Words by Hannah Tapping
Achieving a richness of detail, thanks to artisanal techniques and craftsmanship combined with bespoke designs, to create furniture that lasts a lifetime.
Based in the idyllic village of Ruan Minor on the Lizard peninsula, Rozen has been designing and handcrafting exquisite wooden kitchens and furniture for over 30 years. Ian Cox and Alan Pearce, both cabinet makers by trade, set up the company in 1986 and have grown it from humble beginnings to become a leading creator of the finest cabinetry. Joined by designer Gareth Jenkins, and with a 14-strong workshop team of craftspeople supported by skilled fitters, painters and administration staff, Rozen creates unique one-off, hand-finished wooden pieces that grace homes not only in Cornwall, but across the UK.
Whilst I am familiar with Rozen’s furniture and kitchens, I had yet to visit their showroom and workshop so it was with some excitement that I met Ian, Alan and Gareth on-site, eager to learn more about the company and its product. We gather around an oak table; a bespoke design made specially for their meeting room, from which I can immediately appreciate the craftsmanship and design involved; I’m hard-pushed not to keep running my hands over its organic surface and curvilinear design. As we settle, Gareth covers the table with concept and design drawings for two kitchens in particular that he feels showcase the quality and diversity of their work, style and craftsmanship.
The first is a renovation project for a property near Truro. The owners commissioned Rozen to design and build not only a kitchen but to also fit out the utility room plus a library area. As all of Rozen’s work is bespoke, they were able to take the client’s exacting brief to create the kitchen of their dreams. As with most of their kitchens, they use a Poplar plywood carcass: “We use this material,” explains Alan, “as it’s a sustainably forested, fast-growing tree which is particularly good for the environment as it sequesters one of the highest levels of carbon of any tree. The doors are Tulip wood (another name for Poplar) which is a very stable wood and a good paint base due its slight furry surface. The internals are all oak veneer and solid timber (90% of our kitchens are such), the same with the drawer boxes… dovetailed of course!”
Ian goes on to explain that the fashion for modern kitchens is to have them painted, which Rozen do in a two-part finish. The units are sprayed in the workshop to give an even tone and then hand-painted once installed on site to create a nice soft brush-stroked appearance rather than a flat one – this maintains the hand-crafted finish rather than a manufactured one. When it comes to colour, there is an endless palette for the client to choose from and for the kitchen we are studying it was even colour-matched to the Aga.
Our discussion has jumped to the finished product, so we backtrack a little as I’m keen to understand the design process. Either Ian, Gareth or Alan will meet with the client to understand the required design and how that will work within their home. Gareth then creates working 2D and 3D visuals. The design process has a very high level of bespoke detail; everything is considered as Ian expands: “I have measured a client’s existing olive oil bottles, a whole drawer of mugs and even individual knives to ensure that they all fit perfectly within the new kitchen.”
Once the client signs off, the technical specification drawings go through to the workshop for production to start. Alan goes on to say: “If it’s a smaller job, then a single cabinet maker will take ownership of that project. For larger kitchens there will be a team of two who will be responsible from start to finish. Whether it’s bedroom furniture, a kitchen, chair or table, each piece is handmade and then assembled in the workshop. With kitchens, we will even include the appliances, and they are laid out in the exact footprint as they would be in the client’s home.” The customer is then invited to see their furniture in-situ in the workshop, so that everything can be double checked before it is carefully dismantled and taken for finishing before it’s off to site for fitting, with the whole build process taking approximately 12 weeks. Once the furniture has been sprayed (if a colour finish is desired) it will leave the workshop in the careful hands of one of Rozen’s experienced fitters. They can also supply electricians or plumbers, although are equally happy to work with the client’s or developer’s own. Ian tells me: “50% of what we do goes into existing properties, however we are now taking on more commissions from architects and designers who involve us from the get-go. These have tended to be out of county and the kitchen we currently have made up in the workshop is off to Edinburgh.”
Our attention turns to the second set of kitchen plans, this one distinctly different from the first. Destined for a new build on the Roseland Peninsula, the design here is more contemporary. Echoing an internal glass balustrade, the island unit curves softly, positioned purposely to maximise the view from the kitchen window. Again, detail is at the fore with a solid oak tambour door revealing a hidden drawer which houses tea and coffee making facilities. Slide open the drawer and a workspace is revealed, close it and this necessary kitchen paraphernalia is elegantly hidden from sight.
The Rozen team has seen a massive shift in how consumers are furnishing their homes over the last 15 years, and interiors are much more considered. The client is now more deeply involved in commissioning furniture than they ever were before, and there has been a huge rise in the awareness of what is possible when it comes to interiors. Gareth explains that: “The second strand of our work comes from architects and designers who contact us to fit out new homes in their entirety. Gone are the days when buyers were happy to move old furniture into new builds; they are now much more discerning and want their interiors and furniture to be designed in as much detail as the house itself. With the advent of intelligent homes, the furniture and joinery need to work seamlessly with the wiring and so we often find ourselves commissioned to not only build the furniture but also the wall cladding, ceilings, internal doors etc. With more home offices, these too have to sit well within the interior space.”
With between 30 and 40 projects in progress at any one time, whether that be at the design, production, build or finish stage, the Rozen workshop is always a hive of industry. What strikes me as we walk through, is its neatness and order; each machine has its place, each cabinet maker’s bench clearly the pride of its owner; each person with their own job to do but working quietly and methodically as a whole unit. While a vast CNC machine has taken the brunt of the cutting work, as well as saws and routers helping with the larger jobs, on every bench are the hand tools of the cabinet maker’s craft. We pass one which has paper thin layers of oak veneer spread across it, ready to be used for an area of intricate marquetry inlay, while another supports a wardrobe drawer that is being sanded to fine perfection. The design, quality and craftsmanship here is a beauty to behold and what is being produced at Rozen are surely heirlooms of the future.