If you want your kitchen to last a lifetime, handcrafted cabinets are the way to go. We spoke to Rhatigan and Hick co-founder Ed Rhatigan about why investing in his custom-made designs is well worth it.
We’ve heard of homeowners hack off door frames to take their children’s heights to their new houses, or parents-to-be taking soil from the backyard to take with them when they emigrate.
But hearing of someone extract an entire kitchen out of their home to take to their new build is a first for us. But that’s exactly what a client of Rhatigan and Hick’s did when they purchased a second home.
“It’s testament to the quality of the product [that the client moved it rather than bought a new one], it’s that well-made,” says Ed Rhatigan, one half of cabinet-making duo Rhatigan and Hick, based in Co Wicklow.
“We have moved two of our kitchens, where clients thought they were in their forever home and invested in the kitchen, and then for whatever reasons decided to move. I’ve done extensions onto their new houses designed around the kitchen that they had previously and we’ve taken out the kitchen and moved it to the new house and refitted it and repainted, and it’s perfect,” says Ed.
Rhatigan and Hick has a showroom and workshop in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. Photo: Supplied
Rhatigan and Hick aren’t in the business of creating “something that needs to be ripped out every five or six years”, as Ed puts it. Rather, the furniture designers and manufacturing team, made up of Ed and Gary Hick, build handcrafted kitchens that Ed says will last “indefinitely”.
Every Rhatigan and Hick kitchen is unique, with bespoke furniture designed with the client’s lifestyle in mind.
“The handmade nature of our cabinets, the style and detailed methods that we use, is similar to furniture that would have been made 100 years ago, so there’s no reason they wouldn’t be perfect in 20 or 30 years’ time,” says Ed.
The beauty of custom-made cabinetry is that when you want to shake up your kitchen design, you can simply paint over your cabinets instead of replacing them.
“Our kitchens are hand-painted most of the time going in and then every six years or so people change the colours or the door handles.
“We take it step by step with clients in the design phase and a lot of time goes into the early stage design work. We initially work out a flow within the kitchen that suits the client, the type of storage that they would need. If they’re very into baking, or into entertaining, we create the style of kitchen from that.
“The architecture of the house will lend itself to the style, the client’s own style will influence the kitchen, and that’s where the bespoke nature comes in. The client can really be quite specific — it’s not uncommon for the client to give us a spreadsheet of stuff that they want stored — and we’ll pretty much tell them exactly where it’s going to go,” says Ed.
Rhatigan and Hick design and manufacture bespoke cabinetry by hand for kitchens and pantries. Photo: Supplied
Ed relishes in a design challenge, and welcomes clients bringing their own ideas to the table. “I prefer people coming in with something quirky or interesting that might test things a little bit. It’s like every company, they have their bread and butter stuff that can be produced very quickly, but because of the nature of our business, we can make anything.
“If somebody comes in with something really unique, we can make it happen. What we tend to do is pick out what’s achievable and what’s not achievable, and then try and make it work. I would say to clients, be practical. You see a lot of stuff on Instagram and Pinterest where the concept looks good but the reality isn’t there. So we’ll work with people on that.”
Ed also recommends homeowners visualise their own space and imagine what will actually fit in that space. “We ask for a wish list from clients and we often get a wish list that exceeds the size of the space that they have.
“They want a wine cooler and a fridge, and a freezer and a cooker, and a microwave — all built in — yet they want loads of counter-top space and they want the sink and the hob on one wall. Sometimes it’s about streamlining the wish list to make it practical for the client and looking and flowing well at the same time.”
Handcrafted cabinets will last “indefinitely” according to Ed Rhatigan. Photo: Supplied
While every space is different, especially with bespoke design, Ed usually places a larder press into his kitchens, and builds the rest of the cabinetry around the key appliances, such as the oven or sink.
“A larder press is probably the best use of space possible. Every time somebody looks at one of our larder presses in the showroom they say ‘that’s amazing’.
“The appliances are probably the first thing that you need to decide on — not necessarily brand specific — but you need to know whether or not you’re going for a range cooker or eye-level ovens, because they’re going to dictate the layout dramatically. Do you want integrated fridges or feature fridges? An American-style fridge freezer or a smaller fridge? Do you want your hob or your sink in the island unit, or neither?
“You’ll know if it’s going to be a contemporary-style kitchen that the style of cabinetry will be going a certain route. You’ll know that you’re not going to have an Aga, most likely, in a contemporary kitchen, so therefore you’re not going to have a big canopy hood and chimney breast-type effect in your kitchen,” says Ed.
Ed and Gary will take on any size project, and both large and small kitchen spaces throw up their own challenges. But the majority of Rhatigan and Hick’s business are large-scale spaces, many of them belonging to high-profile clients. The pair have designed a number of well-known faces’ kitchens across the country, but are way too classy to drop names during our conversation.
“About 70% of our business is through word of mouth,” says Ed. “I suppose it’s a testament to the service that we provide.”
Rhatigan and Hick is currently open for design consultations. See the website for inspiration, and to book an appointment.