17 February 2010

Johnny Grey is on the ground

In 2004, I was working as a designer in a high end studio for the first time in my life. I was well on my way to discovering my voice as a designer and my job then taught me a lot that I still rely on today. I worked very closely with my boss who was the studio's creative director and he had a reference library I coveted. I started collecting design books with a vengeance then and one of my first real acquisitions was Johnny Grey's Kitchen Culture: Reinventing Kitchen Design.

Kitchen Culture had a profound influence on me and it started me on a path I'm still on. I never fully understood the relationship of function to form until Kitchen Culture fell into my lap and I still refer to it regularly. I'd never really considered, or more accurately re-considered, why kitchen designers do what they do. It's easy to rely on industry standards, too easy. The truly great practitioners of my discipline dig deeper, into the realms and meanings that sit underneath those standards. It's inspiring to see someone apprach the lowly kitchen that way and it's endlessly satisfying when I can channel some of that creative energy into my own work.

When I brought my copy of Kitchen Culture to work to show my boss he and I spent about an hour reviewing and discussing it. He and I had been talking a lot about using marble as a structural element at the time and both our hearts skipped a beat when we turned to page 52 and saw this.

I'd never seen a piece of Carrera so beautiful and so structural at the same time. Never. What that is is a single slab of marble, it's about six inches wide, 42 inches tall and six feet deep. It's also been cut and polished  as a radius. I cannot imagine how that was cut, how it was positioned and who had the onerous job of moving it. Six years later and I still look at that image in wonder. And something approaching awe.

I attended kitchen designer/ blogger conclave hosted by Brizo in New York last weekend, and it was peopled by 19 kitchen designers who are also bloggers, one of whom was Johnny Grey. Johnny is something of a rock star in our world and to have sat in a conference with him as a peer was an experience I'll never forget. Ordinarily, he's the guy giving a talk in an auditorium. I'd go see him do his thing at a convention or maybe get a book signed. But interact as a peer? It's not something that's ever appeared on my radar.

Well as I'm very fond of saying, behold the power of the blogosphere. Johnny's a pretty cool guy and after the thrill wore off, it was really great to just talk. He may have revolutionized the industry, but at the end of the day we're engaged in similar work.

Kitchen Culture: Reinventing Kitchen Design remains a singularly influential book in the world of kitchen design, and if you're a design aficionado, you need it in your library. If you'd like to know more about Johnny Grey's work, check out his website and then his blog, Grey Matters. If that weren't enough, he'll be doing a guest blog gig right here. And soon. Now how cool is that?

All images courtesy of Johnny Grey Studios.


  1. Thanks for opening my eyes to Johnny Grey!! Just fabulous kitchens!! That marble is stunning! Wow!

  2. Gina: Johnny Grey's US studio is in your part of the world too. I've admired that Vrona kitchen for years and it was a real thrill to talk to the man behind it and get the inside scoop on it. You'll be happy to know that it's in the basement of a home in England and the building dates back to 1690. Wow. The chance to work in ancient homes makes me want to leave the US!

  3. Aw man! I wrote a blog about meeting Johnny too! I just had drooled all over the computer so much trying to decide on which pix to include, it delayed publishing!!:) great tribute to one, if not the greatest kitchen designer in our day. And to think I hAve YOU Paul to thank for the opportunity to meet him and other great design folks !! Maybe I will write my blog about YOU !! I can beat you though on one thing, I stole my copy of johnny's first book, "The art of kitchen design" from my cabinet maker in 2001! He still works for me and still asks for his book back !!! *** Cheryl

  4. Paul! Don't you dare leave U.S.!! I am just now getting to know you!!

  5. Hah hah Cheryl! And really, all thanks go to Brizo and the MS&L team for believing in the crazy idea that assembling a group of designers with internet followings was a sound business decision. I am thrilled to have been part of everything. It still feels like something I imagined.

  6. Hah, you beat me to it as well, but you did it better. :) I enjoyed getting to know him; there were some interesting discussions, weren't there?

  7. I will be reflecting on last weekend for a long time. It's only now that it's over that a lot of it is sinking in. What an experience. Amazing stuff.

  8. Meeting Johnny Grey was the feather in my cap. He is brilliant, funny, unassuming, inquisitive, delightful and a charming conversationalist.

  9. I've been thinking about this since I've been home: Johnny IS Dunbledore.

  10. Hey Guys
    I was Johnny greys technical designer and installations manager back in the those days and was responsible for the delivery and installation of the parker vrona kitchen, and many more of his unusual designs around the UK and the world.


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