Monthly Archives: August 2015

Design Inspiration: Butcher Blocks

If you need an extra surface for food preparation that also offers a warm aesthetic, strong finish, and anti-bacterial properties, end grain butcher block worktops may be just what you are looking for.

Butchers blocks have a long – if not exactly illustrious – history! Originating in China, the blocks were traditionally made out of anything that was available: a long tree stump or log, or even a smooth stone! But what is it that sets a butcher block apart from a regular chopping board? The construction, for one thing: the material needs to be suitable for direct cutting and meat preparation (such as deboning, chopping and filleting, which can be extremely intensive); the board also needs to be thick enough to withstand this pressure.

An end grain butchers block is the perfect combination, therefore: the construction means that the end of the wood’s fibre is exposed. This edge is resistant to cuts and is very dense and durable. It also creates an extremely attractive, natural finish.

There a number of ways in which an end grain butcher block can be integrated into your kitchen; whether as an addition to an island, a standalone item, or even as a surface for a portable trolley (an excellent space-saver). We provide end grain butcher blocks in a variety of different timbers, ensuring that there is a choice for all bespoke kitchen designs – whatever the layout or style.

Design Inspiration: Butcher Blocks
Design Inspiration: Butcher Blocks

Summer Sponsorship: Ballet in Prague

This year we’ve been delighted to continue our sponsorship of talented young ballet dancers; and over the summer this has enabled two promising second-year students from the English National Ballet School, Isabella Swietlicki and Drew Jackson, to attend a summer school in Prague. It’s a city close to our heart, of course – we not only sell luxury kitchens from our Cheltenham showroom, but also have a base in Cestlice, Prague.

Anyway, back to ballet (!): we caught up with the Isabella and Drew recently and gleaned some insight into how they’ve been spending their days – from dining to sight-seeing (and a little bit of dance, too!)

What’s an average day been like at the summer school?

Isabella: The day would typically start with a lovely walk through some of Prague’s historical streets to the beautiful studios. The first class of the day was general ballet class, for both boys and girls. We were divided into three groups, and we had different teachers on different days, which gave us the benefit of different teaching styles and helped us to become more versatile dancers. After this would be variations (solos) class, with girls being taught separately from boys. Lunch was in the canteen, in a beautiful part of the building, and offered us a nice selection of healthy food. The afternoon would be a single session of either pas-de-deux, or repertoire or contemporary –the different groups were rotated on different days. The classes were always challenging but also really enjoyable; the atmosphere was hard working but very friendly.

What’s your favourite thing about studying abroad?

Drew: My favourite thing about studying abroad is meeting other young aspiring dancers from all over the world. You can learn a lot from watching how they dance with a different technique or style depending on where they come from. It’s amazing to see students from so many different places and schools all sharing their love for dance together. It is actually really inspiring.

Best moment so far?

Isabella: I have to say I had two best moments –at the end of the first week I was chosen by Evgenia Obraztsova for the girls’ solo prize, and the second week I was awarded it again, chosen by Roberta Marquez. That was a lovely surprise, as I never expected anything like that.

Drew: The best bit so far has to be taking part in Isaac Hernandez’ technique classes and solo coaching. His passion for ballet blew me away and he was able to inspire a whole room of young men to work hard and improve their dancing. It was an absolute pleasure to experience his coaching along with all the other teachers on the course.

It’s been lovely to hear from Isabella and Drew, and we’re so glad to hear that their time in Prague has been stimulating and successful. We wish them all the best for the rest of the summer and new school year!

How to choose worktops for solid oak kitchens

Choosing which surfaces would best suit your kitchen can be tricky – but this is one of the most important considerations for any new design. Fortunately, there are many fantastic options for solid oak kitchens: from laminate to granite and, of course, solid wood.

Each material has its own benefits. Here are some key considerations for the three most popular worktop materials:

Laminate worktops


How to choose worktops for solid oak kitchens

Courtesy of House to Home

Positives:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Easy to fit – can be installed on a DIY basis rather than by a professional.
  • Fairly durable – stains and chemicals are easy to wipe off, though take care not to place anything heated on the surface.

Negatives:

  • Can mimic other worktop materials such as granite or even wood, but cannot replicate the natural quality of these materials.
  • Arguably less pleasing in terms of aesthetic/style than other worktop options.

Solid wood worktops

Positives:

  • Easy to maintain. A regular programme of oiling is required but once sufficient protection has been achieved, little is required to keep wood worktops looking their best.
  • Easy to repair. It’s best not to leave anything hot, wet, or dirty on the surface as this can cause marks to appear; however, scratches and stains can be easily repaired by sanding the worktop and re-oiling.
  • Naturally hygienic. Hardwoods possess antibacterial properties and some are rich in oil, which means that they are naturally water-resistant.
  • Unique, versatile aesthetic. No two timbers are exactly alike so the finish is guaranteed to be unique from kitchen-to-kitchen; moreover, there are a wide selection of timbers on the market, so there is a stylish choice for any design scheme.
  • Easy to fit. Can be installed on a DIY basis.

Negatives

  • Not suitable for direct cutting and more prone to scratches (though these tend to be easy to repair) than a harder material like granite.
  • A natural product so correct maintenance and installation procedures must be followed to allow the wood to move (a natural occurrence due to changes in environmental climate) and prevent warping.

Granite worktops

Positives:

  • Extremely durable. Granite is water-tight and almost completely resistant to staining – though wine and citric acids must be mopped up immediately if spilt. It can also withstand high temperatures.
  • Easy to maintain. Requires an initial sealing but then nothing for about ten years – simply clean with a damp cloth and detergent and granite worktops will remain in fine condition.
  • Luxurious, versatile aesthetic. A popular material that will never go out of style, and suits both modern and more traditional kitchens. A variety of colours and finishes are available.

Negatives:

  • Specialist fitting required. Granite can be cut into a number of bespoke shapes but this must be done by a specialist; an experienced fitter is also required. The process can be lengthy and costly.

Ultimately, the worktop that you choose should reflect your own needs and style. If you have a young family, for example, heavier materials like granite may not be ideal – bumping into overhanging edges would be painful. However, if you are a keen cook, a highly-resistant material like granite may be ideal. Wood worktops, by contrast, offer a fantastic ‘middle-ground’ for those looking for an attractive worktop that is easy to customise (edges can be smoothened for high traffic areas, for example) and is fairly durable, whilst providing a unique and attractive aesthetic.

If you would like to discuss surfaces or any other aspect of your kitchen, our team of designers are happy to offer expert advice; simply pop into our Cheltenham showroom or contact us to chat about your kitchen project.

Get Ready for Baking: Three Tips for Luxury Kitchens

Well, it’s official: baking fever has swept the country! The first episode of the new series of the ever-popular BBC television programme, the Great British Bake Off, aired last night: and since the familiar theme tune trilled to a close, we’ve been dreaming about the perfect kitchen for baking.

So, whether you’re considering revamping your own space or would like an entirely new bespoke kitchen design, here are some of top tips for preparing your kitchen for baking bliss!

1. Consider your counters.

As much space as possible is welcomed when it comes to baking, so if you can squeeze some extra surface area in, go for it. If not, why not purchase a rolling trolley? This can be handy for storage as well as providing an extra butcher block type surface for chopping and rolling (and can then be tucked away when not needed). Material and height are also important considerations; marble is ideal for baking, as it provides a cool, smooth surface for pastry making. Serious bakers should also give thought to investing in counters of custom heights – one size does not fit all when it comes to rolling out dough!

2. Invest in the right appliances.

Range cookers or double ovens are often considered a necessity for bakers – finished with a warming drawer, if you can find one. Less essential but still handy would be a bottom-freezer refrigerator: plenty of recipes require refrigeration prior to baking, and side by side fridge-freezers often don’t provide the width to accommodate baking pans. And don’t forget to reserve space for a ‘tech’ corner. There are lots of recipes online, along with instructional videos; many modern bakers now include a dedicated space for an iPad stand, television or computer within their kitchens (perhaps close to their vast array of cookbooks, for baking cross-comparison!)

3. Don’t skimp on storage.


Get Ready for Baking: Three Tips for Luxury Kitchens

Courtesy of Emily Carlin

As a baker you will need easy access to various things – recipes can contain many steps and time can also be of the essence. Consider open shelving, pull-out shelves, and storage pegs for easy access to items like mixing bowls, ingredients, pots and pans, and rolling pins.


Get Ready for Baking: Three Tips for Luxury Kitchens

Courtesy of House to Home

We hope that this post has inspired you to roll those sleeves up and get baking! Though do remember, if you’re looking for help to design the culinary kitchen of your dreams, our team aren’t just Bake Off fans – we’re designers and fans of luxury kitchens, first and foremost. Please pop into our showroom or contact us if you’d like to discuss a kitchen project.