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The Cook’s Kitchen, by Mark Wilkinson OBE, first to win Design Classic Award
At a glittering awards ceremony in London recently, furniture by designer Mark Wilkinson OBE became the first furniture for the kitchen to be recognised as a Design Classic, in its own right.
Twenty years ago, Mark Wilkinson Furniture introduced The Cook’s Kitchen and it instantly became a top-seller in the finest homes in the country. It is a style that snubs fashion and today, Cook’s is still a top-seller and more than that the style has become a part of the offerings of many of the UK’s bespoke kitchen makers, much in the same way as the Shaker style of a few decades earlier.
The Cook’s Kitchen was ‘second generation’ in Mark’s development as a designer, at the heart of its creation – and the heart of all his work – is a concern for the environment and a passion for sustainability. Cook’s saw him work with hardwoods, in solid and veneered formats, as well as concentrating more on finishes that were hand-painted on site. In typical Wilkinson manner he worked with a local paint manufacturer, to create his own range of very high quality paint, which was a water borne solution – one of the first – to be kinder to the environment.
It has always been key to the culture of Mark Wilkinson Furniture, to create styles of furniture that will never be cast aside because of changes in fashion – to design furniture with a build quality that will last for many generations and with the styling to match the taste of future generations.
It also marked a point in Mark’s design career that the overall style and all of the details that made up the style, began to catch the eye of other furniture-makers and his design began to be replicated as a style in its own right.
So, what is it about The Cook’s Kitchen that makes it such an icon, well, the door fascia itself, – it is a simple, door style, almost Arts & Crafts, which is a favourite of Mark’s. The door closes within a frame to which it is attached by a simple steel hinge with an exposed barrel.
The door features a ‘stopped’ cock-bead on the inner edge of the styles and rails, which is one of the unique elements of the design and has the effect of visually ‘softening’ the door shape. The outer edges of the door are straight-cut, while the inner edges of the frame have a full cock-bead, which is emphasised by the door being fractionally set-in to the frame. Where the door frames butt together there is no detail.
In the painted versions, the doors are made using Poplar, with the flat centre panels being recycled timbers formed into Medium Density Fibreboard, equally that could be a clear lacquered hardwood, such as oak for the frames with, perhaps character oak in the centre.
The Cook’s Kitchen was designed to evoke the time of the open-topped Lagonda, its engine burbling softly, the tyres on its wire-wheels crackling on gravel drives, a gentleman and his lady sitting in leather seats and, in the back, a large wicker picnic basket with leather corners.
The design rational is based upon that culture of generosity and confidence that typifies Edwardian times. The first hints at this come from the drawer fronts, which, while being simple in style are deeper than the norm, giving generous drawer storage that makes Cook’s such a practical design for those who enjoy the preparation and cooking of meals at home.
Continuing the theme of confidence and generosity, the most visible design detail on the door, which adds to the whole style, comes from the large Bun Handles that Mark created to reflect the days of Mrs Beaton, flour covered hands, suggesting the scent of cooking, cosiness and the family care, echoed within Home Baking.
The whole design is then further ‘softened’ with quadrant end-panels on the cabinets.
The cornice has bold mouldings top and bottom of significant size and between the mouldings a flat entablature, but it doesn’t thrust out into the kitchen, as so many cornice do, its profile is more wholly upright, confident and generous, but not aggressive. It reflects the gentleman-landowner, who buys a new suite of clothes for shooting in and then gets his gamekeeper to wear it for him, so it doesn’t look too new when he first wears it.
On top of this Cook’s uses skirting boards rather than an inset kick-plinth, which in aesthetic terms makes it ‘belong’ to the fabric of the house, giving it permanence, part of the home?
With such feelings and creative thinking in its design, it is no wonder that The Cook’s Kitchen sits well in any style of home from the private quarters of the Dukes of Rutland, in Belvoir Castle, to the Regency houses of Bristol, the White Stucco town-houses of Belgravia, the Thames side home of celebrity chef Anthony Worral Thompson and more recently, the Pantiles’ Cookery School of Rosemary Shrager, in Tunbridge Wells, and the semi-professional kitchen serving Invercauld Castle, in the Cairngorms.
As the Editor of the Designer Magazine, Martin Allen-Smith says: “The Cook’s Kitchen by Mark Wilkinson OBE is still in the top-three sellers for the company, some 20 years after its launch and is probably the bespoke English kitchen style that other furniture makers most typically replicate. It is a great style that has become an icon.”
Vanessa Brady, Interior Designer and president of SBID adds: “I’m delighted to see the Mark Wilkinson’s Cook’s kitchen style of furniture positioned, by designer magazine on par with the work of other iconic designers such as Philippe Starke and Arne Jacobsen’s. The Cook’s Kitchen is such an iconic design and has inspired so many other British kitchen furniture makers.”
T: 01380 850007
29th November 2013