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The Evolution of Kitchen Design

As the founder of Real Wood Kitchens, Dominic Harrison has been dreaming up and installing some of the most enviable, high-spec kitchens on the market for the last 15 years
"The public has far more freedom in choosing the exact shade that they want. Colour is no longer an obstacle – what you see, you can have."

There has been quite a cultural shift over the past decade in terms of how the kitchen is used by families, and trends in both layouts and materials have changed accordingly. Exclusively for OX, Dominic has given us his expert insight into how the role of the ‘heart of the home’ has changed over the years.


Over the years that I've been making kitchens, we've gone from regarding the kitchen as what you would call a 'working' room, where people specifically go into the kitchen to cook, to being one of the most social areas of the house. People have grown to enjoy socialising whilst cooking, as well as cooking alongside friends and family. The kitchen now needs to be as convivial as the living room, if not more so. On top of this, if you watch any cooking show on TV, the professionals are now showing the viewer how easy it is to cook beautiful food, and most of us have become more experimental with our cooking. We’re more adventurous with ingredients, and there’s a much wider variety of produce available to choose from. This has translated into a growing trend for kitchens with working stations – hobs and sinks that are in island units, so you can face other people whilst cooking. Nobody wants to stare at the wall whilst preparing dinner, which was very much the norm 10 years ago.


A decade ago, hardwood and timber kitchens were very much on trend. The vast majority of bespoke kitchens would use oak, maple or cherrywood – you wouldn’t see many painted kitchen cabinets. Since then, there’s been a revolution in terms of how you can select a paint – nowadays you can create a paint from the colour of any object, so the public has far more freedom in choosing the exact shade that they want. Colour is no longer an obstacle – what you see, you can have. With timber, you’re more restricted in terms of the grain and the finishes that are available. With painted kitchens, the world is your oyster.
The options available for worktops have also hugely expanded – I create a lot of kitchens for people that want very clean, modern-looking materials like polished concrete and man-made stone composites. Again, 10 years ago you would mostly just see timber and granite.

I mentioned the stone composite, but there are a lot of other materials that people are being brave with when it comes to worktops – for example, you can get polished concrete now, and we do a lot in stainless steel. It's very much an area that people are feeling that you can experiment with. 10 years ago it was very much just timber and granite. There's a lot more scope for different materials now.


Back in the early 2000s, most people would opt for a door with a nice moulding, with a bit of feature to it, but then the shaker style became very popular – these are single-panelled doors with stiles and rails which surround it. In the present day, the most fashionable style of door is a completely flush, handleless type which follows the trend for minimal, clean design which has flourished in the last five years or so.

Based on the historical site of Blenheim Palace Sawmills, Real Wood Kitchens have been working in the same industry that has been on their site since early Saxon times. The site, now known as Combe Mill, is a sawmill belonging to the Blenheim Estate and the Duke of Marlborough. With the mill as a backdrop, and encyclopaedic knowledge of prestige quality and attention to detail in the world of furniture making, Real Wood Kitchens truly create furniture worthy of a place in a palace.


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