Retailer Profile: Ligneous Kitchens

Combining skills in cabinet-making, joinery, building and design, when Colin Morrell and Adam Prickett joined forces to sell high-end German kitchens, the decision to open a showroom was a no-brainer. Chris Frankland gets the story

If you are opening your first showroom, it helps to have a clear vision. And Colin Morrell and Adam Prickett knew exactly what they wanted to do – sell high-end German kitchens.

“We knew that doing high-end German kitchens, selling £200,000-plus Eggersmanns without the showroom would have been impossible,” explains sales director Adam Prickett. “But it had to be the right showroom. And we had seen a number of options, but the moment we walked through the door here we thought about it for all of five seconds.”

Prickett could see that a main street in affluent Walton-on-Thames in Surrey would be ideal. It is close to Esher and Oxshott and the area is bristling with gated estates, such as the famous St George’s Hill in Weybridge. “So this showroom was a no-brainer,” he adds.

As well as Eggersmann, Ligneous Kitchens also sells kitchens by Bax, KH (badged as Ligneous Made in Germany) and Störmer, as well as its own bespoke furniture offering.

When Prickett and design director Colin Morrell took on the showroom, it was an empty shell. 

“Everything else you see in the showroom we have constructed,” Prickett continues. “The ceiling as well. Originally, it was just nasty polystyrene foam panels and we have replastered it and resculpted it. As a qualified plasterer, I knew what was possible with a coffered ceiling. It has also improved the acoustics. I built everything. And many of the fittings come straight out of our workshop. We also put it in a hidden utility room behind a door in one display and will also have a hidden tap display with around 50 taps.”

Eggersmann display

Cabinet-making
Morrell’s background is in cabinet-making. He trained at Parnham College, run by famous-name furniture maker John Makepeace. From there, he and three others from the college set up their own workshop making one-off pieces of furniture. 

As he recalls: “We quickly realised you can’t make much of a living doing one-off pieces on your own and the clients I had were friends and family. Then we picked up some corporate clients, making reception desks and the like. Then we started making furniture for other interiors designers as a manufacturing workshop rather than doing our own thing. That got me into joinery and we did some manufacturing for David Linley.”

Then he started Fine Edge Design with another company and bought into a joinery workshop run by two Germans doing high-end residential and a few corporate projects. This went into liquidation in 2016 and Morrell decided to go it alone and set up Ligneous in 2017. He teamed up with one of his German colleagues to buy all the assets from the liquidator and set up a workshop on a much reduced scale, which is still going today and produces one-off pieces for Ligneous.

Prickett may have graduated with a computer science degree in the late Nineties, but he soon decided he didn’t want to “sit in front of a computer screen for the rest of my life” and teamed up with a friend who was running a small furniture workshop, which did a few kitchens, some furniture, a bit of “jobbing carpentry” and theatre sets. “I loved it right from the off,” he recalls.

Prickett then decided to do some general building work and got a plastering qualification, all of which stood him in good stead for the work that faced him in turning the empty shell of a showroom into a backdrop worthy of the stylish German kitchens they would be selling.

Prickett had met Morrell in around 2007 when he asked him to produce a Japanese sliding wardrobe for a project he was working on. Prickett remembers: “We got on straight away.” And he continued to work with him, fitting for his Fine Edge business.

“So in 2017, I decided the time was right for me to put down the tools and stop aching so much. We always knew we were a good fit business-wise and our skill sets overlapped and complemented each other. When we talked about the German kitchens and Colin put forward that idea, it seemed like a very natural progression.”

They found the showroom in late 2019 and took tenancy in January 2020 but the enforced lockdowns meant work on the refit ground to a halt. So Morrell and Prickett decided that, as they both had the skills, they would press ahead and do it them-selves. At the time of kbbreview’s visit midway through August, all but
one display is in and complete. 

So what do they each bring to the Ligneous Kitchens business and how do they complement each other?

Morrell answers: “I can do all of the kitchen installation side and project management. Adam knows more on the building side of things.”

Prickett adds: “I have a passion for design – interior design, too. Colin is excellent at the technical side, so we complement each other very well. I get out there and I am client-facing, but with a pretty good knowledge of not only the building side of things, but also kitchen design and specification. So when I am taking a client through to that moment that I can hand over to Colin, hopefully they know that they are in good hands.”

The plan was always German kitchens and the brands they chose allowed them to offer a variety of prices, styles and finishes.

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Almost limitless
Prickett elaborates: “Bax is quite a unique German supplier and offers a real bespoke attitude with its veneering capabilities, plus we have ceramics from an Italian company called Laminam, which means you can clad whole kitchens in ceramics – it gives them an almost limitless range
of possibilities. 

Bax kitchen clad in Laminam

“And so we can say to clients that if they can’t afford the incredible products from Eggersmann, the true heart and soul of luxury, you can get a kitchen from Bax that looks very similar but for less. 

“Eggersmann starts at £70,000 and the sky is the limit up to £250,000. Bax comes in at £50,000, but you can still spend over £100k. 

“Eggersmann have an aphorism they stick to, which is ‘design without com–pro-mise’ – if you have bold ideas, let’s see if we can do it with some bold engineering solutions. Bax are similar.”

Morrell adds about Bax: “And they are very bespoke. You can get veneered carcasses, solid wood carcasses and door fronts in different oiled finishes, so they add a bit more ‘craftiness’ into the mix. 

“We also do Störmer and then we have our own brand KH made for us in Germany. They are a good quality, solid German kitchen on the same kind of level as Störmer. KH do cutouts and mitred doors at the end. It is all about the ability to get [different] design features in.”

With their own workshop, they can also produce bespoke shelving, media units, room dividers, wardrobes, as well as staircases, windows and doors. As Prickett says: “We can do everything, if they want us to.”

In terms of appliances, Ligneous deals with Küppersbusch, Miele, Novy, Bora, De Dietrich and V-Zug with worktops from Caesarstone, Laminam, Neolith, Corian and Spekva. 

Originally slated for an April opening, Ligneous has had “a steady stream of business” through the door. As Prickett says: “We have been very pleased with the number of enquiries and the response. There has been a pent-up demand that has been released now, but the housing market has also picked up in the Surrey area with a real mini-boom across the full spectrum of price points.”

Ligneous is also a member of the KBBG (Der Kreis) buying group, which Morrell says has been very beneficial to the business. 

He tells kbbreview: “We were introduced to [KBBG MD] Bill Miller at a Hausmesse one year. We were developing our idea for Ligneous and joining the KBBG just felt like the right thing to do. There is a level of support as a member that would be invaluable to us, because we are not old hacks in the kitchen industry. They gave us help when it came to choosing brands, location and their views and experience of what works and what doesn’t – you get the discounts, too.”

Prickett agrees: “It has been an incredible resource for contacts with people who have helped tremendously  to get us to where we are now. I would say that, to a degree, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

And the KBBG also helps Ligneous get better deals on a lot of the brands that it stocks. 

Vision
Morrell shares his vision for Ligneous: “Our philosophy is that we want it to be very much a dynamic showroom. We are going to hold cooking events as often as we can. We will get manufacturers in with interior designers to explain about extraction, etc, hold wine tastings, stage art exhibitions – have it so that there is always something going on, which is why we have laid out the showroom to make sure that it has plenty of space. We have not cluttered it by trying to put in as much as possible, because we don’t need to.”

Ligneous kitchen made by KH in Germany

As for the future, Ligneous has some growth markets it intends to target. Prickett says: “Home offices is an area where we feel there is a big market – and outdoor living, too. That is very much an area we want to get involved in and a direction that we would like the business to take. These are areas where we could really
offer something. 

“And also kitchens in commercial settings, such as in offices. Our signature look, the contemporary German style, lends itself very well to office environments – restrained, business-like – that require a smart, contemporary kitchen. In fact, we are about to begin quoting for such a job in central London, which might be a very good test case for us.

“That side of the business has great potential and is a nice niche to target.”

The duo explain that a second showroom may be on the cards one day. But they would do things differently, says Prickett. “It is a question of when, where and whether that second showroom sells in the same way, to the same people, as this does – and I think the answer to that is no, it won’t. It will be a different showroom, selling to a different market in a slightly different way. Because we’d like to keep this as a little gem, selling high-end German kitchens.” 

As Morrell confirms: “You wouldn’t want to do the same thing anywhere close, as you would end up competing with yourself. We want something that complements this showroom, rather than competes with it.”

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