When designing our Islington store and cook school, we knew it had to reflect our values as a company: function, quality, and durability. Like in our Chiswick and Hampstead locations, our Islington shop needed to be a shop during the day and a cook school at night. But that transition needed to feel natural, with neither the shop nor the cook school feeling out of place. One of our challenges, for example, was the ability to comfortably fit twelve students around a 4-metre kitchen island. These fittings needed to be sturdy enough to withstand heavy daily use, both as a retail space and a cook school.
We wanted to partner with a company that would understand the nuances of our Islington Square space and celebrate the beauty of its challenges—to work with these challenges rather than around them. That’s how we fell in love with Rencraft.
Based in Sevenoaks, Kent, where all their furniture is made, they worked with us to consider our practical needs while also taking the time to understand and execute the specific ethos we wanted to convey. Like they did with us, Rencraft will see your vision of a perfect kitchen through to completion, working with you closely and attentively to consider all the ways you’ll use and interact with the space.
Function, Quality, Durability
When we choose a piece of kitchen- or tableware to carry on our shelves, our priorities have to do with how something works, if it works well, and whether it will last as long as possible. We tend to ignore aesthetics as we narrow down the list of what we look for in a product. So when a product meets these standards of function, quality, and durability and just so happens to look beautiful, we know we’ve hit on something valuable.
Everybody has different ideas of the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their bespoke kitchen, based on their space and how they want to use it. Whether you have a traditional townhouse in Hampstead or a Bermondsey warehouse conversion, Rencraft will work with you to fit a kitchen that respects the nuances and challenges of your space while bringing your exact preferences to life. If you’re not sure what your preferences are, they’ll present you with a plethora of options, from a traditional yet elevated shaker kitchen to ultra-modern flat cabinetry. (We have a hunch that the Borough Kitchen customer already has an idea of what they want, though.)
When designing a kitchen, a lot of us naturally tend to focus on how it looks. It is a design, after all. But since kitchens are functional spaces that are meant to interact with every day, the right question to ask when designing a kitchen is: How will this kitchen work for my home and my lifestyle?
Rencraft will ask and help you answer that question thoroughly, then turn all those ideas and wants into reality. You’ll be working with one person, the designer, from start to finish, as opposed to being passed through different hands and needing to reiterate your wants. Rencraft believes in building relationships with their customers, which is why so much of their business comes from word of mouth, and why they have many repeat customers. For example, after crafting their first kitchen in Sevenoaks, Rencraft went on to fit kitchens for all four of that first customer’s children. They can build kitchens around the UK, in Europe, and have even designed kitchens as far away as the Caribbean.
The process of making a Rencraft kitchen is very much a two-way exchange. First, you tell them how you want to use your kitchen. Do you like baking bread? They’ll suggest a proofing cupboard. Do you like entertaining? They’ll suggest a wine cooler. Do you have a young family? They’ll suggest a nook for gathering in, always directing you towards small practical considerations. A particular detail we loved when we visited their Kent workshop was how the larder had one shelf made of marble, which stays cool and is thus the perfect place to store eggs, olive oil, and nuts.
Your habits and how you plan to use your kitchen daily is how they will determine the flow and design of your space, and you, in turn, can respond and customise it to your exact preferences. From choosing the wood, colour, finish, style of cabinetry, the material of countertops, and so much more, with no stone left unturned. For example, at our Islington cook school, we knew we needed a countertop we could knead bread and pasta on, so we went with limestone.
In our Hampstead and Chiswick cook schools, we partnered with Gaggenau on appliances, and knew we wanted to do the same for Islington. After years of frequent use, we’ve found Gaggenau ovens to be strong and consistent, which is key for making sure dishes at our cook school turn out perfectly every time. We also like Gaggenau’s large fridges, powerful dishwashers, and ventilated hobs, which is key for ensuring smells from our cook school don’t linger on to the shop floor the next day. Rencraft has pre-existing relationships with many appliance manufacturers including Gaggenau, so they factored that into designing our kitchens. We’re especially happy with the Gaggenau steam oven and sous vide drawer that Rencraft built into the design in our office test kitchen.
The quality of a Rencraft kitchen speaks for itself, as anyone who has spent time in our Islington shop and cook school knows. This is primarily a result of how much control over the process Rencraft has over its product from start to finish.
Once Rencraft receives planks of wood, primarily oak, walnut, birch or poplar—always FSC-certified—they mill it on-site at their Sevenoaks workshop in Kent. This means designers can go straight to the source to check on progress and make adjustments if necessary.
Rencraft has been at the same Chart Farm workshop since their founding in 1980, and have built lasting relationships with the highly skilled craftspeople who bring their kitchens to life. The knowledge of the wood and the Rencraft product, and thus the quality control, is superlative. These kitchens are very much made by hand and there are no shortcuts. When we visited, we noticed that every door, drawer, and shelf being made in the workshop at that moment was slightly different from one another. Another thing we loved during our visit was how leftover wood was turned into briquettes, which are used to power the Chart Farm workshop throughout the winter—a circular process that protects the environment.
Rencraft is not a mass producer of the same kitchen models. Their speciality is very much bespoke kitchens that meet the unique needs of various customers and so the attention to detail is always hyper-precise. Your kitchen designer will happily give you a tour of the workshop, should you wish to see the action yourself.
Rencraft has worked with the same fitters and painters for decades, and they will arrange for them to work in your home on the date you decide. Due to the unparalleled knowledge their partners have of their products, you are guaranteed a smooth process from conception to completion.
Rencraft founder Nick Pile was an engineer before he turned his expertise to handcrafted furniture, and this background has resulted in the company’s mission to make kitchens that are designed to stand the test of time. Every detail is considered for this purpose, resulting in items like moisture-resistant end panels, virtually indestructible comb-jointed drawers, plywood kitchen carcasses that resist movement, and wood that is double-kilned (to prevent warping or cracking over time). This is a primary reason Rencraft sees so many repeat customers over time—their kitchens are made for practical use.
‘As a company, Borough Kitchen’s values are very similar to our own, with a shared focus on quality, longevity and functionality,’ says John Stephens, Rencraft’s Managing Director. ‘As a team, we approached designing their Islington cook school and test kitchen in the same way we approach all our projects, by getting to know the client and working with them to create two carefully considered designs which not only meet but exceed expectations.’
And it’s not just us who love Rencraft! They’ve received numerous accolades in recent years, like the 2020 British Design & Manufacturing Award and 2021 Houzz Awards for Design and Customer Service.
If you already have a kitchen you love but want to take a little bit of a Rencraft kitchen home, consider the Borough Kitchen x Rencraft Butcher’s Block here
(from £3,550). Handcrafted in Sevenoaks, it is topped with end-grain wood perfect for chopping as well as preparing dough, and comes in two signature colours. Delivery is available within Kent and the M25 area; quotes for other areas can be calculated upon request.
For more information on Rencraft, visit their website here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment. Their modular kitchens start from approximately £35,000, and bespoke kitchens start from approximately £45,000.