When renovating a kitchen, if quintessential English design is your thing, then a private consultation with Humphrey Munson in one of its two luxury showrooms has to be on your to-do list. The high-calibre cabinet maker doesn’t stop at kitchens however with projects across the country, as well as private commissions from across the globe, for any room requiring extraordinarily well-made cabinets, be it a dressing room’s wardrobes or a storage-centric pantry.
Here, Creative Director Louisa Eggleston reveals a few of the Humphrey Munson style secrets as well as advice on what to consider if you’re redesigning your kitchen.
Tell us a little bit about Humphrey Munson
“Founded in 1995 by Peter Humphrey, we use traditional joinery techniques to manufacture handmade cabinetry at our workshop in Felsted, Essex. Working with residential clients across the UK and overseas, the H|M brand reflects the perfect balance of heritage and innovation in creating spaces that bring a fresh, clean look to classic English cabinetry design.
“As a design-led kitchen company, our showrooms in Felsted, Essex and St. Albans, Hertfordshire are destination experiences because we really want a visit to one of our showrooms to be like stepping into a real home with fully functioning kitchens, utility/laundry rooms and boot room spaces and of course the always-coveted walk in pantry.
“For us, it’s all about ensuring the clients can experience what life would be like in an H|M kitchen."
"We use our kitchens just like our clients do and that’s what brings these spaces to life. It’s an authentic experience that our clients enjoy privately – we never have more than one meeting taking place at the same time and they can come into the design studio and office, take a tour of the workshops – even have lunch if that suits them.”
How would you describe Humphrey Munson's signature style?
“It’s a contemporary take on classic English design – the projects look fresh, clean but still very classic and undeniably English. The company has blazed a trail with a detail-oriented approach to the design, manufacturing and installation of the projects.”
“Whenever I’m asked this question, I’m always keen to reference the following quote from Peter Humphrey, our Founder and Design Director. Who better than him to encapsulate our closely guarded aesthetic?
"When it comes to the H|M style, I believe in the values of Georgian architecture – simplicity, proportion and balance – but I also love the crisp, fresh finish of clean, contemporary lines. It’s the combination of these qualities that give the spaces we design that calm, cool and understated look and feel.
“My love of classic English design is what underpins everything the design team do at Humphrey Munson."
"My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Munson, was a master cabinetmaker in the late 1800s in the East-end of London and his style was not dissimilar to my own – classic English furniture designed with simplicity and functionality at its core. Although there was then a gap where the family did not carry on with cabinetmaking, I then set up Humphrey Munson in 1995 after working as a cabinetmaker and kitchen fitter.
"When I was thinking of a name for the company, I chose ‘Humphrey Munson’ to reflect my two great passions – heritage and innovation”. Peter Humphrey, Design Director & Founder of Humphrey Munson.
Can you reveal any secrets behind your beautiful kitchen designs?
"We design and manufacture all our kitchens and cabinetry at our workshop in Felsted, Essex. We pride ourselves on using traditional joinery techniques combined with an innovative approach to the manufacturing process and a commitment to only the best quality materials. So everything we make is the best, we won’t accept anything less.
“Attention to the smallest of details is a huge driver in our quest for perfection, but also not being afraid to innovate and change the way we do things has ensured that we can consistently evolve our working practices to offer the very best product we possibly can.”
“It’s that precision at every stage that is so important to guarantee the perfect finish. We have an incredible team here who respect and share the company’s values and to have so many young, bright and enthusiastic cabinetmakers at Humphrey Munson makes me extremely proud. Traditional, handmade cabinetmaking is an art form so we invest in both our future and the future of the industry by offering apprenticeships.”
What is the most important thing to consider when planning the layout of a kitchen?
“A well-zoned kitchen is one that will work well, so ensure there is space for food prep, cooking, serving, dining, clearing away and all the other things that go on in kitchens these days. A spot to sit and have a cup of coffee, somewhere for children doing homework as well as suiting friends gathering for pre-dinner drinks – all these things have to be taken into account. The flow of the room will feel natural and cohesive if you keep in mind its scale and proportion, and don’t overload the space with cabinetry.”
Which features make a kitchen design timeless?
“Classic, well-proportioned cabinetry designed with clean, simple lines will always look timeless.”
What advice can you give when it comes to choosing the right colours for a new kitchen design?
“Colour on handmade timber kitchens should be embraced as these are the ultimate recyclable kitchens that can easily be updated in 10 years’ time. So we always say be brave with colour as you can always change it later down the line.
“We don’t follow trends at Humphrey Munson we just choose what we love and we advise our clients to do the same – there are no set rules to choosing colours for kitchens. Darker colours create instant mood and work well even in small spaces when they are balanced with other brighter elements such as the worktops and splashbacks. People say grey is out, but used in the right way you can create a beautiful room design using the right shade.
“Don’t get caught up on what’s in and what’s out, the only thing that matters is your vision for the space.”
“We love to use two to three colours in a kitchen design for the wall colour, perimeter cabinetry and island cabinetry. Using a darker colour on the island anchors it within the room and gives it real presence within the space – generally speaking, the bigger the contrast in colour, the bigger the wow factor when you walk in.”
At what point in the design process do you think about the styling of the kitchen and what is your thought process when choosing accessories?
“Once the layout is agreed and you’ve specified the finishes in terms of colours, hardware, worktops etc., that’s then the perfect time to start thinking about styling the kitchen. Of course you may have vision boards in place for reference throughout the design process, but definitely wait until the layout and design details are confirmed before specifying the accessories and styling of the room.
“When it comes to choosing accessories, it’s lovely to mix in existing pieces with new ones and create a layered feel to the room. Think about the scale and group decorative objects together in a way that feels natural and cohesive.”
If you had to give three pieces of advice to someone thinking about redesigning their kitchen, what would they be?
1. Always start with the question "how does this kitchen need to work?"
“Be completely honest with yourself about how you live. If it’s an open plan kitchen/dining area but you know you hate clearing away after meals, you can perhaps add a second dishwasher or keep the main sink/scullery area out of the way. Kitchens these days are really living rooms and they have multiple purposes throughout the day and late into the evening, so bear this in mind when you’re considering how you will use the space.”
2. When it comes to storage more is always more!
“We spend a lot of time during the design detail stage thinking about where everything is going to be stored so that the kitchen works perfectly and every single last item has a home.”
3. Lighting is key
“It should be considered and designed as soon as the layout of the kitchen is in place, layering in different lighting sources – e.g. ceiling lights, pendants, concealed cabinet lighting each provide essential lighting and be able to reflect the mood of the room – no one wants their low key dinner party in a kitchen lit up like an operating theatre.”
Finally, do you have any exciting new projects lined up for this year?
“Lots of really incredible projects will be installed this year all over the UK, some after many years of building works so it will be wonderful to see these come to fruition. We’re also launching a new range of bathroom vanity units which is a project we’re really excited about as well as some freestanding furniture including dining tables – one of the most requested additional furniture orders for our projects.”