautifully,” says Trench. He has even conjured a crowd-pleasing disappearing act within the design: when the central tectus-hinged doors open, they reveal a view through the shelving into the courtyard beyond, while the substantial piece of furniture appears to melt away. Many contemporary designs are equally discreet, with features alternately displayed and tucked away by means of pocket doors that, instead of hingeing open, slip into slim compartments and are hidden. Richard Atkins, managing director of DesignSpace London (kitchens from £25,000), makes use of pocket doors to hide bars, washing-up areas and breakfast units and, in a recent penthouse project in Ealing, to bring “interesting finishes” into the scheme.
Italian brands such as Boffi, Arclinea and Minotticucine are best known for their sleek, discreet aesthetics that lose none of their wow thanks to clever details and refined materials – the latter (kitchens from £100,000), whose signature style combines natural stone fronts with marble interiors and concealed appliances, was recently commissioned by a client to design a champagne fridge that pops up from the kitchen island. Romeo Sozzi, president and designer of Promemoria – the Lake Como-based firm better known for its opulent leather-clad furniture – and creator of the Angelina kitchen (from £94,000), says the kitchen is an especially evocative space for his countrymen, given their obsession with cuisine: “It is archetypal, combining childhood memories with nostalgia, flavours, sounds and scents – we like to think that cooking is akin to a theatre show.” Every detail is aimed at delivering a sociable atmosphere. “The most exquisite element of our projects is when guests feel the conviviality. That’s real luxury.”
Florentine firm Officine Gullo achieves the same feat with an industrial look. Founded in the 1970s, it creates professional and domestic range cookers, and entire metal kitchens (from £30,000) made by artisans in the tradition of Florentine kitchens from the 16th-century. It uses either marine-grade stainless steel, copper or solid brass with chrome, nickel, gunmetal, burnished brass or gold finishes, and the cooking range – with its customised cooktop – is the star of every layout. “We mix it up with domestic and professional appliances, such as temperature-controlled wine dispensers, vacuum sealers and blast chillers. If you have a chef preparing dinner for 20, it’s very likely you’ll have fantastic leftovers that are still warm,” says commercial director Manfredi Conforzi. “So you pop them in the blast chiller, seal them in your vacuum sealer and then store them in the deep freeze for later.” As Conforzi suggests, a kitchen designed to impress your guests also delivers the perfect quiet night in.