4 January 2010

Mark Wilkinson OBE does us all proud

The honour bestowed on Mark Wilkinson OBE is something all of us who work in the kitchen business can be very proud of.

Design integrity and product quality are admired features in any walk of life. So for one of our number, for whom these twin principles are what he has built his business upon, to receive an OBE, is a feather in all our caps.

It also demonstrates that there really is an alternative to furniture production at the lowest level of quality or sale 'offers' less believable than a Dan Brown novel.

Mark Wilkinson OBE's past glories have been well documented. He was the designer of the "gang of three" who, together with Charlie Smallbone and Graham Clarke, launched Smallbone of Devizes before he went off with Cynthia Wilkinson to do their own thing as Mark Wilkinson Furniture and launching a raft of design classics that are still selling.

I may be wrong, but I don't think a Mark Wilkinson Furniture kitchen range has ever been discontinued.

This man's influence on UK kitchen furniture design is immense. He is the father of the English Country Style of kitchen that showed that there is an equally high-quality alternative to the production-led furniture designs that make up the bulk of the kitchen offers from the Continent.

It is mainly thanks to the early success of his 'heart and humanity' style of artisan furniture design that we have in Britain a healthy market for classical design styles of kitchens rather than being swamped with the machine production friendly, purely practical, and somewhat 'cold' alternatives from mainland Europe.

Outside of his work at Mark Wilkinson Furniture, Mark has been a tireless campaigner on behalf of his fellow dyslexia sufferers and has raised many thousands of pounds for charities that help those who are affected by dyslexia.

He was one of the first kitchen manufacturers to seriously embrace environmental issues too - originally replanting a tree for every kitchen he built and more recently encouraging primary school classes to 'adopt' woods.

Ironically in the year he is to receive his honour for the work he has already completed, it is looking increasingly like the Mark Wilkinson style of kitchen design is once again rising to prominence as consumers increasingly desert the more formalistic minimal designs and return to furniture with a natural warmth or character.

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