Old-Fashioned

These Handbuilt Kitchens Are the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of


November 30, 2018 Design By Photo by Plain English
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From Issue Seven of Gear Patrol Magazine.

Spend enough time perusing Pinterest and you’re likely to stumble upon the kitchens of Plain English, a design firm based in Suffolk County, England, that custom manufactures cabinets and joinery made the old-fashioned way.

“Our approach is based on Georgian ‘below-stairs’ joinery, which was made for practical purposes and not intended to demonstrate wealth or style like the fancy furniture ‘upstairs,'” said Merlin Wright, the design director at Plain English. Hallmarks of the aesthetic, which dates back to the early 1700s, include neutral colors, simple materials (like wood and stone) and an emphasis on function over flourish. “For these reasons, it is quite timeless and, depending on how it is detailed, works well in both traditional and contemporary interiors,” Wright said.

Plain English kitchens start at $65,000 and typically take six weeks to finish.

Plain English has long been known to the global design cognoscenti but the company’s latest move reflects its desire to broaden its appeal. To celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, Plain English opened a showroom in New York City, its first outside of England. “We have been looking in America for the last three and a half years and felt that if we wanted to expand our market, this should be the first port of call,” said the brand’s cofounder and managing director Tony Niblock. “There is a shared cultural sensibility between us and we were aware that Americans appreciated the quality of what we produced. They just needed to be able to see, touch and feel a Plain English kitchen.”

While Wright and Niblock hope the new showroom will grow the company’s footprint abroad, Plain English will continue to manufacture its joinery as it has for the last two-and-a-half decades: from its workshops in Suffolk County, where experienced craftsmen work out of a converted Georgian farmhouse. “The cart lodge is now our paint shop, the old barn our spray shop, the pigsty our sheet material area and the two big grain-storage buildings have become our mill shop and assembly area,” Niblock said. “We are surrounded by green fields and it is a wonderful place to work.”

Plain English kitchens start at $65,000 and typically take six weeks to finish, with each cabinetmaker responsible for their own individual output. “Our cabinets are still made in a traditional way by hand,” Niblock said. “Although we are using modern methods to cut and join the cupboards, it’s an experienced joiner who assembles the parts, shoots in the doors and drawers and ensures that it is to the standard and quality we would expect.

“There are no cheap thrills,” he added, “just honest functionality.”

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A version of this story appears in Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Seven. Subscribe Now: $39