The terms ‘bespoke’ and ‘off-the-peg’, now commonly associated with kitchen manufacture, originate from the tailoring industry, when they were used to differentiate between custom-made items of clothing and ones which were mass-produced. When customers selected the material that was going to be used to make their made-to-measure clothing, it was said to “be spoken for”.
More recently, the word ‘bespoke’ has been adopted by other industries to offer an item or service that is tailor-made to a customer’s requirements, however whilst many kitchen companies in the marketplace advertise “bespoke” kitchen design, few offer a truly bespoke service.
A bespoke kitchen must fulfil certain criteria to qualify. Aside from the custom-design of the layout, the joinery (including the carcass, floor and wall cupboards, and worktops) should be made to the specific width, height and depth dimensions requested by the client, so that an exact fit is achieved when installed into the allocated space. The design of the cupboards should also be original, created through a combination of the clients and designers ideas, and not one chosen from a limited selection of pre-existing patterns.
This level of design and service can come at a great expense (kitchens begin at £20,000) and few homeowners are able to afford such a price tag. However, for those who have smaller budgets and are looking for quality kitchens with design integrity, there are alternatives available that won’t break the bank.
Due to the nature of off-the-peg kitchen production, the choice of material, size and design available is limited; however quality of manufacture should not be sacrificed. When beginning your search, pay attention to the standard of materials that have been used to make each kitchen.
Carcasses are commonly made from MDF, a manmade fibreboard, or alternatively, plywood, made from thin sheets of wood veneer. Both materials are particularly practical in kitchen manufacture as they are resistant to cracking, warping and shrinkage, which could occur if solid wood were used, given the frequent change in room temperature.
Cupboard façades however do not need to be entirely constructed from MDF. British Standard makes their cupboard façades from Poplar wood, with MDF used only for the central door panels, to ensure that the door’s shape and rigidity are maintained.
Strong cupboard door hinges are also a good indication of quality. Many kitchens that have MDF façades use T-hinges, as they are inexpensive and do not need to hold as much weight as if the doors were made from wood. Flush mounted onto the door, the T-hinge is functional, however not very aesthetic.
Drawn hinges however are effective in both roles; used as a traditional hinge by joiners and craftsmen for wooden furniture, the drawn hinge recesses neatly into the door, and jamb of the cupboard carcass, leaving the central pins showing when the door is closed. Removing the pins allows the door to separate away from the carcass without adjusting the hinge itself, a particularly useful feature if you want to take the door off for cleaning or maintenance. British Standard uses traditional drawn brass hinges on its kitchen cupboard doors, to ensure quality and visual appeal in equal measure.
Finally, look at the way the kitchen drawers have been constructed. Cheaper, off-the-peg kitchen drawers will often be made as boxes, with attachable screw-on fronts that match the door façades. However, British Standard drawers are made as joiners would have made them 200 years ago, in one piece, with dovetailed joints used at the front, and back, to ensure the kitchen’s longevity.
About The Author:
British Standard makes affordable, off-the-shelf cupboards for kitchens, larders and utility rooms, by hand in its Suffolk workshop. Normally kitchens of this quality come with a high price tag but by removing the design, fitting and delivery service and offering a limited range of standard sized cupboards, British Standard prices are incredibly competitive. They provide floor cupboards, tall cupboards, worktops, kitchen upstands and oven housing at their online shop or at their London showroom.