Bespoke Luxury Kitchens Handmade by H. Miller Bros

Bespoke Luxury Kitchens Handmade by H. Miller Bros

The Furniture Maker's Kitchen, one of H.Miller Bros bespoke luxury kitchens

Bespoke luxury kitchens are always a favourite find of mine. As I started my career working as Staff Writer on a Kitchen and Bathroom trade publication, kitchens and bathrooms have always held a special place in my heart. So you can imagine my delight when I first set eyes on this stunning kitchen by H. Miller Bros a few months ago. I hadn’t heard of H. Miller Bros at the time but the UK-based company was founded in 2019 by ‘Brothers in Craftsmanship’ Hugh and Howard Miller. Their vision is to combine the art of kitchen design with the mastery of modern craft to create unique wooden kitchens. I wanted to find out more about them and their bespoke luxury kitchens and luckily they agreed to an interview.

Howard Miller (left) and Hugh Miller (right) co-founded H. Miller Bros to create bespoke luxury kitchens

Can you please tell us a little about your background?

Howard: We grew up on The Wirral (over the water from Liverpool). I studied Architecture (undergrad at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and diploma at Glasgow School of Art) and I also have an MSc in Architecture Advanced Environmental Studies from the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education.

I have worked for a range of architects and started out working as a historic building architect in New York doing restoration of some of the heavily decorated ‘wedding cake’ skyscrapers. When I qualified as an architect I worked in London for architects Hayhurst and Co. on a mixture of high-end residential and educational projects and we won a number of awards during my time there.

We moved back to Liverpool when my partner and I had our first child and that is when Hugh also moved to Liverpool as we had always wanted to share a studio and work more closely together. Shortly after we moved, I won a gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the Dark Matter Garden. It led to a number of commissions, and though I am an architect by training, the kind of design work I’ve done is quite wide-ranging, from product design, exhibitions, and landscape, to interiors, furniture and restoration as well as architecture.

Hugh: I also studied Architecture (undergrad at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and Masters at the University of Sheffield). I had always loved making things and I started a workshop making furniture when I was 24.

A key moment for me was becoming a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellow: I travelled widely in Japan researching Japanese wood craftsmanship. In Japan, they have a system of ‘national living treasures’; people who are regarded as the pinnacle of their craft tradition, and are funded for the rest of their lives to carry on producing and keep the traditional alive.

I met four of these national living treasures that specialised in woodcrafts and this experience moved my design work and making to another level. In response to the research, I created ‘The Coffee Ceremony’ which is a collection of furniture that has been shown widely, including exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery, London, in the British Pavilion at the Cheongju Craft Biennale, South Korea, the Næstved Museum, Denmark and is about to be exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in 2021.

The Furniture Maker's Kitchen, one of H.Miller Bros bespoke luxury kitchens

When did you first become interested in design?

Howard: We used to make things like treehouses and dig up clay in the garden to make into things. Our mum used to put us to work with digging, paving and general garden construction. I taught myself to lay bricks when I was in early high school. It sounds crazy now but dad didn’t generally bat an eyelid if I asked him to pick me up a bag of cement. Family friends used to say “oh, he’ll be an architect” from about age 4… they were right!

Hugh: Our grandfather had a little workshop and I used to mess around in there. He was so patient with me letting me use tools and he helped me to make simple things. He used to make us wooden toys too; I think it was that realisation of ‘oh, if I just keep at this, I could make something like that one day’.

What is it like working with your brother?

Howard: I enjoy working with him a lot, I think that we are lucky in that we have complementary skills, we overlap when it comes to a shared vision, but in getting it realised we have totally different things to bring and tend not to get in each other’s way. We’re both naturally curious and love generating ideas at the start of a project.  It tends to be that when one of us is stuck, the other will have different experience to bring to the problem to help solve it.

Hugh, can you tell us more about your interest in Japanese design?

Hugh: Initially, I was fascinated by the way that you can tell a design is Japanese; what was going on culturally to make this the case? I put it partly down to designs that appear simple on first glance but in fact a great deal of complexity is going on, its not hidden, it awaits careful inspection.

In the UK, we tend to celebrate complexity as a design feature, that would be considered showing off and something to be avoided in Japan. I just find that distinction so very thoughtful.

Howard, you aim to create tactile, beautiful, elegant spaces. How important is texture in interiors and why?

Howard: If you imagine the most beautiful place you have been in, you will probably be able to remember the effect it had on all of your senses; the smell of oiled timber, a slightly echoing sound of the space, the cool touch of a stone floor on a hot day, as well as how it looked. If an interior doesn’t give you anything but visual stimulation, it’s not wholly satisfying; it can sometimes feel a bit fake or uncanny.

That is where I think texture comes in. As humans, we’re trying to verify the information about the outside world with as many means as possible and we do this by touching, inhaling, and receiving reverberations as well as looking. Textures also describe how materials have been made, whether it be the grain of timber (showing how the tree grew) or a woven fabric say, where strands overlap to make a net. Describing how something has been made is part of designing, it’s a bit like the specific choice of words a writer might use to convey meaning. 

What is it about natural materials that make them so important to your work?

Howard: I think it’s about using the right material for the right job rather than necessarily using ‘natural materials’ per se. It just so happens that timber especially is the right material for so many jobs for so many reasons. It’s sustainable, lightweight, strong, and affordable, there is massive diversity in species and properties, it’s warm and, last but not least, it’s beautiful.

Can you explain how you work with clients to ascertain what exactly they need and want from their bespoke luxury kitchens?

Howard: As well as the practical considerations, we want to try to tease out the more intangible things that might spark off a design idea that we can use to make the project genuinely original. These do tend to emerge as we get to know the client more. We have a well worked out method of doing this and essentially it starts wide and general and it becomes more and more particular and increasingly detailed to the client and their home.

Observation of how people work in their spaces, or more often what’s not working in their current situation is key. We also look at the things they choose to have around. Sometimes a couple want different things and this makes for an interesting design challenge. We also put a lot of effort into modelling the design in 3D and creating visualisations, samples and mock-ups as we go to check with the client that we are getting it right.

Which of the bespoke luxury kitchens in your portfolio was your favourite to design and make?

Hugh: Obviously the Furniture Maker’s kitchen is my favourite – because it’s my kitchen. I love using it, I think it’s every designer’s dream to do a project for themselves.

The Furniture Maker's Kitchen, one of H.Miller Bros bespoke luxury kitchens

Your award-winning Furniture Makers kitchen is my favourite too. Can you tell us more about this project?

Hugh: I wanted my own kitchen to take inspiration from my love of Japanese design and their cabinet making traditions. I’ve written a book on Japanese wood craftsmanship, lectured widely on the subject, and acquired a collection of Japanese antique woodworking tools and ceramics.

My previous kitchen was within a large room that encompassed the kitchen, living and dining area. Firstly, I wanted to define the kitchen space as separate from the living area. We had a desperate need for additional storage, and with plenty of room at room-height level due to the 3-metre ceilings throughout, the idea of a three-tier kitchen with cabinets above head height began to form.

At the bottom of these three levels, a base layer of drawers and cabinets made from Iroko wood was created, with recessed inset doors that act as a foundation. Above counter level, the mid-layer is a calm, functional work zone with a Caesarstone ‘London grey’ worktop and cabinetry painted in Farrow and Ball ‘School House White’. Above this is the ‘canopy’ level defined by a long, slim, structural truss that forms a threshold between the kitchen and the rest of the living space.

Facing the truss and above the kitchen, deep storage cabinets, with undulating doors to reference the slatted screen of the truss, are reachable by a purpose-made ladder to add functionality and interest. The structural truss was a pure labour of love as the slats allow natural light to pass through and reference the shoji screens of traditional Japanese homes. The open shelving houses my ceramic collection and features Japanese shoji paper lanterns that light the space, forming beautiful silhouettes and intricate patterns through the structure at night.

What would be your dream project to work on and why?

Hugh: We would love to do a project where we design and make everything: the building, garden, interior and furniture. A total work of art in the way that Greene and Greene or Charles Rennie Mackintosh did. We would also like to build a purpose-made workshop and showroom at some point; that’s a medium-term goal.

Anything exciting on the horizon at the moment?

Howard: We’re making a really interesting set of furniture for a superyacht at the moment. We also have a kitchen due to be fitted this summer with some amazing Scandinavian and Japanese inspired features that we’re very excited to publish when it’s finished.

The Furniture Maker's Kitchen, one of H.Miller Bros bespoke luxury kitchens

What an inspiration! I’d like to thank Hugh and Howard for speaking to me about their work. What do you think of the Furniture Maker’s Kitchen? Do you love it as much as I do? If you’d like to see H.Miller Bros full portfolio of bespoke luxury kitchens, head over to their website.

How to Design Your Home with Sustainability in Mind

How to Design Your Home with Sustainability in Mind

A double bed and two benches made from reclaimed wood which is a great material for sustainable interior design

The beautiful rustic granary bench by Wearth London is handcrafted in Buckinghamshire from reclaimed wood

Sustainable interior design has been on the agenda for many years, but with growing interest in the circular economy and biophilic design, and the impact of the global pandemic, sustainability has once again become a priority for both businesses and consumers. As we spent more time confined to our homes during lockdown, we had the opportunity to stop for a moment and consider how our purchasing decisions affect the planet. During this time of reduced activity, when life seemed to slow right down, we became more aware of the impact that our fast-paced, convenience-based lifestyles have on the environment. Many of us have resolved to at least try to practice more mindful consumerism.

This is particularly pertinent when it comes to our homes. Never before have we spent so much time at home. The lockdown provided us with an opportunity to really inspect our homes and to reconsider how we decide what we fill them with. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of ever-changing trends and feeling like you need to redecorate or at least re-accessorise every season. But the speed of change is simply unsustainable and we have come to realise that what is more important is creating a home that we love and that makes us feel good and that doesn’t have a negative impact on the planet and our resources.

I wanted to find out more about designing our homes with sustainability in mind and luckily I knew the perfect person to give me some insights. Caoimhe McKenna is co-founder and creative director of Yellow Brick Road Design and she really understands our collective responsibility when it comes to choosing more sustainable practices, both as consumers and the design industry as a whole. Her interiors practice strives to gain greater knowledge about sustainable practices and work with suppliers and manufacturers who share this desire to do better.

Caoimhe has recently written a really meaty guide to sustainable interior design, which you can read here. So I thought it would be good to bring her on board to answer some of my questions.

A squishy white sofa in bamboo fabric is covered in cushions. Bamboo is a great material for sustainable interior design

Bamboo softie sofa from Loaf

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN?

For us, sustainable interior design means re-evaluating the choices and processes involved in all areas of an interior project, from the suppliers and manufactures we procure from to the contractors we use on-site, to ensuring that the end result answers the client’s style and brief while simultaneously causing as little negative impact on the planet and its people as possible.

HOW EASY IS IT TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR?

With a limitless budget, I would say at this point in time it is as easy as a non-sustainable one. However, not everyone has that luxury to hand so the key is to look beyond current trends and Pinterest as an influence. It is about being resourceful, forward-thinking and researching the right questions to ask both suppliers and manufacturers.

There is an ever-increasing range of suppliers and manufacturers who have placed the importance of sustainability at the core of their business and with a little extra time spent sourcing and a more clever use of budget, a sustainable interior design scheme is becoming more and more achievable.

Sheer linen curtain fabric from Stitched. Linen is a great material for sustainable interior design

Sheer linen curtain fabric from Stitched

WHAT ARE THE MAIN THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CREATING A SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN SCHEME?

The brief! What is it you are looking to achieve? Is it that you are looking to recreate an image in a more sustainable way OR are you willing to be a little more creative while simultaneously letting go of the overriding need for stuff that we have all become so accustomed to? Question each element of the brief and try to hone it down to the absolute necessity.

Sustainable design is not about purchasing all sustainable fixtures and fittings it is more about minimising the impact. By saying this I am not suggesting you must compromise on style or lose the dream space, but by questioning the necessity of all the elements from heating and lighting through to furniture and accessories you can create a space that can breathe, that is built for longevity and is filled with pieces that you can connect with.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES WHEN DESIGNING A SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR?

There is no doubt that there is a more limited range of sustainable finishes and fixtures available especially when it comes to the domestic market and it can be a minefield when it comes to distinguishing the green facts from fiction! The term ‘greenwashing‘ has been banded around for some time, describing how brands can use exaggerated or misleading claims about the environmental impact of their products or processes.

There are however a growing number of governing bodies that are doing their best to set strict standards that need to be adhered to in order for a company to gain a green stamp of approval. It is important, therefore, for customers to be armed with the right questions and the knowledge it takes to understand what the answers mean and their implications for the environment.

It is also important, not to overload yourself with excessive information and counter-arguments. In the words of the zero waste chef Anna Marie Bonnear, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly…..we need a million people doing it imperfectly.”

WHAT KIND OF MATERIALS SHOULD WE BE LOOKING TO INCORPORATE?

Camada cork flooring in a living room setting. Cork is a great material for use in sustainable interior design

Camada cork flooring by The Colour Flooring Company

In general, look for products made from rapidly renewable sources such as cork, bamboo and hemp or look to reclaimed or recycled materials and finishes. Our ‘Definitive Guide to Creating a Sustainable Interior Design Scheme‘ breaks down the five key elements involved in any interior design pallet: Flooring; Wall Finishes; Furniture; Fabric; and Lighting.

We look at the alternative options, the pros and the pitfalls to look out for when sourcing each individual element and in many cases, we have noted a supplier we feel can deliver on both sustainability and style.

HOW CAN WE ENSURE THAT FURNITURE CHOICES ARE SUSTAINABLE?

DuraOcean award-winning outdoor chair from LifestyleGarden is made from nets, ropes and plastic waste recovered from the world’s oceans. Perfect for sustainable interior design

DuraOcean, the award-winning outdoor chair from LifestyleGarden, is made from nets, ropes and plastic waste recovered from the world’s oceans.

There is something extra special about finding a one-off piece, whether it’s vintage, recycled, upcycled or inherited, that makes it one of the most rewarding and easiest ways to design sustainably. But when it comes to purchasing new it can indeed be more complicated.  Apart from commissioning a bespoke crafted piece lovingly crafted from a locally felled tree, the range of options can be somewhat confusing.

Within our Guide to Creating a Sustainable Interior Design Scheme, we have pulled together a number of furniture makers and supplies throughout the UK that we feel provide both style and sustainability while also retaining a level of cost awareness to suit a range of budgets.

Our biggest advice however, would be to purchase wisely and buy for life, invest in pieces that you truly love and can adapt with time.

IS IT MORE EXPENSIVE TO FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY IN INTERIORS?

I would have to admit that in the main, unless you are willing to concentrate on the mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ to furnish your home, a sustainable Interior can appear to be an altogether more expensive option than the alternative and comes with a larger upfront cost.

However, to be truly sustainable this is where our thinking needs to switch from ‘on trend’ to ‘longevity’. Look beyond the ‘now ‘and design with flexibility in mind, minimizing single-use purchases. Interior spaces with few pieces of furniture are the inspiration for 2021.

ARE THERE ANY HEALTH BENEFITS TO LIVING IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR?

There is absolutely no doubt that an interior created from natural finishes is better for our overall mental and physical health. We have all come across the term ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ which can be attributed to the use of synthetic furniture, carpet and painted surfaces. All of these contain a large number of fungicides, biocides, toxic pigments and chemicals which are the leading causes of off-gassing of VOC’s in our home and work environment.

By introducing healthier materials into an interior scheme we are simultaneously introducing the many health properties they hold such as their naturally occurring anti-allergenic and antibacterial properties, resistance to mould and mildew and general breathability of the walls, thus boosting the overall air quality within the home.

YOUR PRACTICE FOCUSES ON SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN. WHAT CAN A CLIENT EXPECT WHEN WORKING WITH YOU?

As with any interior project we take on, we firmly believe that the entire process is a collaboration between client, designers, manufacturers and contractors. We see each brief as a journey which we all take together and when it comes to sustainable interior design, the only difference is that we use a more condensed list of the above, using vendors with a proven track record of sustainable manufacturing practices and a documented policy for sourcing rapidly renewable resources.

For 2021, we are hoping to increase our custom furniture design so we can work with more local woodworkers and makers and source locally from small businesses to minimize our carbon footprint. While looking after our planet is the overall aim, we do not in any way see this as a reason not to enjoy the process and end result.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING WITH AN INTERIOR DESIGNER WHO CREATES SUSTAINABLE INTERIORS?

This is a question that comes up many times within the interior design world. With the ever-expanding range of interior inspiration sites, everyone has access to any interior trend or style at the click of a button. What an interior designer brings to the table is the experience it takes to implement that design, create the finer details that render the space unique while simultaneously having the knowledge it takes to avoid the pitfall that an interior fitout project can bring. 

In regard to sustainable interior design, there is no doubt that we are all on a rapid learning curve. There is no perfect solution at the moment, however, an interior designer who recognises the importance of creating a healthier environment can work with clients so that they too can understand the damage that the production and transport of certain materials is causing.


Is sustainable interior design something you would consider when it comes to your own home? If so, and you would like more information, check out Caoimhe’s Definitive Guide to Sustainable Interior Design for further tips and advice.

Sustainable interior design graphic for pinterest