Kitchen designer Diane Berry wins three awards in one month
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 February 2017
Diane Berry won no less than three awards in just three weeks - a unique achievement by the queen of kitchen design. Mairead Mahon reports.
When any business wins a major award it’s a cause for celebration. When a company wins three in just three weeks you know they are doing something that makes them very special.
Diane Berry’s career started long before she left school, listening to her father who ran his own kitchen and plumbing business. Subliminally, the youngster became immersed in technical and design ideas. Then, to earn pocket money, she cleaned her father’s studio – a boring job for a teenager and one she was determined not to have to go through when she had her own home.
At the age of 16, her father convinced her to join the business. Diane had other plans, but he dangled the carrot of a Vauxhall Chevette and driving lessons. She started the next day.
Diane left her father’s guiding hand in her early 20s to begin a career that has seen her become one of the most recognised kitchen designers in her industry, with a long list of awards to her credit. But nothing matched December 2016 when Diane completed a remarkable hat trick of awards.
In one breathtaking three week period, Diane picked up the Designer Awards ‘Ultimate Luxury Kitchen Design of the Year’, the SBID ‘Best International Kitchen Design Award’ and the Northern Design Awards ‘Best Kitchen Designer of the Year’.
This recognition, for outstanding design, quality and customer service, has seen her small but highly successful company beat many of the big boys from around the world.
‘A hat trick of awards is unheard of in the industry,’ she said. ‘I don’t think I will ever have a moment like this again in my career. It was a roller coaster of pride. They’re not easy to get, especially when there is an international field, so I’m always appreciative when I win.’
Her business has no boundaries. One delighted client acknowledged her expert work on their property in Barbados by inviting her to stay in the exclusive Sandy Lane resort as their guest – a trip she will never forget.
It’s not just the quality of her kitchens but also the remarkably wide range of styles she achieves making sure her designs are as individual as her clients. While her kitchens aren’t just for the mega-rich, they are top of the range for quality and style.
Prestwich born and bred, Diane first learnt the importance of the kitchen as a child. ‘I’m one of seven and my wonderful parents fostered babies as well, so the kitchen was always the busy heart of the home and the Aga certainly meant it was the warmest.
‘My jobs at home included kitchen cleaning, which is why I make sure my designs are easy to clean! I was also lucky in that I have the added and unusual advantage of watching kitchens being made by my father’s joiners, an insight I didn’t realise at the time. I just loved being nosey!
‘I was a bit of a tomboy and would often be found – bear in mind this was pre health and safety – lying on rolls of fibre glass watching a kitchen being made. Talk about starting young,’ said Diane.
After an excellent practical training with her father, she worked in other kitchen design studios gaining an enviable reputation, before establishing Diane Berry Kitchens in 2002. Importantly, she also learnt how to relate to people.
‘That is so important to me. I build up a relationship of trust with clients. Maybe that’s why so many return or recommend me. I always say honesty is the best policy. If you’re untidy, don’t tidy up before I or one of my team visit. We need to know your exact needs, so don’t cover anything up. We won’t be shocked by anything, I promise!’ she said.
If you’re having some building work done first, Diane likes to be there before it begins. ‘That’s because, as a spatial designer, I can see how space can be most effectively used, right down to the smallest detail. For example, if you have a place where the family pet likes to eat and you’re having underfloor heating, I recommend a cool spot there so that their dinner remains fresh. I also take account of health and mobility issues. The client’s needs are paramount.’
Diane’s exceptional reputation means she has an international clientele but her quality kitchens are certainly for everyone. She wasn’t fazed when asked to install one on a house boat or when a London client wanted a space full of primary colours.
She has the ability to take a client’s basic brief and make it shine. She also has an excellent team, employing all her joiners, and she trains apprentices, so she can guarantee the highest workmanship.
So, what are the current kitchen trends? ‘Metallics. So working with copper, rose gold, bronze and champagne gold are high on people’s wish list mixed with cupboards without handles, boiling hot water taps, American sized refrigerators and the latest must have – a vacuum packer drawer for sous vide cooking. Trends apart, I use quality Alno units, so if you want your kitchen to last for many years, then it will.’
So is food or design your real passion? ‘My passion is people and families. I like to know every little detail so I can make sure there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. I have learnt a good kitchen designer will listen to a client’s brief and produce a layout, a better designer will listen to the clients brief and produce a layout with suggestions to enhance the layout. A fantastic designer will listen to the client and question the brief and push their clients to embrace change that will enhance their lifestyle and encourage change for the better. This process is much more fun as asking people “why” opens up frank conversation and always some laughter. Improving a client’s lifestyle is always my goal. Common sense makes for perfect spatial design and this is where my 36 years of experience and my love of people has me winning awards.
‘Without my wonderful clients and their willingness to be open with me I would just be producing kitchen layouts like everyone else.’