Every great company has a great story behind how it all started. For Plain English, the joinery company started by Katie Fontana and Tony Niblock in 1992, it was a matter of building a Suffolk longhouse for which Katie designed the kitchen cupboards after she was unable to find something that would properly fit her appliances. The kitchen appeared in Homes & Gardens and readers went crazy for it. Said kitchen was turned into a showroom and cupboard selling begun. Plain, no?
While the Plain English design appears to be routed in "traditional" Georgian kitchens - think really long tables where the cook and helpers would prepare glorious feasts - the colours and ironmongery used make the Plain English designs contemporary with a twist. Drawers run on old-fashioned, wooden runners; cupboard doors are hung on traditional butt hinges. You are limited only by your imagination when it comes to the paint and ironmongery colour and style.
Around our home we have a debate lately about Baxter sofas. Both husband and I love the quality and style but the sofas come with a certain price tag. Surely, I conclude every time, if we get a £14k sofa we should have a £60k kitchen as well? I am met with silence.
Naturally, a kitchen from Plain English is top of the list when we consider extending our property. We think of it as an investment. The same way we were "sold" our first property in Fulham because of its brand new double range range cooker and massive Corian L shaped worktop in the otherwise tiny kitchen, my view is that a Plain English kitchen will increase the value of our current property. I see it already: 5-bed detached home is quiet cul-de-sac with a spectacular Plain English kitchen in a brand new extension. Property sold during its "open day".Yes, my £60k investment will pretty much get a 100% return. But then again, would I want to leave a home that features a kitchen like this? I think not.
But, I divert.
Plain English recently transformed their Marylebone showroom and I went along to their launch party. Being Greek and big on cooking fresh everyday, I was expecting to be blown away and leave the showroom with lots of inspiration. I was not let down. The evening celebrated craftsmanship and the joy of cooking alike. Former Vogue food editor turned Michelin star chef Skye Gyngell's food was served during the party and by the end everyone was tucked away in the "dining room" (see below left), chatting and having a great time. The bubbly must have helped. Personally, I am just content hanging around the green utility room (below, right) and my hands seem to be continuously touching the worktop and drawing energy from it. After a long day at work, this place seems to calm me down. I feel like cooking suddenly.
As part of the launch, Plain English collaborated with ceramicist Karen Downing whose porcelain pots and vessels are made for everyday use. There's nothing fussy about them and I could not think of a better match for these kitchens. Everything feels organic because there's abundance of wood and no plastic in sight. I absolutely love the glazed screens (design ideas for the extension!) and a newly designed zinc lined cooler cabinet in rollers as well as the fact that metro tiles are used in the showroom to give it an edgier, modern look. These are kitchens meant to be functional, loved, worked. If you don't like cooking, if you don't like entertaining, please, do not buy a Plain English kitchen, you will be committing a crime (against both cooking and entertaining).
For the more serious about cooking, if you commission your project with Plain English before the end of June 2016, the firm is offer savings, in celebration of their showroom re-design.
Karen Downing will be exhibiting in the Plain English showroom until the 31st May so there's still time to visit. You can also find her ceramics and more about Karen here.
Visit: Plain English, 28 Blandford St, London W1U 4BZ www.plainenglishdesign.co.uk
Special thanks: Flax PR