Are we deserting the dining room?

Former 'Great British Bake Off' judge, Mary Berry, has made headlines this week for claiming that she and her husband are done with their dining room. That they prefer to use their kitchen. That their kitchen is more 'homely' and 'informal.' 

Read more from The Times.

Mary Berry! Yes!


In the years we have been designing and making kitchens, the kitchen - the hub of the home, the cog that keeps family-life fuelled and friends fed; where we eat and entertain; and, where we work (I am at my island right now!) and play - has become a show-piece. With sparkly worktops, appliances you don't want to hide and painted cupboards in shades crafted over weeks of contemplation, the kitchen is where we choose to be sociable.

Not the dining room!

 Open-plan entertaining: dining, island-seating - a sociable space. Loved too by lovely doggy, Toffee.

Open-plan entertaining: dining, island-seating - a sociable space. Loved too by lovely doggy, Toffee.

 Open-plan living: space enough for friends and family.

Open-plan living: space enough for friends and family.

We can be more sociable in a kitchen - more relaxed, more creative. The trend to live open-planned means that in our busy and often very chaotic lives, we can still cook, chat, work, eat together.

All at once, if we want! All at once, if you have small children ... bah!

The open-plan kitchen-dining room involves everyone.

 There is no island in a dining room, around which a toddler can run 100 times, while you're serving up pancakes on a Saturday morning.

There is no island in a dining room, around which a toddler can run 100 times, while you're serving up pancakes on a Saturday morning.

As for the island - I may be working at mine right now, but - it is a focal point. Like a centre-stage, with seating - it involves the chef and the guests; I can cook whilst talking to my friends or watching my children play in the garden.

With huge followings for TV cookery and baking shows, we love to watch food being prepared and cakes being made. It is no surprise that we want to be in the kitchen.

 And, who would not want to be entertained in a kitchen as wonderful as this one?

And, who would not want to be entertained in a kitchen as wonderful as this one?

Not sure I mentioned that there is no wine cooler in a dining room, either. 

Mr and Mrs Collins' Alpine Adventures for the William Harvey's NICU

With the holidays finally finished, the children returned to their better places of productivity, and giving Mrs Collins, the ability to work properly, again, we thought it about time to update on our joint charitable venture. You see, at the end of July, Nick and I did something quite mad - to thank the William Harvey's NICU/SCBU.

In June 2014, our little boy kicked his way into this world 10 weeks before he should have. He was taught to breathe and survive by miracle-workers, who do this sort of thing, daily, in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent. We have been wanting to do something, for some time, to thank them. 


Often, I take bits and pieces to them for use in the family room - colouring books, stickers, etc., - we had a sibling who needed entertaining too! However, we wanted to do something that took a lot of effort and commitment - to show our appreciation and to raise money for them.

So, Nick entered the Alpe d'Huez long course triathlon; and, I did the shorter - but, very intensely fast - Alpe d'Huez Duathlon.

And, wow! Beautiful events but, very, very, VERY tough terrain. 

Training for these events did take a lot of energy - mentally and physically. However, as the sponsorships increased, our commitment had to, too. 

We did complete the events! I was, amazingly, the 10th woman overall and 1st female Brit. That warranted quite a large glass of wine. Nick's event was tougher - much tougher - and still, he was a top 10 British finisher.


Above all, we have raised over £600 for East Kent Hospitals Trust - with the focus being on NICU and SCBU. We have not yet closed the Just Giving page and won't until the end of October ... I have one more thing I want to try to boost the funds ... Watch this space!

If you would like to help by donating, click here - our link to our JustGiving page.

In addition, we are hoping to become official sponsors of the new Tiny Toes charity, launched this year.


Wine Cooler Me Down!

I absolutely love the warm weather. It reminds me of Mediterranean escapes and the ‘big’ summer holidays: loved as a child – and, loved even more in my student days.

This weekend, I absolutely loved my wine cooler! Which, is not just for wine, I might add … It played a fabulous part in keeping me chilled. Kind of.

We seem to be fitting quite a few of these into our kitchens; and, we, and our clients, are really impressed with CDA’s options – for price and quality.

And, because they remind us of Center Parcs! Of course.

Their range is quite vast – integrated or free-standing (we integrate them all, anyway.) Single columns, dual zones – for different wines, full-height … however, you like to keep your vino. They also look pretty good, too. I like, particularly, the one that can handle more wine!

Sadly, mine was full of sparkling water – two small children (one being a toddler boy,) are enough of an excuse for a daytime tipple – the bath routine may go better, perhaps – but they’re like predators if my sanity slips, slightly.

So, chilled fizzy water, from my wine cooler, in a wine glass was quenching enough – in fact, it was lovely!  

I started on the fizzy alcoholic stuff at 8pm, when I could enjoy it.

Thank you, CDA.

More about CDA's wine coolers can be found here:

And, let me know if you'd like to buy one - we are CDA suppliers.

Our Kitchens are Good for YOUR Economy

With a vote for Brexit and now a snap General Election, the country’s economy has become an endless roller-coaster. Are we expecting a lot to change – or not? We don’t know.

What we do know is, here at Collins Bespoke, we are still going to be designing and making beautiful kitchens, throughout it all. And, we also know that what we do is good for the economy – especially, your economy.

Good for the Local Economy

The Brexit vote has seen an increase in support for campaigns such as 'Make it British,' 'Made in Britain' – and, our own local one, 'Keep it in Kent.' Buying within the country and, even more significantly, within your local area, is so important, right now. And, of course, we try to do this where we can.

Not only do we use predominantly local suppliers but our whole team is locally sourced, too. We are home-grown. We are from Kent, our team is from Kent (well, Sue is from Essex! And Andrezj from Poland!) But, we live in Kent, raise our families in Kent. Shop in Kent and so on … 

When we are commissioned a kitchen, it is very much a true Kentish kitchen, which keeps many Kentish crafts-people, and businesses, employed too.

Buying a kitchen from us helps the Kent economy, and therefore the British economy.

But, also good for your economy

Most of all, a kitchen designed and made by us is good for your economy.

1.       Our design process makes the most of your kitchen space – there is no standard cabinet size, to us, and we can make every space useful and efficient.

2.       We design, make and build all our kitchens in our workshop, in Bethersden, which means we have no unnecessary travel overheads.

3.       And, our showroom is here too – which means we rein in our rental overheads.

4.       We have no lower order limit, like many kitchen companies. Our prices do not start at a set five-figure sum.

5.       Instead, our prices are based on how much you’d like us to make – you might want a small kitchen refurbished or a huge space elaborately filled; you might like simple cabinetry or incredibly opulent detailed joinery. (See more about our pricing, here.)

6.       We source locally – whether it is woodturning or saw-sharpening, subcontractors, suppliers – even our milk! We try to keep as much as we can locally. Even our wood often comes from a timber supplier in Marden!

7.       We keep an eye on budgets – for an English graduate, I really like numbers and number analysis, strangely. But, these mean savings and we pass these savings over to you.

8.       No shareholders to appease. Only our staff – who can be more demanding than shareholders, of course!

If you would like to see what we can do for you, give us a call! We always have biscuits and coffee beans on offer.

Finalists! Collins Bespoke! Kent Excellence in Business Awards! Boom!

It has taken nearly a day to absorb ... I am so so so happy!

Yesterday, we received a call from Lisa Cranney, Hatten-Wyatt Solicitors, the sponsors of the KEIBA Best Small Business Award for 2017, to tell us that we are on the short-list! Whoop whoop!

Out of nearly 50 nominations, we are in the selected few, who will meet the judges who will determine who wins.

I am absolutely ecstatic to be thus recognised - we are a new(ish), small, bespoke company - but we dream big - this is big! 

And, our team - well, well done, you guys!

Thank you, the team, KEIBA, Lisa and Hatten-Wyatt and, of course, all our customers. I am beyond amazed.



(This mum so hopes she gets the chance to wear a dress, soon.)


Mixing up the Textures

Glancing over some of our recent kitchen projects, it is quite clear to see a trend in mixing up textures and finishes. Very often, we make lovely kitchens where we see an obvious mix of natural wood and painted finishes, which is a real visual please - so, understandably popular, in bespoke kitchens.

The more ambitious add more unique and showy tactile materials.

Our beautiful kitchen, Court Lodge, is a brilliant example: traditional oak and painted cabinetry, and granite worktops. However, the central island is topped with a full zinc worktop. It looks fabulous. And, is a chef’s dream surface. Well-suited to its client, who can really cook!

Court Lodge island unit - painted cabinetry with zinc worktop.

Similarly, brass and copper have been very popular over the last few years. A very pretty kitchen we have made, Inglenook Cottage, had a stunning copper tap and copper accessories. They worked so well with the deep and dark Pelt paint finish. And, the quirky ceilings, rustic oak beams … a kitchen with so many inspiring features.

So, if you are currently planning your new kitchen, give us a call or come and see us; and, we can discuss the tactile feature you'd like.

Getting to know you ...

We had a comment from a client, yesterday. We made their kitchen a few years ago – and, they tell us it is still beautifully admired by their friends. We are looking at making them some dressing-room furniture, now.

Their comment was a lovely hear because, not only was it so kind, but it reminded me how much we talked while we were making their kitchen.

The design process can sometimes take a while! Understandably.

Having a bespoke kitchen designed and made for your home brings with it a huge number of decisions. Fortunately, Nick has to offer those decisions, daily, so is well-equipped to advise. But, these decisions and the designing and re-designing mean a lot of interaction. And, we get to know each other well. But this is good: and, what a good kitchen-designing company should do, isn't it?

Very often, it is hard to let go.

And we don’t. Our Christmas Card list is forever increasing! And, we will have such a party with them when our showroom is finally signed off.


The Beauty of Bespoke ... a cliche, I know!

A few months ago, I was asked to write something about Collins Bespoke for the magazine, 'Inside Kent.' And, what I wrote seems quite apt for one of our first blogs on our new website. It was about what makes Collins Bespoke.

 April 2016 'Inside Kent.'

April 2016 'Inside Kent.'

Well, firstly: why ‘bespoke?’

bespoke: adj. be|spoke1 [bɪˈspəʊk]: made to order, adapted to suit requirements.

It is such a twenty-first century buzz-word, I know. But, ‘bespoke’ describes our approach to kitchens, fittingly.

You see, we spend a lot of time planning our kitchens and designing them, to suit our clients. It may take 50 shades of grey (sorry!) to find your ultimate paint colour. Or, it may be a curved island unit that you cannot do without. Our designers have extensive cabinet-making knowledge and can style your kitchen to be unique to you.

That is bespoke.

But the beauty of 'bespoke' does not end in a personalised design.

Our cabinet-makers themselves, well, they have been traditionally trained in the art of cabinet-making – yes, it is an art! – and they apply methodical meticulousness to every cabinet they build. Every cabinet is hand-built and we only make one kitchen at a time, allowing the focus on that style to be more fluid. Our kitchens are, therefore, never made to be the same.

That is also 'bespoke.'

So, from the designing to the making; and, from the craft we nurture to the relationships we develop with our clients, Collins Bespoke's kitchens are true examples of bespoke.

Our showroom is working and I make a pretty good bespoke cup of tea. Ha! Come and see us for yourselves.

A nearly new year ... But, the first of many new things!

Firstly, a huge (albeit belated) Happy New Year to all our clients – past, present and those to come. And, to all our staff members, suppliers, neighbours and general business supporters.

And, welcome to our newly designed website.

And, the first blog of, I hope, many!

We have so much planned for 2017. It seems to be the first year, in a while – owed gratefully to two small Collins children – that we have been able to plan and think ahead. It will be great! It is quite exciting.

To begin, our new showroom and workshops are open! Yippee! We are still based at Old Surrenden Manor, Bethersden, but our delightful land-lady has built us a new premise, where we can finally showcase – in the flesh – the beautiful kitchens and cabinets that we make. We do plan on holding an official opening, so watch this space.

 Our new showroom, Unit 40 Old Surrenden Manor, Bethersden, Kent.

Our new showroom, Unit 40 Old Surrenden Manor, Bethersden, Kent.

Working on the Collins Bespoke brand is a biggy, this year too. The feedback we are given for our kitchens is often quite overwhelming – humbling at times. We are immensely proud to have designed and made so many beautiful kitchens. So, we need to promote this. Alas, the new website.

Our new brochure is being planned too, and this will be available by February 2017.

And, we have so much more. From new charitable ventures to gratitude initiatives supporting our environment.

Above all, what we design and make is pretty special. I am not being biased – I promise. We want to share this.

Come and see.

Gem x