The Kitchen-Design Guru
Check out your neighbor’s kitchen. Is it white? Does it have paneled cabinetry? What about the countertops—are they thick marble? Yup, it’s a Christopher Peacock kitchen—or a facsimile of one. Talk about a winning formula: it seems nearly everyone wants a Christopher Peacock original. So we decided to see the guru's home kitchen for ourselves. And now, you can, too.
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|The glass-fronted china cabinet backs onto a fireplace in the family room. “It used to be a big stone thing with stone on three sides; too much stone.” They knocked out the wall by the bay window so the fireplace is an island between the kitchen and the family room.|
Counter stools are from a company that Jayne started. “We ran an ad once showing stools belonging to a client,” Peacock recalls. “The phone rang off the hook about the stools.” When the couple discovered that the company that made them was defunct, Jayne launched Little Bird to fill the gap in the market.
Being able to spot an opportunity is what propelled Peacock, now 49, to success. “I came up through the ranks. In the early eighties, I was a drummer in a rock band—doing well but not earning any money.” The band’s singer’s father had a kitchen-cabinet business, and Peacock took a job driving the delivery truck on weekends. “They made nice cabinets, and it tapped into something. I’m a creative person, into drawing, pottery, painting, music. Driving the truck was short-lived. Before I knew it, I was working for him, talking to clients, designing. I realized I was good at it.”
That led to a job at Heals, a London department store known for cool design, where Peacock worked for SieMatic, the German kitchen company. In 1987, SieMatic asked him to go to Boston to get its U.S. showroom network up and running. Back then, Jayne was a flight attendant on the fledgling Virgin-Atlantic Airlines, so the couple (who married in 1989) figured they’d see each other as often as before, but on this side of the pond. “I thought I’d come over for two years and that’d be it,” he says.
About a year later, an ex-pat colleague invited Peacock to Manhattan “to hang out with a group of Brits,” he recalls. “It was the Smallbone team.” Charlie Smallbone had just brought his soon-to-be-famous unfitted kitchens to the U.S.—“doing something very different from what the American public was used to,” he says. “Those pretty kitchens struck a chord. So when Smallbone asked me to join, I jumped at the opportunity. Jayne moved over, and the two-year plan grew into three or four.”
After Charlie Smallbone sold the company, Peacock stayed on for a while, running a showroom in Greenwich. Then, in 1992, a client asked him for a private, custom design. “That was the first all-white kitchen. I found carpenters, got it made, drove it to the site. I was a one-man band and having so much fun. It started to take off.”
Eighteen years later, there’s no plan to leave. “England’s definitely home—we have family there. But this is home, too.” He and Jayne have become American citizens. “It’s cool—you take a test, get sworn in, and they give you a flag. The U.S. has been amazing for me.”
In September of 2008, Peacock sold his business to the publicly held British group Smallbone PLC—a fateful decision. “The recession killed the whole thing,” he says. Share prices crashed, and Barclays Bank put Smallbone into receivership. Fortunately, Peacock was able to buy his own company back. “But going through the process was horrible, seeing this baby of mine destroyed. We’re smaller, but it’s good to be back in business again. In 2010, we’ll be gaining momentum.” There are plans to open a showroom at the factory in West Virginia and to expand into other areas of home design.
Back in the present, 15-year-old Jack wanders into the kitchen, looking for the crickets he needs to feed his lizards. Scruffy, the cockapoo, leaps onto a stool to have her head scratched. Jayne, tall, blonde, and energetic, arrives home with groceries, offering cups of tea.
Hmmm…the round table in the bay window has a scuffed surface. Suddenly the elegant Peacock kitchen truly seems like the comfortable heart of a family’s home. “I love to cook, and so does Jayne,” Peacock says. “This really gets used.”
And his drums? “In the basement. Sound- proofed!”
Freelance writer Lynn Hazlewood has a kitchen in High Falls, Ulster County, that's the same size as Christopher Peacock's kitchen. And there, sadly, the similarity ends.