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UKE welcomes Linda Barker as Customer Ambassador: From Changing Rooms to changing kitchens

From the infamous theme music to some dodgy decor choices, Changing Rooms is still viewed as one of the most iconic DIY programmes in TV history. The premise of the show saw couples swap houses with friends or neighbours and decorate a room in a style they hoped the owners would love – sometimes they achieved this, sometimes there were tears. The nation couldn’t get enough and the show ran from 1996 until 2004, making 17 series in total.

This program inspired millions to make their own curtains, sponge paint or rag roll their living rooms using paint sample pots and re-purpose ugly 1970’s teak furniture! The most memorable characters being; Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Anna Ryder Richardson, Handy Andy and of course, the nation’s favourite… Linda Barker!

Linda is a life long advocate for living sustainably and throughout her career and personal life she has stayed true to her fundamental beliefs of re-purposing, saving money without compromising on design and being creative with what you have – this makes Linda the perfect fit for team UKE.

Throughout the coming months Linda will be sharing her thoughts on kitchen design, re-use and also giving some hints and tips on ‘living well’, but for now we thought we would ask her about her career so far and why she believes we should all be changing the way we think about kitchens…

Linda Barker meeting Helen Lord, Donna Davis and Kerry Stephen from team UKE

Our audience will remember you from the popular television show, Changing Rooms. Since then, you’ve written interior design books, designed your own range of kitchens and are a key figure in the kitchen industry. So, how does Used Kitchen Exchange fit in with your plans?

“Design has always been at the heart of everything I’ve worked on, since my early days on Changing Rooms right up to the variety of projects that I choose to spend my time on now. Over the last six years, kitchens have become a strong focus for me starting from my design work with Wren Kitchens, where I developed my own range of kitchens. It was certainly exciting to play a small part in Wren’s success. Since then, I’ve gone on to work with other clients in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom industry on various personal, design projects but kitchen design still remains a strong focus for me.

Used Kitchen Exchange Founder, Helen Lord contacted me about the business and I was struck by the sheer brilliance of the business model. (The environmental impact of kitchens hitting landfill is concerning, so it’s compelling to find a kitchen company that is actively working to redress this issue.)  As part of my UKE discovery, a prestigious Warendorf ex-display kitchen caught my eye – a bargain at over 50% off retail price and so, I found myself writing about my find in my regular column in industry magazine, KBBreview. From this, Helen Lord, (UKE’s founder) and I started to talk in more detail about how I could become involved in this innovative business and needless to say, we both got on really well and had a lot to say – I’m thrilled that Helen asked me to become UKE’s customer ambassador. It’s exciting to be a part of the process to build a future for this dynamic and innovative company and obviously, to share my knowledge.”

You’re famous for changing rooms quickly and on a tight budget, can this theory be applied to kitchens?

Kitchens are notoriously expensive and rightly so. In most cases they involve complex joinery, state of the art equipment and durable materials. Expensive kitchens are simply beyond the reach for many of us and they remain on our mood boards as kitchens to inspire or dream about. But, as a designer who is often asked to make a little go a long way, I’m always looking for affordable ways to get customers their perfect kitchen. This might mean repaint or a re-tile, replacing a worn splash back and dated handles, or upcycling door and drawer fronts. So, yes it’s definitely possible to update a kitchen on a tight budget but now we have another option to consider – the pre-used kitchen.

Being an interior designer with sustainable roots, have you found yourself incorporating sustainable practices into your everyday life?

Sustainability is firmly on everyone’s agenda. We are all aware of doing our bit to protect valuable natural resources and to care for our planet. From being careful with our household waste to being responsible about the choices we make buying groceries and household appliances – we all have a global duty of care and we must all try to do our utmost to protect the environment we live in.

Design plays a powerful role and clever design will mean our ovens and fridges, for example, will work more efficiently – this will help us to become much better at managing our resources. But sustainability isn’t just about the big design choices we make in our homes, there’s an important message which should impact on even the smallest aspects of our lives. Choosing not to buy new by purposefully selecting secondhand goods. I’ve had several red carpet events where a considered car boot purchase has outperformed anything I could have bought brand new. In fact, my daughter continues to wear my jumpsuit that I bought long before I was pregnant. If you’re ever in doubt about the power of your old clothes, hand them over to a teenager for a while and you’ll be surprised at how a little reinvention will have you longing for them back!

What’s the best value purchase you’ve ever made for your kitchen?

Without a doubt, my Dualit 8 slice toaster from Battersea Boot sale was a great find! It was in perfect working order and I put it to use almost everyday in my house. It was  a lucky find! Of course, there are days when the secondhand shop or boot fair doesn’t come up with the goods, particularly if you need it there and then, but for lots of us these are places where it’s interesting to rummage around and see what you can find. There are always unexpected things to be uncovered. If you find a treasure then great but if not, don’t lose hope – there’s always next time.

You’ve bought a new home! How are your kitchen plans coming along? 

A ha! I’m almost at a stage where I can install a kitchen: having almost finished being rewired and replumbed, my new space is almost ready to go! Because I’ve opened up this space for a larger more open plan kitchen, our older and underused kitchen wasn’t going to work anymore so my sister has been the beneficiary of that (and it looks gorgeous in her home). It’s a little early for the actual kitchen itself, but as you can imagine, my Pinterest boards are groaning with ideas. Most of all, I can’t wait to start cooking in a kitchen that isn’t temporarily held up with scaffolding board and breeze blocks.

Used Kitchen Exchange is, of course, the first place I look in a morning before work (and I’m always tempted to quickly scan before I go to bed in case the team have uploaded a new kitchen onto the site.) One of the great things about buying from UKE is that almost all of their kitchens will come already supplied with appliances. These can include up to the minute boiling water taps, steam ovens, teppanyaki cooking surfaces among other kitchen favourites. So, whether I choose to buy an approved used or an ex-display kitchen, my own home is likely to incorporate some or all of what UKE has to offer.

What’s your key to a happy kitchen?

A happy kitchen is one that keeps me from work and from what I really should be getting on with! As a keen cook, I’d prefer to be in my own kitchen space planning a celebratory lunch or dinner rather than (almost) anywhere else in the world. Perhaps my newest hobby – baking sour dough bread – should be more of a career move so the kitchen becomes my legitimate work space? Now, there’s a thought!


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