A few weeks ago, you may well have double-tapped on photos by designers and editors in a certain classically appointed yet intriguingly colored space and thought, "What a beautiful English country home." The snapshots, in fact, weren't from a private home at all but from the newly opened New York showroom of the beloved British kitchen brand Plain English. Though its name evokes the brand's core principles (classic carpentry crafted in the U.K.), in our opinion, the New York space is anything but plain. Staying true to its heritage roots, the company, under the creative vision of design director Merlin Wright, jazzed up the English country look with kicky colors, edgy fixtures, and delightfully clever details that make the space look more like the kitchen of an impossibly chic British creative than a showroom in New York's East Village. AD PRO caught up with Wright to hear about his vision for the space as well as designing for the American market.
A large island appeals to the American market.
AD PRO: What was most important to get across to an American clientele in the showroom of this well-known English brand?
Merlin Wright: In recent years, we’ve had a steadily increasing amount of work from American clients who have come to the U.K. to seek us out, which has made us realize two things: that there is a shared cultural sensibility between us, and that what we offer must be hard to find in the U.S. Our cupboards, as our name suggests, come from an approach which is plain and understated and is based on the proportions and ethos of Georgian joinery of the 18th and early 19th centuries. In practical terms, this means that we use traditional construction methods such as dovetail joints and high-quality materials and finishes that will age well and should last indefinitely.
AD PRO: How did you show your English heritage through the design.?
MW: Georgian design and architecture is highly cherished in the U.K. since the proportions are so harmonious and relate to the human scale. The same ideas now exist in buildings all over the world, especially in those of the Georgian period in New England and of the Shaker movement. This is why our style works well in traditional as well as more modern buildings.
The larder cupboard.
AD PRO: What did you do differently for the American audience?
MW: We haven’t especially changed our approach for this showroom, except perhaps that we have used integrated appliances which are concealed behind cupboard doors (although we are also happy to work with freestanding appliances). Some American clients might be intrigued by our larder cupboard, which provides alternative, non-refrigerated storage for nonperishable items and foods such as vegetables, many of which should not be chilled. Apart from this, we are having to get used to some new terminology: "trash" for "rubbish," "faucet" for "tap," "inches" for "millimeters," etc.
Bright, cheerful colors give new energy to the company's classic woodworking.
AD PRO: What do you think sets your kitchens apart from competitors'?
MW: When we look at the products of some of our competitors, we feel that they are somewhat busy and garish for our tastes. The Georgian joinery that inspires us was built for entirely practical purposes in the "below stairs" areas of the grander houses of the period and was not built for show. These kitchens were made with simple materials and finishes unlike the fancy furniture upstairs, which was intended to display wealth and status and was therefore made with elaborate detailing and costly finishes. We like the understated look of the simpler joinery, which, like a classic well-cut garment, should have an appeal and durability beyond the whims of fashion. We also have a very personal response to each client and their spaces. Rather than trying to roll out a formula, we consider the requirements of the space and try to propose solutions that don’t dominate the architecture. For example, we are not wedded to symmetry so will often create elevations with a mixture of counter-standing cupboards, shelves, and open space for artworks.
A rich blue wall is a striking contrast to marble countertops and white porcelain.
AD PRO: How do you show the products in a setting that feels more like a home than a showroom?
MW: We always like to present our showrooms as believable spaces rather than just a collection of room sets. Within this constraint, we have to show as many options as possible, but we are also presenting a philosophy and a sensibility as well as the physical cupboards so the atmosphere created by the layout, lighting, and accessories is very important. In our New York showroom, we have, in one display, contrasted a fairly modern style of island with a run of traditional cupboards, a combination we have found to be successful on real projects; the proportions work together and the contrast of styles suggest a hidden narrative, as if the space has evolved over time, as things do.
Plain English is now open at 51 East 10th Street.
Source : https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/plain-english-kitchen-design-new-york-showroom