In the last few years, Humphrey Munson has leapt to the forefront of the British kitchen industry with their contemporary take on classic English design. Eschewing the usual kitchen design company format with sales teams and display-only showrooms, Humphrey Munson have blazed a trail with their design led approach and live kitchen spaces at their showrooms in St. Albans, Hertfordshire and Felsted, Essex, so much so that walking into a showroom feels like walking into a real home. I caught up with Peter Humphrey, Design Director, and Louisa Blackmore, Creative Director to find out more…
Grant Pierrus: How did Humphrey Munson begin?
Peter Humphrey: I started the company back in 1995 after years of honing my trade in cabinetmaking. I often get asked about the name “Humphrey Munson” – it comes from my surname Humphrey, and Joseph Munson – my great-great-grandfather who was a master cabinetmaker in the late 1800s in the east end of London. It’s my passion for traditional joinery techniques that underpins everything we do and although I love our heritage in this field, we love to innovate and evolve as a company, especially in the workshop.
GP: As the Design Director and Founder of H|M, what does your role encompass?
PH: Well the majority of my time is spent working with clients on their projects and managing the design team – I oversee every single project and we have trained every member of our design team in our methods of kitchen design. I think my background as a cabinetmaker has helped to ensure that the translation of design into reality is successful – each project is so different and can present a myriad of challenges that need to be overcome. From a business management point of view, I ultimately oversee all other aspects of the company which certainly keeps me busy.
GP: Louisa what does your role involve as the Creative Director?
Louisa Blackmore: My job is about aligning the strategic direction of the business with the creative direction of the business – essentially I oversee everything from a client’s point of view and I’ll typically be directly involved with clients at the beginning and the end of the projects. It’s a varied role and I deal with everything from the experience clients have when visiting one of our showrooms, to the brand strategy, marketing and PR, social media, working with appliance partners such as Gaggenau, Miele, Perrin & Rowe etc, right through to the home visits we offer after the projects are signed off.
GP: What is your design signature/style?
LB: Classic English design paired with clean, contemporary lines. Our love of Georgian architecture has really helped to inform the design values at H|M so although each project is very different and personal to the client, you’ll definitely notice the same themes of symmetry, simplicity and proportion throughout.
GP: What type of people do you love to work with as clients?
LB: Our clients come to us because they love the design aesthetic and the quality of the cabinetry – I’m naturally biased but it is outstanding – and also the quality of our service is what garners us such rave reviews. We love to work with clients who want to utilise our years of experience in design and manufacturing who want to work collaboratively on their projects to create really amazing dream kitchens that suit their needs perfectly.
GP: Can you tell us about a particularly exciting/challenging project?
PH: We recently completed a whole house project with a kitchen / dining / living space with just over 1440 square foot to organise. A key design goal was to create a space that suited the homeowners’ definition of modern family living: relaxed, spacious and understated. With two small children, the space needed to be divided up into kitchen, informal and formal dining and living areas, utility and boot room. In the beginning there were huge structural issues to overcome but working with the homeowners, the architects and the building team with an open-minded, collaborative approach made all the difference.
The open plan space for the kitchen, dining and living areas features bespoke Victorian cornicing throughout that was replicated from an original example and this balances perfectly with the cornicing of the classic English kitchen cabinetry design. We created a bespoke weathered oak finish for the kitchen and dining areas, which paired with soft grey painted cabinetry, is a special acknowledgement of the centuries-old oak trees in nearby Epping Forest. Creating a bespoke finish took time but gives the space a relaxed and natural feel the homeowners wanted to achieve: “we love the way the weathered oak finish looks and feels – it’s understated luxury at its very best”.
GP: Does your home reflect your professional style?
PH: Yes absolutely – I love classic English design with contemporary lines and all the modern conveniences we have become accustomed to. My kitchen at home has Nickleby cabinetry which suits the country setting and is a U-shape design with a Lacanche range cooker housed in a false chimney as the focal point. Countertop cupboards either side ensure heavy countertop appliances like the KitchenAid mixer and blender are always to hand but easily hidden away to keep the space feeling uncluttered and calm. The colour palette is from our own paint range with antique brass hardware throughout.
GP: If you had £20,000 to spend on a piece of kitchen equipment, what would it be and why?
LB: For me it would be a Wolf range cooker – the engineering and precision is just second to none and I love cooking with them. The temperature probe method of cooking just makes everything so much more relaxed – you can cook a big rib of beef and not have a moment’s worry that it’s going to be over done. I love the teppanyaki on the top for breakfast or doing stir fries and the chargrill is just fantastic.
GP: What’s your favourite part of your job?
LB: After the project is formally signed off by the project management team, we offer clients a complimentary home visit where I visit the project and go over all the appliances and accessories and the cleaning and maintenance of the kitchen. We are all about future-proofing so that our kitchens will look as good in 10, 15, 20 years’ time as they do now – maintenance is minimal but we like to have that time with clients to go over all the little tips and tricks we use in our own kitchens. If clients have specified something they haven’t used before, for example, a Wolf range cooker or a Miele steam oven, it can be really useful to go over all the key functions of the appliance – it’s always easier to have an in-person demonstration than reading an instruction manual!
GP: What’s next for your business/brand?
PH: We’re so looking forward to the rest of 2017 and the projects we have coming up for installation before Christmas – there are some really great spaces and it’s always fantastic to see projects finished particularly when some of them will have been in the pipeline for a few years.
LB: We’ve also got a new website launch for our stone company HM Stone Library and we’re also going to be making our lighting and furniture pieces available online which is really exciting and I can’t wait to share the designs – they are classic H|M in their aesthetic and expertly made by our incredible team of talented cabinetmakers.
GP: If someone reading this was about to begin their own kitchen redesign project, what would be your best advice to them?
PH: My top tip when planning your own kitchen is to think about the flow between the different zones and about how you want to cook, dine and socialise in the space, this way the functionality informs the design decisions you make. I love to cook so designing my kitchen in a u-shape gives me plenty of prep space with the range cooker easily accessible from both sides. Having the table in the kitchen creates an informal dining area which makes it a sociable space and incorporating an antique effect mirror splashback behind a range cooker is a great way of bouncing light across the room, but I also love the fact it means I can see what’s going on behind me when I’m cooking.
The Joinery Works, Gransmore Green, Felsted, Essex CM6 3LB
Tel; 01371 821300
Prices: from £40,000 excluding appliances