The market for range cookers is hotting up thanks to a renewed taste for classic kitchens.
In the days when the sole purpose of a kitchen was the preparation of food, slovenly cooks could create the culinary equivalent of Tracey Emin’s bed and their guests would be none the wiser. However, now that kitchens are the vortex of most houses and on show to the world, there’s an incentive to make spaces that don’t only function well, but look pretty hot, too.
Since the 1970s, a popular approach to appliances was to design them out of existence, creating Minimalist ovens, wafer-thin induction hobs and fridges that masqueraded as cabinetry. Most had more bells and whistles than you ever knew you needed and the result was kitchens that had all the charm of a laboratory. Recently, however, all that has changed as people have set out to design kitchens with greater character: now, appliances are out, proud and infinitely more charming than their Modernist incarnations.
Cooks have always been defined by their choice of gadget (robust-looking industrial-style stoves for wannabe Jamie Olivers, 1950s-style fridges for nostalgics, hi-tech wizardry for gastronomic geeks) and the more public nature of the kitchen means that these are increasingly seen as an opportunity for self-expression, not least the choice of cooker.
In the range market, it’s easy to be won over by their histories and associations. For example, Florence Nightingale was so passionate about Esse stoves that she had them installed in her hospital in Balaclava. Inhabitants of the Cotswolds warm to the fact that they have their own homegrown range: the Everhot is made at Coaley Mill, Dursley, near where it was invented 40 years ago by the owner of a 13th-century mill that now serves as the company’s showroom.
A recent arrival from further afield is Officine Gullo, the Florentine manufacturer that creates custom-made visions in burnished brass and copper that are catching the eye of a number of starry customers.
Much of the appeal of these robust-looking stoves is the manner in which they combine the beauty and functionality of a Land Rover Defender or a 1950s Ferguson, rather than resembling the product of the deadening hand of a designer whose aim is to distil every element to a few clean lines.
After a decade or two of flirting with Modernist kitchens, cooks find these ranges move with the ages. ‘People are increasingly looking at aesthetics in tandem with functionality,’ says Laura James of Aga.
‘Greater functionality means people can not only invest in a cooker that’s built to last, but one that will keep evolving to meet a family’s ever-changing needs.’
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