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DWR: Kitchens - A Chat with Designer Nilus de Matran

Design Within Reach, long an established leader in making modern lifestyles functional and (incredibly) fashionable, is launching a new kitchen range. DWR: Kitchen, a modular and portable system of cabinets and islands, is on display now in the DWR SoHo Studio, and will launch officially on January 21st.

Photo
HD = Mark Nunez

I spoke with Nilus de Matran, who designed the line, about the modularity of modern kitchens and designing for the masses.

How did the collaboration with DWR come about?

We’ve known each other for a while—they’ve used houses I designed for photo shoots and so on—and about two years ago they asked if I would consider designing something for them. Of course I said yes.

How was this project different than the work you’d done previously?

I’ve never designed for the mass market before, so it was a new process for me. You always want someone to hang your story on with your work, but here we had to create all these different personalities: if it’s somebody with a studio flat, if it’s a single person, a family, a big house, a house in the country, a house in the city. You have to keep jumping between them, and design so these pieces would work in many different spaces, for many people rather than a specific client. It was a completely different approach about how to design and an interesting challenge to incorporate all those elements, but very exciting.

And you’re pleased with the results?

Very much so. My whole idea was, why don’t we design the kitchen as furniture, where bits and pieces can flow into the living room and dining room, and the connection is still made.

What was the design process like?

We started with a model of 30x30 on legs, then developed it from there. We broke it up in a variety of ways, with different doors and drawers opening, and then at the same time we broke the box into a different width, so we had 10x13, 20x13, and 30x13 boxes.

And you achieved this sense of cohesiveness with the rest of the house with these modular kitchen units?

The boxes are very portable. They’re all freestanding, so you can put them next to each other, or stack them on top of each other, and you keep building from that. It’s more of a European concept, being able to move your kitchen with you. For the American market it’s more, I put this kitchen in, then things happen— we have kids, we need an island— and you can reconfigure, and add more pieces to fit. If you need to remodel and you can reorganize it within the same space and you don’t have to break it all up.

It sounds quite a versatile system.

It absolutely is. There’s around 155 different combinations with the boxes, which covers most potential options, and you could either do it yourself or have someone at the store to work with you to get the right fit. But it’s a big world out there and some things will keep coming up, I’m sure, as people start installing them, so there is a custom option as well.

How do you feel that the relationship people have with their kitchens will change with the transforming economy?

I’m looking at it positively. Now, rather than buying a new home and tearing it down and building a new house, maybe just remodeling the kitchen will be enough, and really feel like it is achieving something. I think everyone’s thinking much more economical now than six months ago, which is great actually. The glass is half-full.

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