Design Brief

IN THIS PROJECT we were asked to design and build a kitchen with as few straight edges as possible. The worktops were to be a combination of granite and timber and for the cabinets we agreed on a combination of flamed and spalted beech. As the sink unit was situated in front of a window with an old set of broken shutters, we were also asked to replace these with working shutters that matched the kitchen. A smaller than average doorway to negotiate all the furniture through, offered an additional design challenge. All the units with the exception of the dresser had to be flat packed and rebuilt onsite.

Situated in the beautiful Scottish Highlands approx 60 miles North of Inverness this has been our furthest away and most challenging project to date.

The Process

The room in which the kitchen was to be deigned was large with a high ceiling, two large windows a glazed back door and an old black Caithness slate floor. Although a bright room the large black slate floor made the room feel cold.

With our client keen to explore curves we designed a large sweeping s shaped curved unit with a matching curved granite top, which met you as you entered the room. This drew you into the focal point of the kitchen, the large cream AGA. As you walk around the first convex bend you are led round the curved granite topped island unit to its concave front drawer set directly in front of the AGA. The curve continued on the opposite side of the room, the surfaces changing from granite to timber with a sweeping natural edge, wrapping around the large double Belfast sink and continuing up to the back door.

The choice of water marked or (flamed beech) for the main cabinets and worktops was based on its warm reddish colours, typical of Scottish beech. For the door insert panels and drawer carcasses we used spalted beech, its black patterns tying in closely with the Caithness slate floor. As the spalted panels also carried some of the flamed red colour through it, the overall effect was gave the room a warm welcoming feeling. Opposite the AGA and to the right of the main entrance was an open wall area ideal for a freestanding dresser.


We fine-tuned the original design in accordance with our client’s wishes, making it a little smaller with a few more drawers. We then completed the working drawings and processed the timber, selecting the watermarked boards for the side panels and drawer fronts and quarter sawn straight-grained boards for the doorframes. The base was made from a solid laminated piece of 32mm material with a natural edge to the front, which was mirrored by the top. The design incorporated turned feet, which were fitted with a spigot through the base, glued and wedged. This provided a solid platform onto which the rest of the unit could be constructed.

We made the doors from inverted natural edged stock, with mitered corners and fitted the insert panel from the inside with raised bead sets. The drawers were all dovetailed and fitted into traditional wooden runners. We agreed on simple face grain turned handles for the whole kitchen.

The upper section of the unit had a number of smaller drawers with open shelves in the middle and panelled doors either side. A double socket was also fitted in the centre of the unit to provide a charge point for mobile phones. (A place for everything and everything in its place).

The side panels of the upper unit were cut from a single piece just above the heart, highlighting the natural water markings of Scottish Beech.

Island Unit

A helping hand

The island unit design was based on the premise, that at the physical centre of the kitchen it would become the main preparation and focal area of the kitchen.

The overall shape consisted of 3 convex and 1 concave curve. The convex curve faced the AGA and provided storage in the larger bottom drawers for all the cooking pots & pans, with a shallow top drawer providing easy access to cooking utensils.

The fronts were cut from 100mm blocks of kiln dried stock to form the concave curve these were then fitted to large dovetailed, solid bottomed carcasses. Due to the overall size of the drawers we used large heavy duty runners capable of carrying up to 120KG each, or 3 small children per drawer, we tested them!

On each of the sides was a pair of right hand hinged curved doors, on one side was an area for bins and the other for general storage. Being right handed they both gave easy access from the front. The granite top was designed to incorporate an additional surface bin which is used for vegetable cuttings and general food waste. The back was v lined matching the end of the sink unit and the back of the dresser and allowed for a small seating area and space for some smaller cook books. The base was constructed from a solid laminated slab, shaped accordingly and fitted with 6 turned feet to match the dresser, providing a solid base for the unit to sit comfortably on.

Steam bent insert panels

Sink Unit and Shutters

The sink unit was just short of 4m in length with a 45 degree turn on the inside corner of the room towards the AGA. On the 45 degree turn we fitted a standard under counter fridge with a white door. This was mirrored on the opposite corner of the room for visual balance and to give adequate cool storage. On the opposite side of this unit we provided a plumbed space for a dishwasher.

The large double Belfast sink was selected for its depth and width, making it suitable for cleaning the largest cooking pots and pans. The taps were a triflow design with a ceramic water filter fitted below the sink to provide a purer drinking water supply. Unlike previous Belfast sink installations, in which the fronts of the sinks were left uncovered, we built this one into the unit. This gave the front edges of the sink additional protection and allowed us an opportunity to design an inscription, which we sand blasted onto the sink front covering panel.

The top was made from 45mm solid beech with a natural front edge, this was fitted into the window alcove, providing a deep worktop. The worktop turned the corner over the fridge and joined up to a curved granite slab next to the AGA. The two doors below the sink were constructed from inverted natural edged stock, matching the dresser. On either side of the sink unit we fitted two, five drawer sets, balanced between the opening for the dishwasher and the fridge.

After removing the old shutters and facings, we lined the existing boxes, and the top of the alcove with beech v lining. We constructed a pair of shutters from inverted natural edged stock with an additional lipped panel making up the width of the window. We also made a set of natural edged beads for the opposite side as these would be seen when the shutters were in their closed position. Natural edged facings and upstands finished of the back of the worktops and the shutter boxes.

Curvy Unit

This unit was designed to encourage you visually and ‘physically’ into the room where previously a large flat unit discouraged this idea! This unit tries to echo the idea that, in our opinion, a family kitchen should be a welcoming warm place for everyone!

The S shaped granite worktop curves across a 3.5m length to meet the AGA and covers a solid framework incorporating 7 doors and 7 drawers. The first 2 sets of convex doors provide access to a large semi circular cupboard with a single split curved shelve. The drawer set is situated at the conjunction between the two radiuses that make up the s curve. This required a hand cut, double curved front to be made, which was fitted to the dovetailed solid bottomed carcases. The next concave set of doors was positioned at the narrowest part of the curve, equidistant from its centre. This was followed by a space in which we fitted the second under counter fridge at 45 degrees to the room, leaving space for a small cupboard with a concave door to finish.

Granite Tops and Splash Backs and Shelves

Due the variety and variation of the granite available, we always have our customers visit Toffolo for the final selection before cutting. Invariably a sample selected in our showroom is changed when seen in a full ‘scant’ size of approx 3m x 2m, many of which are works of art in their own right! When selected we supplied Toffolo with a cad file of the worktops. This is then CNC cut and the edges hand polished to finish. In this case Toffolo’s team also fitted the granite, with the exception of the island unit which we fitted at a later date.

After the granite installation had been completed we fitted a natural edged shelve above the AGA splash back, which helped soften the hard edges of the granite.

Success is carved slowly and with care. — Pam Brown (1928)