Weaving my way through pedestrian traffic I finally reach my destination. The Scholtès Centre of Excellence is a new name on the golden mile of kitchen design and it is immediately evident by glancing through the window that this company has a forward thinking and dynamic approach to retail.
Upon entering the space I am immediately greeted by David Bigland the energetic and passionate Director of Scholtès UK. As we begin to talk I realise that this is a man who is determined to do things differently and that he is driven by a genuine love of design.
The physical space is certainly dramatic and it is only right that Scholtès have avoided calling their flagship store a showroom. This space can only be described as an emporium of functional perfection and a new leading light along the Wigmore Street strip!
David’s passion for what he does is infectious and he barely manages to contain his excitement as he shows me around the displays. And he has every reason to be excited, because what he and his team are trying to do here is extraordinary. Scholtès is driven by the continual search for perfection and in doing so they are reshaping the rules of consumer engagement. They actively invite clients, designers, architects and kitchen retailers to challenge conventional models, question tried and tested methods and push personal and professional boundaries. It is only by asking questions that we can provide the ultimate answer!
The Centre of Excellenceis architecturally split onto two levels but the Scholtès experience begins before you push open the front door with interactive screens showcasing cooking demonstrations live on the street. The upper level allows customers to casually engage with the products before becoming more involved on the lower level. Simply being led down the stairs is an engaging experience in itself.
The internal architecture has rawness, a flippant disregard for conventional thinking and delivers an immediate sensory impact to the viewer. The avoidance of smooth, glossy panels is a welcome change and there is something primitive about how the wood is deliberately staggered and unfinished. It could be said that this space has been designed to provide a purposeful contradiction to contemporary kitchen design. There is a cross over occurring here between kitchen design, architecture, fashion and art! It is exciting and long overdue!
At the bottom of the stairs you enter a hallway which has a private shower for the demonstrating chef and a beautiful mix of specially commissioned materials adorn the walls and floor. We pass through another door and enter a subterranean theatre of culinary excellence. I am introduced to Sat Bains a internationally renowned Michelin Star Chef who calmly controls the space like a conductor controls an orchestra. Widely regarded as one of the UK’s finest chefs, Sat Bains is a worthy member of the elite team of culinary masters that Scholtèshas chosen to lead its mission to bring professional level cooking to the home.
While watching Chef Bains make preparations David and I chat casually, he talks about the kitchen being a social theatre, a place of passion, of drama and of artistic expression; I appreciate that he and his company are fully in tune with the realities of kitchen design. Kitchen design is not just about hitting targets and making sales; it is about understanding the mantle of responsibility carried by kitchen designers across the globe, and being able to deliver a finished product that will ultimately enrich the lives of the people who occupy the space.
I am then invited to talk to a design icon, the person who is responsible for creating the Scholtès retail experience and a woman who can only be described as a forward thinker. Patricia Urquiola has developed a formidable reputation for producing high quality products and architectural spaces for a long list of high profile international clients, and she is regarded as one of the best designers in the world. It only seems fitting that Scholtès should use her skills to help redefine kitchen retail.
Upon speaking to Urquiola it is clear that the objective was to create a space which challenged the traditional showroom model, a space that was abstract enough to allow a concentrated product focus but was also familiar enough to allow the consumer to engage in a familiar kitchen experience.
Upon asking Urquiola about the abstract nature of the design and how it could be challenged she is instantly dismissive of any potential criticism, citing that the brief was ultimately driven towards the redefinition of the showroom. And I have to agree with her, being set a brief to design a showroom and then being told that it shouldn’t look like a showroom is a pretty tricky one. I have seen the detailed documents and presentations that map the evolutionary path of this concept and I have to say it is pretty impressive stuff.
Urquiola’s inspiration comes from all kinds of things, from simple experiences and objects that most people wouldn’t even notice to an innate understanding of personal idiosyncrasies and habits. Being this socially and artistically aware allows her to tune into inspiration in a different way and translate this unseen information into a physical reality!
Speaking to her it is clear that in this instance the main inspiration came from the company she was working for. Scholtès genuine thirst for innovation and perfection has inspired Urquiola to produce a space that is modern yet primitive. The use of wood, concrete and copper create a rugged industrial feel that offers a fantastic contradiction to the gleaming appliances. When standing in this space it appears as though all of the modular elements could come together, combining their male and female parts to form something quite small. There is an architectural detachment here that gives the space a transforming, kitchen pod feel, and it is truly brilliant!
The Scholtès range of appliances is sophisticated, exuding a a level of quality that firmly places it at the high end of the market, but I am surprised to find out that this quality comes in at a fraction of the cost of other premium level appliances. Scholtès are redefining everything there is to know about kitchen design and retail, embracing elements and people outside of their industry that are shining examples of professionalism and excellence. Scholtès is not a brand it is a way of thinking, a laboratory of cultural and artistic redefinition and I feel truly honoured to have experienced their dedication and passion on a one to one basis!