In our latest Fresh Design interview, we chat about extraordinary kitchen appliances with Stephen Flower, a kitchen design enthusiast and the managing director of Ashford Kitchens & Interiors.
As managing director of Ashford Kitchens & Interiors, it’s Stephen’s responsibility to keep pace with a relentlessly evolving industry. He’s an expert in his field and November 2019 will mark 35 years of specialising in kitchens and bedrooms in and around London.
For Stephen, an enormous factor is sourcing the best kitchen appliances, which means knowing what is available not just in the United Kingdom but also in Europe and even further afield.
What is the trick to making sure you are always at the front of the pack when it comes to kitchen and interior design?
I would say it is a mixture of being innovative and also making sure we’re aware of all the latest developments within the industry. We piece together kitchens, bedrooms and home offices, sourcing from fantastic brands all over Europe and bringing them together to provide what we think is the best possible solution for our clients.
That means putting things together like a puzzle and not opting for second best. We take pride in hunting down the best possible solutions, and sometimes that means presenting appliances and designs that have never even occurred to our clients.
So appliances are key to competing in this industry?
Absolutely. Appliances are constantly reinventing themselves, and in a bigger way than you might think. It’s not as if the kettle is our only answer or that it will be our future for decades to come. Many things will come and go and it’s only the appliances that become more practical and efficient every year that will continue to have a place in our kitchens.
The more clutter in the kitchen, the more danger and the more stress. Nobody likes to see plug sockets and wires covering a countertop. The best appliances simplify things; they surpass their predecessors while requiring less energy and less space. Modern kitchen design is all about simplicity – sleek, minimalistic kitchens are all the rage these days.
We try to lead the line when it comes to kitchen design, and that means sourcing the very best appliances on offer around Europe. So yes, cherry picking the best appliances is essential.
Can you give me an example of a kitchen appliance you use that is steps ahead of what we already have?
Sure. Take the kitchen tap. You might not immediately see a way to improve this other than investing in a more durable and better-quality tap. I mean, if you look at it like this, the Roman Empire and other ancient civilisations had faucets thousands of years ago. People don’t realise it, but there are some cutting-edge taps out there today that merge several components of your kitchen and make everything so much simpler. One of our favourite suppliers is the Dutch company Quooker, which offers a fascinating appliance with an equally extraordinary background.
Quooker originates in the small town of Ridderkerk. Its founder, Henri Bernard Peteri, was studying at Delft’s University of Technology when World War II broke out, which is when Henri paddled across the North Sea in a canoe for 56 hours, joined up with the English forces and went on to be awarded the Bronze Cross. He then decided to dedicate his future to reinventing the tap and providing one of our favourite avant-garde kitchen appliances.
Henri figured that sink, faucet, kettle and fridge are all used to handle different types of water at varying degrees and all at a large cost. Want to clean something? Run it under the tap. Want filtered water? Grab it from the fridge. Want hot water? Boil it on a hob or fill up the kettle (which is a surprisingly huge drain on energy). Quooker takes all of these and combines them into one, providing a tap that’s insanely useful and versatile.
In terms of the technology behind it, the taps can dispense filtered and boiling water from an insulated tank acting like thermos flask under the worktop. It’s also energy efficient — something that’s becoming more and more important today — by using just 10 watts to keep the water at a steady hot temperature. Some of the taps also have a pull-out hose to provide additional functionality, as well as a boiling water stop to make sure it is safe to use.
Do you have any other examples of innovative kitchen appliances that you source from abroad?
Yes, of course. Another vanguard European appliance we’re obsessed with is the Neff oven. This actually originates from a little cottage in Germany in 1877, when a German locksmith called Carl Neff began experimenting with coal-burning stoves.
Today, Neff provides the world’s leading oven, which features the first slide-and-hide disappearing oven door, which is perfect for smaller kitchens or those who want to get the most out of their space. These ovens use signature technology to add moisture to the oven when it’s needed, and what we also like is what Neff calls its Flexinduction hob system, which heats a pan anywhere on the surface while keeping the rest of the surface cool. These advances add a new level of safety and mean those Sunday roasts are going to be second to none.
For more details about kitchens and kitchen design services, check out www.ashfordkitchensandinteriors.co.uk0