As with Johnny Grey's previous book "the art of kitchen design" this effort is his personal manifesto highlighting his views and philosophy on kitchen design. It also shamelessly doubles up as a brochure for his company's products.
The main purpose of this book is to point out the alleged superiority of what Johnny calls the "unfitted kitchen" (a kitchen furnished with freestanding bespoke cabinets) over the standard Fitted kitchen; and Johnny's personal belief that a kitchen should no longer be just a room to cook in but should be integrated with the living room area to become one big living space, and in the future all houses should become a room-less environment with the kitchen as the central hub.
Now this is all fine and dandy as far envisioning a new concept is concerned. However if you are buying this book to aid you in designing your own kitchen you will be sorely disappointed. Firstly all of the kitchen cabinets that Johnny has shown are bespoke handmade specialist items. You need a big budget to afford them, (and by big budget we're talking over £60,000) If you try to recreate the look using standard modular kitchen units that 99% of the retailers use (from Poggenpohl to Ikea), you will find that it is not possible (those unit are not designed to be stand alone cabinets and have set door and drawer sizes). Another thing is that a lot of the projects mentioned in this book have had extensive alterations done to the infrastructure of the house, e.g knocking down walls, building extensions etc; again most of us might not have the funds to carry out such expensive changes,which are essential for the designs to work. In that regard it's almost like having a Rolls-Royce or Rolex brochure, sure it's fun looking at the pretty pictures and dreaming of what it would be like to own such luxury items but in real world applications its not helpful at all. .
Secondly lets for arguments sake say you are blessed with wealth and have a nice big house and have a large budget. Johnny's designs only make sense if share his views and lifestyle, they are part and parcel of his personal philosophy and therein lies the problem. It is very obvious from reading the text that Mr Grey see's the world from the perspective of a middle aged (im being polite here), middle class, Anglo-Saxon, Family man. Quite a lot of the reasoning behind some his points are based on this perspective, for example Johnny advocates knocking down walls separating the kitchen and living room and placing the kitchen workstation where you have a clear view of the living room so you can interact with the people in the living room. This if fine if you have a large family and wanna keep an eye on your kids while you cook, but let's say you don't have kids, your single and live alone, therefore being able to look into the living room from the kitchen to keep tabs on your children will not matter to you.
On a personal note, my views and lifestyle is considerably different from the English middle class values that Johnny clearly embodies. I can give numerous examples of why the principles of his kitchen design don't apply to me. For example the principle of melding the kitchen and living room into one space; if I have a busy week at work the dishes tend to pile up (I'm ashamed to admit it but its true) in circumstances like this im glad that there is a wall separating my messy kitchen from any guests that I invite over. Also if I'm inviting a friend over who has a cold, I rather he/she wouldn't be sneezing or coughing in close proximity to where I prepare and cook my food, if I had an open plan kitchen like the ones that Johnny designs I would get paranoid about germs drifting over. If I'm cooking a strong curry I rather the pungent aroma stays away from my living room (I don't care how strong an extractor is it won't stop odours wafting over.) If I'm watching TV I don't wanna hear the rumble of a washing machine. If (God forbid) a fire breaks out in the kitchen I would feel safer knowing that it is contained within a seperate room rather then spreading quickly to the living room area. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that an open plan kitchen is not necessary for a functional and happy working environment.
On a positive note the actual kitchens themselves are unique and innovative (for the price they retail for they bloody well should be!),cant really fault the designs and the custom cabinets. Its the critism of mainstream kitchen suppliers and designers who cater to normal clients who have a modest budget that gets me.It seems the author doesnt realise that he is coming off as a little arrogent, in a Harry enfield "I-am-considerably-richer-than-you" kind of way. In my personal experiance as a kitchen planner budget is the most important factor in making decisons, infact it dictates a clients choices,more so then the "natural arch of the sunlight" or whether or not there is a space for a dresser to show off the china(Most people on a tight budget dont care for such frivolous things).In an ideal world where we all have the funds to have the kitchens of our dreams we would all have something unique,but fact of the matter is we dont and have to settle for something mass produced, and therefore the critism of other designers is unfair as they are fulfiling a market need. Not only that but he fails to realise we are all different; some people like apples some like oranges, and some people like to have their kitchens look like modern minimalist food labs (like Heston Blumenthals.) All the cabinets in this book have shaker door panels, there is no use of a sleek straight glossy slab door. If you are intending to buy a modern minimalist handless glossy slab door kitchen there is nothing this book to to inspire you.
There is a whole lot of things that I would like to write about, especially about the the biased and one sided arguments presented, but in conclusion this book is not the definitive guide on how to design a kitchen, most of the points and idea's discussed inside it won't apply to you. It reads like a mix between a university thesis and a glorified sales brochure. Would be interesting to see how Johnny would fare if he had a client with a small budget and a small room, and whether or not he would still adhere to the principles of his philosophy.Buy only if you wanna see how the other side lives and gain an insight in the kitchens of the rich.