Darren Morgan is a kitchen designer based in Ireland with a very global vision for kitchen design and when we say design we mean design. Darren does not engage in sales and installation, he designs and then allows his clients to seek the best match for cabinet construction and installation – allowing him the freedom to design with the best concept in mind. When he talks about his work it becomes clear that this is a man who is doing something that he cares about, thinks about, breaths, drinks, eats and lives. And when you see his work it shows. Everything is considered, nothing is preconceived. Darren is willing to embrace a challenge and rock the boat of traditional kitchen design.
When we chatted recently I stated by asking him “why kitchens?” Darren reels off a list “It is an aspirational product” he says, “it gives scope for self expression, its about people functioning and it’s a window into the essence of people’s ‘self.” And there you have Darren – in one sentence running the gamut from aspiration to personal insight. “And it allows people to let their imaginations to run wild”, Darren adds. And that’s interesting because Darren’s kitchens are notable for being different. I had always thought it was Darren’s own imagination that was making the difference but maybe it is also his ability to set people free to find and express their own ideas.
Interestingly, Darren’s original training was in economics and finance. He was looking after a company’s accounts but found himself much more interested in the kitchens they were selling. He cut his teeth in the showroom and, in his words, was “bitten by the bug” when he saw how kitchen design can influence people’s lives.
Darren’s chosen way of working is as an independent designer, as he says, “free from the tyranny of selling boxes.”
I remind Darren about the Jona Lewie song “You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties”. (Go on – there’s some great 80′s style to see.) He laughs. Darren really does love kitchens
“Kitchens have stepped onto the main stage – the limelight”, he says “The client can come to me without the pollution of kitchen sales, it purifies the process. I do think that in the past, design has been overlooked as part of the process.”
“I do think the kitchen was architecturally isolated for too long.” Say Darren, “It was removed to keep smells and cooking activities away. Extraction systems weren’t so sufficient but now people are embracing open plan living.” He clearly approves. “Why force the people who are preparing the meal to be isolated?” Why indeed? I ask him if he cooks. “I would love to but I don’t have much opportunity, my business is very busy. But I do believe you have to understand cooking and understand people to design a kitchen . You have to understand how people tick.”
We talk more about kitchens, of course. Darren loves talking about kitchens almost as much as he clearly enjoys designing them. “You have to break it down to our five senses,” he says, “for example the smell and memories of happy times and happy thoughts. You go back into the time as a child when you felt warm and comforted. When you see pictures of kitchens and people think they look cool but they aren’t getting the other senses – such as the sounds of conversation”.
So Darren considers and caters for all the senses in his kitchens. He also considers how people live, what they do and what is important to them. And while his kitchens are undeniably beautiful and often starkly original, they are also always highly functional. As Darren says, “There is no point in a fabulous car with a gear stick on the roof. If something doesn’t do what it is meant to do there is no point. It is about having an empathy with the client and their family – and we are all different.
Designers are a guide for people who want to express themselves. There are multiple layers involved.” And that’s both interesting and refreshing. Someone with Darren’s undoubted creativity also has the humility that comes with confidence to respect and acknowledge the role of the client in the creative process. Indeed, when I ask him about his influences his first response is that his biggest influence is the customer. When he isn’t designing kitchens Darren spends a lot of time writing about kitchens for Modenus and many other publications and can be found on his blog and twitter. His role, he says, is “driving it forward with a passion so the client is astounded”.
I ask Darren about the project he is most proud of. “The next one”, he says “I think the next one is going to be better. You never look back. You look forward. Every idea is embryonic and develops. You never know what you are going to come up with next.” And you can hear the excitement in his voice, not just at the thought of a new creation but also by his relationship with the next client. “You are part of someone’s life for a short period of time. “ And then, somewhat contradictorily, “Its great looking back.” But we know what he means.
While a spot over two thirds of Darrens work is in his native Ireland, his reach is global with recent projects in Saudi Arabia and Australia. As he says, “Design is not isolated by geography, particularly with the technology we all use these days.”
But you could never accuse Darren of becoming grand and putting on aires and graces. We talk about a recent client, a young couple with a limited budget and what Darren describes as a “not ideal space”. But, as he says, they brought him a problem and went away happy with a solution. Something which also, clearly, pleased Darren.
After talking with Darren for the best part of an hour you are left wanting more. You can read more of his thoughts, and see more of his work, on his blog. His enthusiasm, his joy at designing kitchens is evident and infectious. But there is something else as well. The pleasure he derives from learning from his clients, thinking through the issues and questions that most of us would not even be aware of, and creating something exceptional is evident in his work. And that is just part of the reason why you will be seeing a lot more of it. Darren is a treasure for the kitchen industry. It would do well to nurture and revere what he has to offer.