Johnny Grey

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For other people named Johnny Grey, see John Grey (disambiguation).

Johnny Grey (born 1951) is a world famous designer and architect. Renowned for custom handmade kitchens


Johnny Grey's ideas have influenced the world of home design for the past 35 years. Nephew of Elizabeth David, doyenne of British food writers who acted as his mentor in his early years, he trained as an architect at the London Architectural Association School of Architecture. After graduating in 1977 he set up a design studio and furniture workshop. His kitchen design career began with a friend's request for a punk gothic kitchen. Items of furniture as the kitchen's practical and visual workings have always been at the heart of Grey's approach to design.

Grey is in receipt of various awards, including the Simon Taylor Award[1] for lifetime achievement in the kitchen industry. As well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Artsandliveryman at the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, he is currently Visiting Professor of Design and Kitchen Culture[2] at Buckinghamshire New University.

Johnny Grey Studios[edit]

In the 1970s Johnny Grey founded the Johnny Grey Studios, designing and overseeing the production of a limited number of unique kitchens and carrying out interior projects encompassing entire houses. Project were genuinely crafted and tailored to the client's individual needs and particular home space. Architecture, product and lighting design are blend with insights from psychology and social history to create the best kitchen environments possible. Only qualified design staff are employed in Grey's studio.

With the kitchen as the prime site of domestic life, Grey adapts houses around sociable kitchens,'living rooms in which you cook' that include linkage to the garden. Grey's studio's work encompasses listed buildings and new homes, open-plan and tight spaces. Specialist furniture and rooms include curved drum cupboards, multi-function and varied-level central islands, walk-in pantries, laundry rooms, double sided screens, outdoor kitchens, pool bars, office furniture, boardroom tables, desks, study bookcases, reading chairs, media walls and library furniture. Grey avoids the use of kitchen units.

He has worked all over the UK. Around the world he has projects in, for example, Ancona, Burgundy, Barbados, Cyprus, Jersey, Limerick, Melbourne, Mustique, Rome and Zurich.

Smallbone of Devizes[edit]

In 1986 Smallbone of Devizes[3] contracted Grey to develop 150 pieces of furniture to make up their collaborative version of the Unfitted Kitchen. This was launched in 1987 in the UK and two years later in the US and displayed in all the company's UK showrooms. In 1990 Smallbone purchased Grey's designs for the Inlay Collection, which included furniture for the bedroom and bathroom as well as the kitchen.

Design Innovation[edit]

Grey is well recognised as innovator in the kitchen industry, responsible for introducing the following:

  • End-grain chopping blocks adapted for domestic use with knife slots and chopping blocks (1976)
  • Linking Alexander Technique to kitchen design (1981)
  • Willow baskets woven into cabinetry (1982)
  • Ergonomically designed plate racks, hanging racks and lighting gantries (19830)
  • Development of the ‘Unfitted Kitchen’ (the kitchen made with furniture with hidden but rigorous ergonomics) and avoiding the use of corners and rejection of one-style-per-room décor (1984)
  • The multi-level island, breakfast bar and varied level countertops including for children and raised-height dishwashers (1985)
  • Dedicated Work Surfaces: the sequence, organisation and ergonomic order in kitchen planning into limited task driven areas, and use of the flexed elbow as key measurement for kitchen countertop heights (1986)
  • Soft Geometry, the use of curves linked with peripheral vision understanding and body movement; (1991)
  • Development of eye contact as key to kitchen design, along with the 'driving position' and 'sweet spot concepts in kitchen planning (1995)
  • The application of neuroscience into kitchen design, developed with John Zeisel (2006)
  • The role of sociability and sanctuary in kitchen design, design tour of Australian, New Zealand and Canada (2006)
  • The 'living room in which you cook' – the idea of restricting a culinary zone to leave space for social use (2011)


Grey’s first book The Art of Kitchen Design (Cassell 1994) that included the first social history of the kitchen,has become an industry bible, selling 125,000 copies worldwide, a large proportion in the USA and in print continuously for fourteen years. In 1997 Grey published The Hardworking House (Cassell). Grey's Kitchen Workbook (1997) spearheaded a new series of home design books by Dorling Kindersley and has now sold over 150,000 in 11 languages. The Complete Home Design Workbook followed in 1998, co-authored with others from Dorling Kindersley's Home Design series. Kitchen Culture[4] was published by Jacqui Small in 2004, with English, American, Russian and Asian editions.

Media and consultancy work[edit]

Grey has spoken at over 40 conferences on design, creativity and innovation in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. He has worked as a consultant to the kitchen industry in the UK and Australia. In the US he spearheaded Leo Burnett's 1996 campaign, Turning Kitchen into Living Rooms, for the clients Maytag and Jenn-Air. This created 46 million consumer impressions in six weeks and was followed by The Kitchen of the Future campaign in 1997. Weber Shandwick commissioned two NKBIS stands and a design spokesman role by Grey for Electrolux in 2005-6. A 2006 design tour, Sociability and Sanctuary in the Kitchen, was supported by Fisher and Paykel, Hettich, The Australian Housing industry and the New Zealand National Kitchen & Bath Association.

In 2008 Grey was invited onto the judging panel of the Electrolux Global Design Awards[5] in Stockholm. He joined the panel of the Hettich International Design Awards in 2009.

Education, research and public work[edit]

In December 2012 Grey was appointed Visiting Professor of Design and Kitchen Culture at Buckinghamshire New University, one of the top 30 universities in the UK. His role with the School of Design, Craft and Visual Arts is to help set up the first kitchen design course at degree level and to create links between the kitchen industry, design professions and tertiary education. In a Global Furniture conference at Bucks New University on 20 November 2013 Grey is to present a keynote speech on the role of the domestic kitchen in society and its relevance to the furniture industry.

Current projects and public events[edit]

The Long Kitchen is a one-day conference at Newcastle University on 28 November 2013 in which Grey collaborates with Prof. Peter Gore in exploring the emerging needs for the age inclusive kitchen, or "universal design". The proposal is to design kitchens in which ageing occupants can continue to cook, socialise, keep independent and enhance health and well-being for as long as possible. Techniques for collaborative design, emotionally durable products and environments that work with our instincts, food for health and pleasure, and other issues related to ageing will be covered.


Grey's private clients include Elizabeth David OBE, Sting and Howard Jones, musicians; Sir Cameron Mackintosh, impresario; Steve and Laurene Jobs, Apple founder; Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman of the Arts Council; Loretta Tomasi, CEO of English National Opera; Felix Dennis, poet and publisher; Aubert de Villaine, chief wine maker at Domaine Romanee Conti; Rory Tapner, CEO of Coutts Bank, Arthur De Curtins, Vice-Chairman of UBS Wealth Management, Michael Sharp, CEO Debenhams; Tony Purnell, ex-head of Jaguar Racing; Stuart and Grania Bromley of Russell & Bromley, Roy and Janine Naismith, CFO of French Connection, Peter Macdonald, owner Body Shop Ireland, Alix Van Buren, senior reporter at La Repubblica – along with many other leading figures in commerce and the arts.


Topics relating to kitchen life and contemporary culture and home are explored in Grey's regular blog, Grey Matters,

External links[edit]