It all started with a dream—but not exactly the dream that many of us may think of in knowing who Christopher Peacock is today and the genius he brings to the home and cabinetry design.
“When I was about 18 years old, I was trying to be a musician and make money as a drummer,” shares Peacock, who is now Founder, Owner, and CEO of CHRISTOPHER PEACOCK, one of the most sought-after cabinet makers and designers around the world. “I had no intention of doing this whatsoever.”
Like most musicians, he was broke, so Peacock took a side job working with a friend and driving a delivery truck for a furniture company. It was during that time that he was exposed, and quickly, to this world of people who were designing and making their own cabinetry.
“It was a very small company, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘I can do that,' and I had this idea that I could do it better than what they were doing,” says Peacock.
He took time with clients in the store, got involved in the design of cabinets, and found it easy to talk to people and share his ideas. And before he knew it, Peacock was designing cabinetry for a small mum and pop outfit in London, and earning money. In fact, the first piece of furniture he ever designed was two bedside cabinets for the friend he drove the delivery truck with.
“It was such a great process,” Peacock recalls. “It was the first time I had really sat down and put pen to paper and designed something myself. We didn't make any money, but it didn't matter. We did it!”
In looking back, he credits his creative side to his parents. His mother was a TV executive and his father a builder.
“Growing up in our house, if my mum wanted something, my dad would build it for her. If she wanted a new coffee table, he would build it; if she wanted to modify the front porch, he would do it,” Peacock says. “I didn't really grasp the concept of other people doing work, so for me, it was quite natural to make something or create something myself.”
His time at a small cabinet shop led to an opportunity for Peacock to work at Heels Furniture Store, which is a very good design company in London owned by Terrence Conran, an iconic British furniture designer.
Then, at 27 years old, Peacock was given the opportunity to come to the United States and work for a company, helping in the design showrooms. This only lasted about two years, though.
“It was out of frustration that I finally said I couldn't do this work for anyone else and wanted to do it for myself,” Peacock says. “I had all these ideas; things I wanted to do, and I was frustrated with how other people did other things, so I just said, ‘ I'm going to do it on my own.'”
Peacock took on one project, and eventually, one project led to two, and two led to four, and the rest is history.
PRACTICALITY, THEN BEAUTY
Twenty-nine years later, Christopher Peacock, which is headquartered in Connecticut, has grown to serve some of the most high-end clients around the world.
He's known for combining color, texture, and hardware in bold ways, but rather than going into a home first to see what he should design, Peacock is inspired by what he sees in the driveway.
“I always talk about designing from the outside in,” he shares. “For me, when we pull up to a home for the first time for a kitchen design, we start designing before we even get into the house, because we want to understand the architecture, the feel of the home so that there's a natural progression as you go through the space and into the kitchen.”
His team also prides itself on what Peacock calls a thorough information gathering time before the design process begins. They are particular about learning from a homeowner about the dynamics of a family: Are they cooking four or five days a week? Is Sunday morning breakfast a big deal? Do they invite people over often for family holidays?
Then, they talk about what's possible in a space: Can they move a wall? Can they raise a roof?
Only after these initial conversations, does Peacock and his team really drill down on the functionality of a kitchen, while also keeping beauty in mind for the space.
“We are thinking about focal points and good-looking pieces of cabinetry,” Peacock says. “Scale and proportion are a really big deal to us, and especially to me. It's something I don't think people think about enough, and that can be on a grand scale or macro scale.”
On a grand scale, for example, they are looking at the scale and proportion of cabinetry within its space. And once they've got that figured out, they'll look at the macro-function of a space, such as storing teaspoons, utensils, and spices, and the cooking features a homeowner may be looking for in their kitchen.
“One thing I do a lot while I'm drawing a design is I'll close my eyes and in my mind, I'll walk through the kitchen and prepare a meal,” he says. “You think about where the pantry is and where the stove is and where the sink is and the trashcan is, and you walk your way through the kitchen in your mind. That really helps me with the functionality of it and identifying if there's a problem.”
Once that's done, a designer then starts to beautify a space, thinking about colors, materials, and mixed metals.
“I look at it like painting a picture,” he adds. “It's a piece of art to me. You start out with broad strokes, then you kind of get down to the details. You don't judge it until literally the last dish has been put away.”
And there is no particular design element that Peacock really enjoys seeing in his projects, but he says that for him it's all about solving the problem.
“What we have to do is squeeze the very best we can out of everything we've been given— whether it's a renovation or new construction—and work the parameters we are asked to work within,” he says.
They recently had a very famous sports personality as a client who Peacock's business built an expensive dressing room.
“For us, the challenge was to make it work, and so that it's easy. We were literally measuring socks, suits, and shoes, and counting his sneakers. You get to that level of customization and then you start to be able to solve the problem.”
His approach to design is also about advocating for very practical, strong, and solid design.
“I don't consider myself to be a clever designer or cutting-edge designer at all,” Peacock says. “I just think I'm rooted in making something well and making it practical so that it works and works forever. Then, we try to make it beautiful.”
THE HEART OF A HOME In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were forced to shelter in place, quickly having to learn either the phone numbers to their favorite restaurants or refamiliarize themselves with their kitchens.
“For my clients during the pandemic, it became not only about how they wanted it designed but even more so about how important that space has become to them,” Peacock says. “The kitchen has become the home office, the homework center, the Zoom call location. It's become a pantry because we are stockpiling food. It's become three meals a day, seven days a week. There is a renewed importance in this space.”
But for Peacock, this “rediscovery” of a highly functional kitchen isn't a new concept.
“The kitchen is the heart of a home, and it really goes back to the roots of the home and homemaking back through the ages,” he shares. “It was typically where the heat was in the home, where the cooking was done, and the basic needs were provided there. I think it's a place where it's within us to feel comfortable in that particular area of the home.”
For Peacock personally, the other rooms of a home are less essential, apart from a bedroom.
“In its most basic format, a kitchen provides us what we need to live. It's where we find ourselves being comfortable, relaxed, and not on ceremony,” he continues. “I think of a kitchen as a living space where we cook in.”
And looking back on the purpose of a kitchen from long ago, it was typically a space in the more glamorous homes down in the basement with a cook, staff, and scullery maids, and not on the main floor of the house like it is today.
“It's become a major decorated space that homes are built around, and a huge amount of money is spent on them,” says Peacock.
LOOKING BACK: FOUR DECADES Reflecting on almost 40 years in the home and cabinetry design business, Peacock says it means everything in the world to him, yet nothing at all.
“I get up every morning and it's like Day 1 for me,” he says. “I'm not somebody who ever looks backward and rests on my laurels. If I do stop and force myself to think about the journey that I've had, I think back and say, “That's pretty cool.' And I'm incredibly proud of what my company and the people who work with me have achieved. It's gone way beyond what I expected, or thought could be done.”
He admits there have been bumps along the road, but that happens with any business—highest of highs and lowest of lows. “But I don't spend one minute thinking about any of it. I've always been driven by what I can go and do next. For me, I don't feel like we've even scratched the surface because I feel like there's so much more to do, and that's what motivates me every day.”
His advice for aspiring designers?
“Perseverance! You have to believe in what you're doing,” he says. “The biggest obstacle is keeping going. Designers are their own business and because of that, it's this balance of design, business, admin, and everything, and you've just got to be ready to dig in and put the work in and do it.
“You also have to be good at what you do and take care of your customers, because they are your lifeblood. Exceed their expectations every day. You need to outthink them and be one step ahead and blow them away. The thing I always talk to my own staff about is, ‘We need to have the ability to make our toughest client our happiest client, and our most unreasonable client our happiest client.'”
And speaking of making clients happy, it's not always the rich and famous he seeks approval from.
One of his most favorite projects he's ever had the pleasure of working on, in fact, was the redesign of a kitchen at a homeless shelter not far from the Christopher Peacock Cabinetry headquarters.
“They had about 100 people living there and a large kitchen that was preparing 200 to 300 meals a day,” Peacock says. “They needed help reorganizing it. When I first saw it, I was in shock; what I saw they were doing and how they were doing it, and the food that was being served. They were doing a lot with nothing.”
His involvement in the project grew immensely. Peacock gathered his troops and helped raise money for the renovation, in which they blew out the kitchen and helped turn it into a fully functioning commercial kitchen.
“I thought it was crazy, because I was talking to clients who are deciding whether they want to spend $60,000 on a custom-built range from France that they're never going to use, and then down the street here is a homeless shelter that is desperate to raise $5,000 so they can buy a range to prepare hot food,” he says.
“To this day, that is absolutely the most rewarding experience I've ever had, because it keeps it real,” he humbly shares. “I am incredibly blessed and fortunate that we've gotten to do some pretty amazing stuff and it's gone way past my expectations. But there's nothing like being brought right back down to the ground and seeing what's really going on, and making a difference to someone like that.”