Hub of the Home

17 Nov, 17

Co-founder of Hub Kitchens in Battersea, Daniele Brutto speaks to Kelly Newstead about Italian design influences

After completing product design at university, Daniele Brutto decided to travel the world before finding his way in the kitchen industry. When his father was approached by a friend about kitchen importing, Daniele was asked whether he would be interested in starting up the business. Due to his product design background Daniele explains he was eager to give it a go: “It did interest me because at university I did product design so furniture design, interior design they are in the same kind of realms. So I thought ok let’s give it a go.” Nine years on, the business has changed location and now focuses on design, supplying kitchens in the mid-high market.

Italian Heritage

Daniele thanks his father, in part, for his business success: “I was guided quite heavily by my Dad because he’s got plenty of businesses. He’s an Italian immigrant. He came over here in the 60s and is self-made. He’s had a lot of businesses and been through several recessions.” Starting up the company in 2007, just six months before the recession hit, these experiences proved to be helpful in ensuring Hub Kitchens survived this unstable period. And being from Italian descent Daniele reveals how this has influenced his business, such as the suppliers he uses. He points out how this was the natural route for the showroom “The Italian furniture industry is absolutely the best in the world, second to none, including everything from normal kitchens all the way through to high-end bespoke items. Being Italian, it makes our connections with them far easier, because my Dad knows quite a few people in Italy.”

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But searching for authentic Italian suppliers was no easy feat and one which took him years to decide. On top of this, the fluctuating low-mid kitchen market in both the UK and Italy, due to the emergence of large corporations, also proved difficult when selecting which suppliers to use. Kitchen Hub uses two main suppliers: Record Cucine and TM Italia, he comments: “We are the sole distributor of Record Cucine in the UK. They have had a transformation over the past five years. Their product line has completely changed. They have moved much more into the mid to high level.” These modular kitchen products are straight off the shelf and Daniele explains they allow him to offer competitive pricing. TM Italia provides an alternative kitchen experience however, with a reputation for handmade and bespoke goods. Daniele comments: “TM Italia are completely different to Record. They are 100% bespoke. Their factory is tiny and they have about 10 people working in the factory. It’s all handmade, made to measure, nothing is off the shelf. It took me three years to find a product I was happy with, and a company I was happy with, and TM Italia was it.”

He believes he is championing Italian kitchen design in a market which is predominantly dominated by German products: “I think we are really showing people what Italian products can do as well as Italian showrooms, as there aren’t many.” And he says it offers an alternative to the German mid-market kitchen showrooms which “swamp” London. “Clients can come in and see an Italian product which can compete and has a little more style and finesse, but is still competitively priced. “

Go west

And the company has recently refurbished its showroom in Battersea, South West London, to showcase its Italian designs, following a move from Brixton in South London. Daniele explains Brixton provided an ideal location, due to its transport links, as well as being relatively cheap. He explains how this allowed the showroom to become a destination and was also the foundation for building up contacts with architects and clients. As a start-up business, he also stresses the importance of finding a location which allowed them to keep their spending relatively low: “It was cheap. It is about understanding how business works and going into business with your eyes open. Realising a brand new company, with brand new people and overheads, really comes from my father understanding how to set up a business first off.”

With the business proving a success, Daniele decided it was time to move to a larger location in Battersea and to an area which was closer to his clients. With a lot of his contacts travelling from the Kensington, Chelsea and Wandsworth areas, the latter seemed like an obvious choice. Admitting it was a scary prospect moving from a location which was doing so well, he says: “We decided to move out of Brixton to a better location. We moved to Battersea which is becoming so vibrant now, it is different from what Battersea was like even 15 years ago. There are so many design studios, architects based in and around Battersea. It’s so central, again similar to Brixton, but from the West side so we’ve moved closer to our clients basically.”

Hub Kitchens has now been resident in Battersea for four years and have recently refurbished the showroom. With business going well, Daniele confesses he has aspirations to open up a second location later in the year: “For the last two years we’ve been looking for a second showroom. It got put on ice slightly when we invested in this one, but if a good opportunity was to present itself tomorrow we would open a second showroom. I would love to have one in North London so we could have North and South.”

Uncertain times ahead

With a company so focused on sourcing its kitchens from the European market is Daniele worried about the future of his showroom as we anticipate the effects of Brexit? Explaining although there hasn’t been any real effect on the business as of yet, he is under no illusion there might not be in the future, commenting: “I think it will affect us. The reality is a lot of people said to me ‘well you import your products from Europe so it’s going to cause a big headache for you as you’re not going to be as competitive anymore’ but the truth is most people come to us for design instead of cost. I do think everything is going to go up in price, though, because we rely so heavily on Europe anyway.”

With unsettled economic times ahead Daniele is confident with the showroom and hopes its emphasis on design and high quality products will encourage future clients. He has just taken on an interior designer, growing his employee count to four, and hopes this will help the showroom to focus on its main priority of great design. Unlike other showrooms, he explains they are not a one-stop-shop and do not have a sales team. This, he says, ensures they are not driven by high pressure targets and instead focus on design. He comments: “My sister often asks me what is your ultimate goal and it is to buy a Ferrari one day but what my ultimate goal actually is, is we are well-renowned and people can come to us and get a fantastic design a fantastic product and then tell their next door neighbour it was worth it because of the design.”

Fact Box:

·         Established: 2010

·         Location: Battersea

·         Size: 1000sqft

·         Employees: Three

·         Average sale: £65,000-£70,000 (units, appliances and worktops)

·         Suppliers: Gaggenau, Miele, Record Cucine UK and TM Italia