Life was born out of Oli’s belief that the British kitchen industry had lost its way, both in terms of design and consumer experience. ‘It needed something fresh and new to shake things up,’ he says. And he should know: the Stephenson family has been in the kitchen trade for five generations and Oli quite literally grew up in the kitchen. After spending seven years working in the industry himself, he launched his disruptive kitchen company in summer 2018.
Set in spacious premises under the railway arches near Waterloo, Life’s cool new showroom is certainly like no other.
For a start there are eight inspirational kitchen concepts on display, with go-getting names like Decadent, Opulent and Strong. Three of the kitchens are fully operational and regularly host supper clubs, demonstrations and other related events. There are designers on hand to chat through options and a virtual reality service that allows customers to experience a simulated version of their new kitchen.
‘My idea was to create a kitchen around the individual,’ says Oli Stephenson. As he points out, while the kitchens on display are an indication of how a design might look, they are intended to be inspirational rather than prescriptive. ‘Our specialist kitchen designers will guide customers every step of the way, but how the kitchen actually looks and feels – that has to be up to the people who will be living in it.’
Visitors to the Life showroom are invited to touch the surfaces, open cupboards, pull out drawers, turn on the working taps and appliances.
They’re encouraged to think about their must-haves and share their ideas with the designers, who will throw in a few of their own. It turns out design rules are made to be broken: a state-of-the-art contemporary kitchen in a rambling period house? Why not.
At just 27, Oli is part of a new generation of young entrepreneurs motivated by and responding to the sea change in the way people shop. ‘Consumers buy in a different way now. They’ve done a lot of research before they make a purchase so they’re better informed. They expect more in terms of service – they won’t put up with being fobbed off with a few glossy brochures or a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude from staff. And in terms of kitchen design, they don’t want to be limited to either ‘contemporary’ or ‘classic’ look, with nothing in between. They want to mix up materials, looks and colours.’
Life works with some of the best kitchen craftsmen in the business, many with decades of experience. It also collaborates with other young entrepreneurs, including chefs and drinks manufacturers, as well as an
Having launched just a few short months ago the aim now, says Oli Stephenson, is for Life Kitchens to maintain momentum, keep evolving – and earn a place among the very best of British brands.
LIFE KITCHENS 231 NEWNHAM TERRACE, LONDON, SE1 7DR
020 3972 0150