Walking longingly around kitchen displays at Naidex, the UK’s largest independent living fair.
5 minute read
Last week I visited Naidex, the UK’s largest, independent living show. I listened to lots of experts and saw loads of new products, but I probably spent the most time looking longingly at the kitchen display of Howdens Joinery. A big thank you to their very lovely, helpful staff who indulged me, answered my questions and even let me climb all over their stand so I could get some good pictures!
I have been excited to meet these guys for a while as they really are the experts in designing inclusive kitchens for disabled people and those with limited mobility. Their kitchens have a great variety of clever features and adaptations including easy to reach ovens, remote control extractors, pull-out accessories, and height adjustable worktops and cabinets to help people use their kitchen with ease. Importantly, they are all gorgeous too. I’m a sucker for a breakfast nook!
Howdens are one of only a very small handful of kitchen makers who have fully embraced designing inclusively without people having to compromise their lifestyle or bank balance. All of their kitchen ranges are available as inclusive kitchens, so you can include all sorts of features to help you get around and cook with ease and still have the full choice of their (very beautiful) range. This is quite pioneering. Many other places do inclusive features but you might be restricted to just one collection which is compatible – very much a ‘like it or lump it’ attitude. Often you find inclusive features are ‘add-ons’ designed at the last minute rather than incorporated from the beginning of the design process.
In contrast, Howdens has it embedded throughout all they do. I suspect their enlightenment is because of their relationship with the UK’s leading charity for disabled people, Leonard Cheshire Disability, who they have worked closely with for over 12 years to develop a range of inclusive kitchens and accessories. You can feel their understanding of people’s different and changing abilities through their staff, who seem genuinely excited by, and proud of, their products. Thoughtful design of this kind doesn’t just make life easier and safer for disabled people, it can make using one of the most important rooms in the house a pleasure for everyone at any stage of life. The kitchen is the heart of the home and you sense Howdens wants everyone to be able to enjoy it equally.
“The kitchen is the heart of the home and you sense Howdens wants everyone to be able to enjoy it equally”.
Of course this was at a independent living fair – they know their audience and how to market accordingly – but actually if you look at their general website and showrooms, their focus on inclusivity is always front and centre. It is refreshing to see this being celebrated rather than tucked away at the back of the catalogue like a dirty secret that will ruin the flow of a design-led kitchen. We want to see more of this. When will Habitat or John Lewis start designing inclusively as standard?
To see a lowdown of some of our favourite Howden features, read our Kitchen lust list and let us know what you think (coming soon!).
Other people bringing a touch more style to independent living:
A couple of other stalls that caught my eye at Naidex were those trying to add a little more style to the independent living market.
The first was Mood Interiors. The lovely Preet has a fabulous eye for design and is trying to bring boutique style to care home settings in an effort to counter the traditionally dull, cold, medical interiors. I fell in love with her personally designed range of fabrics, so much so, it got me thinking that many of the concepts and tricks of the trade she applies to her work in care settings could easily translate to domestic environments, particularly as we get older. Her clever use of colour, light, perspective, wayfinding, durable fabrics, patterns and texture would make life a lot easier for many of us. For example, I never knew that I was messing up my circadian rhythms with my lack of blue light in the mornings, I blame this for my lack of morning motivation!
I also came across a Dutch company, Vitility. As far as I can see they are only really repackaging existing independent living products such as bath seats, walking aids etc. which desperately need a full makeover, but it is a start. Vitility’s packaging is modern and fresh and wouldn’t look out of place in Tiger or John Lewis (which are both target markets for them I think and I imagine it won’t be long before you see them there). They make these products seem just like any other gadget or gizmo you might buy at any stage of life, remove the stigma from them being associated with ‘old age’, and make their purchase and use seem like nothing out of the ordinary. Their marketing is also very positive – focusing on the use of the products by the whole family, every day, which is a refreshing change.
And finally, the award for best dressed stand goes to The Blue Badge Co. No one quite does lifestyle like Ellen and her team with their collection of beautiful everyday products. You might remember them from BBC’s Dragon’s Den, where they courageously turned down the Dragons’ investments in order to stay true to their values. Since starting with parking permit covers they have now extended their range to include walking sticks, wheat warmers, pill boxes, lap trays and dressing aids – all beautifully balancing style and function and all produced by independent, small-scale manufacturers with a care and attention which shines through in their undeniably excellent products. We love the William Morris collection for timeless elegance and great for gifts. The zip pull also caught my eye and we will be testing this in the near future.