July 22, 2015
Text by Maria LaPiana
The Christopher Peacock kitchen has been the gold standard for upscale kitchens for nearly two decades.
The man behind Christopher Peacock, the multimillion-dollar fitted-furniture company headquartered in Greenwich, is Christopher Peacock himself. He’s a fifty-five-year-old affable Brit who likes to tell the story of how he landed in Connecticut, not long after he chose kitchen design as a career—or, to be more precise, after it chose him.
Peacock has no formal design training. “I just found I had an affinity for it,” he says. “I was always very visual as a kid, I always loved to draw and paint. It’s a part of me. It’s who I am.”
His first foray into kitchens came when he was in his late teens, when he took a job delivering cabinetry to supplement his income as a drummer in a London band. He had a way with clients and an eye for design, and before long he was driving trends, not trucks.
He went on to work for the German cabinet manufacturer SieMatic, and in 1987, when he was twenty-seven, opened a showroom for the company in the Boston Design Center.
Five years later, he was working in Manhattan at Smallbone, the English cabinetry company, when he was asked to open a Greenwich store. “It was 1992, mid-recession, and the store wasn’t very profitable,” he remembers. And yet it got him thinking that he “wanted to paddle my own canoe.”
A small corner display in a store on East Putnam Avenue led to his first Greenwich showroom, which led to a workshop in Stamford, where craftsmen built the cabinets he was designing with increasing confidence and success.
He put down roots; he and his wife and three sons live in Wilton. He loves Connecticut for the rolling hills that remind him of home. “I love the four seasons, how the year moves like that,” he says. “And living between Boston and New York, culturally, that may be the best advantage of all.”
From a business standpoint, too, he was where he belonged. “I was next to the greatest city in the world,” he says. “I knew I had to be in a wealthy metro area surrounded by wealthy suburbs to do the kind of cabinetry I had in mind.”
What Peacock had in mind were English country kitchens, done well—the more tailored and decorated, the better. His affluent clients loved them, and the business grew. “We took a leap of faith and took out an ad in Architectural Digest in the mid-1990s,” he remembers. “It made us appear bigger than we were.”
He set up a manufacturing plant in West Virginia and started opening more showrooms around the country and in Europe (his ninth, in New Jersey, will open this fall).
Then one day he just got tired of the fussy kitchen. He wanted to try something different—something plain and white, undecorated, unfettered—but expertly crafted, with exceptional hardware. It was a hit. “It was 1998, ’99, and people were ready for a change,” he says. You could even say (as he has) that he started the white-kitchen revolution. He painstakingly sourced knobs and pulls to set his product above the rest. He now designs and makes proprietary hardware (“the jewelry”) himself.
Not content with conquering the kitchen, Peacock has gone on to make sophisticated fitted furniture with spectacular hardware for every room in the house. And although he is involved in every facet of his company, he confesses, “I’m at my happiest with a roll of tracing paper and a felt-tip pen.”
Peacock’s kitchens are aspirational, but he offers a caveat: “People see a kitchen in a magazine and say they want it, thinking it will change the way they live,” he says. “Building a butler’s pantry doesn’t mean you’ll start having formal dinners if you never did. A custom kitchen should fit into your home and life seamlessly.”
He learned his most important business lesson early on, while walking on Greenwich Avenue. He ran into a difficult client who grilled him relentlessly. But in the end, he answered every question satisfactorily. “I realized at that moment I never, ever wanted to make an excuse for my product or my company,” he says, “and I never have.” •
Christopher Peacock, peacockhome.com