In The News
In this section you can find materials published in the news and other media associated with Heaven & Stubbs.
Beautiful Kitchen Magazine
The Great Wolford kitchen was featured in the Beautiful Kitchen Magazine, in July 2009.
Prestige Properties Article
This is an article taken from 'prestige properties' - January 2005 pages 14 - 18 and all copyright associated with this article belongs to Fine & Country ltd.
Made To Measure
The heart of the home; the most lived-in room of the house; the biggest magnet for home improvement spend yet we only change our kitchens once every 12 years. The available range is almost endless, so how do you choose the ultimate solution for your home? The answer is to go bespoke.
Research newly released by Hygena at Curry's highlights that 60% of us are unhappy with our kitchens. Space is top of the wish-list: 27% crave more storage space and 18% want some space to eat in the kitchen. The good news is that money spent on kitchens is a good investments. Andrew Winter, presenter of Channel 4's Selling Houses confirms, "Putting in a new kitchen or bathroom is always a safe and predictable way to spend money. Not only will you add considerably to the value of your home - you will also get a lot of pleasure from it."
You can drive to a store and tuck a flat-packed kitchen under your arm, drive it home and with a bit of nous, install it yourself over a weekend, so why would you choose to consult a specialist cabinet maker at considerable expense and time? The answer, of course, is that the instant solution mass-produced kitchen has all the build quality of a cardboard box. Invariably constructed from chipboard, carcasses literally dissolve on contact with any moisture, doors will warp with time, and finishes tend to scratch and deteriorate all too quickly. The other problem with buying 'off-the-shelf' is that one kitchen doesn't fit at all, and the personal is sacrificed for the general. Space is wasted as uniform-sized cabinets will usually not fit exactly the dimensions of your room, and of course, you end up with a kitchen replicated in thousands of homes across the country.
If you research carefully there are a number of true specialist kitchen-makers who really design and craft entirely unique kitchens using a wide range of the finest materials in construction and honed techniques in the making and fitting. Howard Stubbs, director of cabinet makers, Heaven & Stubbs, based in South Northamptonshire, has been commissioned by minimalist architect firms in London as well as servicing local (and highly loyal) customer base of Oxfordshire farmhouses and manor houses.
"We will do one-off projects that may seem impossible, individual to the point of eccentricity. People associate us with high quality classic-styled painted kitchens in what you might call the country house style, but we can turn our expertise to any style of project. We were commissioned by a City architect, to make a Wenge kitchen inlaid with aluminium, especially veneered, and while we are confident the kitchen will last for 15 or 20 years, I suspect the design has a five-year life span! But it was beautiful, absolutely contemporary and unique."
Clearly there are a number of high quality household names that may market their kitchens as 'bespoke' but what they actually offer are quality ranges, adapted to your individual space. If you buy a kitchen called 'Edwardian' or 'Shaker' somewhere there is a factory making hundreds of the same design to identical dimensions in identical finishes. If you are looking for a real tailor-made kitchen, you will invariably be seeking a specialist in unique cabinet-making.
Typically, a specialist firm will not employ a team of sales people, but manage the client relationship end-to-end at director level. This has the advantage that the person who first calls on you to discuss a potential commissions, has intimate knowledge of the process involved and has deep personal commitment to the success of the project. Whether you have a file of magazine cuttings of kitchens that you want to use as reference points or are looking for a specialist to come up with ideas, it helps to list essential requirements before the initial consultation. Always ask potential contractors for the names of customers you can perhaps call (and even visit) to see examples of the work. Expect some outline drawings and a detailed quote between five and seven days later. This is the point at which modifications are agreed, alternatives explored and sometimes the whole starting-point discarded and a return to the drawing board.
"Most people have unrealistic expectations in terms of space." Says Howard Stubbs, "We make detailed floor plans to include every possible item from appliances to freestanding tables and chairs. We will even look at the clients family and calculate the size of bin required. Our job is to create a kitchen that is not only aesthetically fabulous but also really works ergonomically to maximize the use of space. That is the beauty of bespoke design - we fit the brief not the other way round."
From the start of production (which may of course not be immediate on confirmation of order) most independent firms can complete a bespoke kitchen in six to seven weeks, with ten to 13 days spent fitting.
Materials And Trends
A mix of solid wood and MDF veneered with real wood or laminate are typically used in the construction of high quality kitchens,
"MDF is a highly effective material because it is moisture-resistant, dense and very strong. We use it with appropriate real wood laminates and with solid woods, particularly tulip wood to build durable, high quality kitchens. Confirms Howard Stubbs."
In older period properties in the country, most people opt for classic styles. Ever-popular are island units incorporating either cooking theatres or sink / dishwasher / food preparation zones. If the space is restricted it is often possible to use on side of the island unit as a breakfast bar.
Worktops can be made in any number of materials from glass to stone, but granite and corian continue to be the most popular; the former for its unrivaled durability and the latter for its flexibility and colour range.
"I'm not a real fan of corian" confesses Howard Stubbs, " It scratches and marks, and for a kitchen work top you need to feel the material will stand up to use. You can't beat the natural strength of granite. Years later it still looks like new, and no-one has had to be called in to re-sand it and re-seal it."
Some of the most important quality features of hand crafted cabinets are in a sense hidden. Who among us can recognize a solid brass butt hinge, properly fitted within a framed door method of joinery? And yet it is precisely this attention to high quality materials and making methods that marks out the custom-built from the off-the-shelf.
If you are choosing a painted kitchen it pays to have the unit sprayed professionally. Heaven & Stubbs maintains that the quality and durability of the finish they achieve is some 20 times superior to a regular egg shell applied conventionally.
"The special products that we use to spray cabinet work are nearer those used in cars than domestic settings with results as hard wearing" Confirms Howard Stubbs, "Then hand-gilding of decorative pillar heads and flutings in the columns are applied on top."
In more contemporary settings, particularly where a kitchen forms part of an open plan living area, capsule kitchens can be designed to uniquely fit a space and hide-away unsightly taps, appliances and even draining areas into an aesthetically pleasing piece of furniture. Mark Humphrey is a specialist in such paragons of modern style and his K003 kitchen also includes a wireless system control panel for motorized condiment cabinet that can also control audio visual systems, blinds, curtains and lighting. Welcome to the 21st Century.
Kitchen makers are basically joiners, so it is vital to cover the myriad of associated needs that come with any kitchen from lighting to plumbing, tiling to floor laying. Good firms will take on a whole project including installing appliances, drawing on regular specialist sub-contractors. Janice Underwood, satisfied Heaven & Stubbs client, confirms;
"They took care of the whole job from ripping out our old Wickes' kitchen to digging up the floor and coordinating plumbers, gas-fitters, electricians, plasters you name it. And yet they where always there too - I never felt I had been abandoned or they where off on another job. One of the reasons we opted to commission Heaven & Stubbs was that when I visited their workshop could see them physically making the cabinets. In fact you could smell the wood shavings before you got there. Whilst a well-known showroom I visited I just knew they where shipping in the cabinets all mass produced by some supplier but not hand made. We really wanted something special. We are fortunate to live in a lovely individual, stone house that with all the work we have done might be worth circa £800,000, and we wanted a kitchen that was very special in every detail. It hasn't been a cheap option but it has been worth every penny."
One of the benefits so many customers of bespoke kitchens cite is the personal service and attention to detail. Janice Underwood has a unique wood-framed bin on wheels, fitted with a black top to match her granite worktops, that she can wheel anywhere in the kitchen.
"It's my Dalek, and I love it." Idly mentioning that sometime she wanted to enclose the boiler under the stairs and fit an airing cupboard, Janice returned to the house to find that Howard Stubbs had taken care of it. " I hung a black bin liner on the glass door into the kitchen from the hallway so that no-one could see the kitchen until it was finished. Now everyone that comes to the house just goes 'wow' and I love it. I've even got a little flat screen TV that folds away, so that I don't have to miss my favourite programmes when I'm cooking anymore. How good is that?"
"Despite reservations about having a company doing major work in the house whilst we were on holiday, we were extremely pleased that all the messy and noisy jobs (knocking down walls, ripping up floors, plumbing, electrics, false ceilings) had been completed in our absence, leaving us to watch the kitchen units themselves go in (by far the most exciting phase!).
The resulting bespoke kitchen is very much how we had hoped and has been beautifully finished with touches that make it stand out from a mass produced model. Furthermore we have invited them back to do the cabinetry for our study."
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