Siatama Kitchen with Japanese and Scandi Influences by H. Miller Bros
By Linda Parker
This striking kitchens draws upon Japanese and Scandinavian design influences, creating an outstanding design with a very individual look. Brothers Hugh and Howard Miller, of h.miller bros tell us the story of this elegant project. We also wanted to know about their own design influences and experiences…
Hugh Miller: Furniture maker, master woodworker and the ‘details’ person
Hugh started young, making furniture from the age of 15, and then studying for a Master’s in Architecture at the University of Sheffield. He has travelled extensively in Japan and his research study was on Japanese wood craftsmanship. He is a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellow, and founded his own workshop at age 24. His passion is design and he lectures on subjects including Japanese design, furniture, and its relationship to architecture and design processes. His furniture has been shown in international exhibitions, including the Saatchi Gallery in London and the Naestved Museum in Denmark.
Howard Miller: Designer, architect and landscape gardener
Howard graduated from the both the Glasgow School of Art and the Bartlett School of Architecture. He has practiced in London, New York and Sydney and has been the lead architect on award-winning projects. Howard has worked across disciplines – from private homes to schools, institutional buildings, landscapes and gardens. He won a gold medal for his Dark Matter garden at RHS Chelsea in 2015 and a silver-gilt medal in 2022 for their Urban Foraging Station garden, which was designed as a permanent installation for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. Howard has also taught at Liverpool University School of Architecture.
Howard Miller won the Kitchen Designer of the Year award in KBB Review Awards in the £30,000 category, for their simple Seaside Kitchen Design in 2021, and in 2020 they won Kitchen of the Year at the Designers KB awards for the Furniture Makers Kitchen design.
Q: What design elements do you think make the Siatama kitchen so successful?
Our client had a love of Asian-inspired design and had previously lived in the city of Siatama, Japan. After returning to the UK, she brought her love of Japanese design, food and culture and wanted to include that influence in her new family kitchen.
The couple, who now had two young sons, were keen cooks and briefed us to design a Japanese-inspired bespoke kitchen with a Scandi-modern look. This project allowed us to be highly creative with some amazing Scandinavian and Japanese-inspired features. As brothers we share a deep understanding … and as a result have daring ambition that allows us to bring our complementary skills together to create something that exceeds expectations.
The star of the kitchen is the timber – British elm. It allowed Hugh to apply the cabinet-making traditions he had learnt in Japan, and we even based the island legs around the traditional Japanese measurement of the ‘sun’, so each leg was precisely three centimetres square.
We carefully integrated the high-end appliances into the cabinetry furniture whilst the blue-grey veining of the surfaces allows light to bounce around the space. These unique features, designed and made in our workshop, are also integrated to be both functional and beautiful.
The ‘Yellow’ contract grade vinyl from The Colour Flooring Company provides a playful and interesting tone to the drawer units, plus it’s also very easy to keep clean – which is good for our client.
This kitchen also includes, for the first time, a bespoke ‘Island box’ which we made from walnut to complement the British elm. The owners are passionate cooks, particularly of Indian and Asian street food. Consequently, the box acts as a useful ‘go-to’ utensil store for the family to easily access favourite utensil items such as their collection of Japanese chef knives, stirring spoons and mandolin slicer. We also knew our clients had a beautiful collection of oriental art, ceramics and artefacts from their travels. So, to extend the Japanese theme further, we designed a contemporary ‘home shrine’ so these items could be displayed within the open plan space
Q: What is your best advice for someone who is planning a new kitchen
Start looking at kitchen/design magazines and at Instagram or Pinterest to get an idea of your ‘wish list’ in terms of what you would love in the new kitchen. We have a Look Book available on-line for our clients, which can help them to start fine-tuning what sort of cabinetry, work surfaces and appliances may appeal.
Q: How do you embark on a new kitchen project with your clients, describe the stages …
We start with a briefing process with new clients. This is an initial chat to find out more about the clients, their existing home, what their lifestyle is, and how they want to change and move towards their next kitchen space. Which is often much more than just a kitchen …
Considering the budget at this stage is also important so that we as designers can identify what is most important and realistic for the home. Our process with clients is a collaborative experience, where we initially discuss the wish list, timescales, budget and whether any building work needs to take place.
If the project is feasible and the client wants to go ahead, the next step is for us to put together a Brief+, where we try to capture everything discussed, and turn it into a working brief that can be the foundation of our design work. The ‘+’ part is that we will also start to respond to what has been discussed, in the form of precedent images and maybe a hand-drawn sketch or two, if an original idea has emerged that we think could make the project really special and unique. We will also include estimated costs for the various parts and options.
At this point, if a client wants to proceed, we take a deposit and get on with designing a kitchen they will fall in love with. This takes place with regular meetings along the way for our clients to see how the design is progressing, so they can make amendments and tailor the details until everything’s just right.
As well as the practical considerations, we want to try and tease out the more intangible things that might spark off a design idea that we can use to make the project genuinely original. These do tend to emerge as we get to know the client more. We have a well worked out method of doing this and essentially it starts wide and general and becomes more and more particular and increasingly detailed to the client and their home.
Observation of how people work in their spaces, or more often what’s not working in their current situation is key! The things they choose to have around, sometimes a couple want different things and this makes for an interesting design challenge. We also put a lot of effort into modelling the design in 3D, and creating visualizations, samples and mock ups as we go to check with the client that we are getting it right.
Q: Do you have any trend predictions for 2023? What will we be seeing more of in the future ….
We predict a renewed sense of boldness, optimism and fun in future kitchen designs. Kitchens reflect our client’s homes, passion and style.
The shift towards family-orientated, ‘broken-plan’ kitchen layouts will increase as a trend. Clients desire design solutions that allow multiple generations to eat, cook, dine and live in a family kitchen-living space together – but without getting on top of each other.
Slatted screens, diagonal wired glass on door fronts, open shelving, free-standing furniture and biophilia features such as indoor herb gardens and dedicated plant shelves will continue into 2023 as they help create an atmosphere and intimacy in kitchen designs.
Bespoke Siatama kitchen in British elm by h.miller bros
Work surfaces, Caesarstone White Attica
Fridge-freezer, Fisher & Paykel
Sink, 1810 Company
Bespoke hanging light in Japanese washi paper, H.Miller Bros. Pottery by Attila Olah.
Photography by Robert Holmes