The story of Black Rok

Born out of frustration

The story of Black Rok began 25 years ago, when Jamie was working for a local carpentry and joinery firm…

“We used to spend our time either fitting poorly made English kitchens or very expensive, hand made English kitchens. And it was always frustrating.

The cheaper, English kitchens just were not very well made. To get them to work properly and actually be fit for purpose, took so much time and effort. There was so much that had to be done on site to the cabinets, it was a case of build the kitchen first and then you can fit it. And this is just not the best way to do it. Building sites are busy, chaotic environments and hardly the best place to deliver the precision involved in high quality cabinet construction.

The other end of the scale was equally as frustrating but for a very different reason.

When it comes to high end, handmade furniture, the biggest problem is the cost. Handmade kitchens are beautiful, but they are so expensive. And sometimes, you have to ask if they are actually the best option for a kitchen. Timber moves, especially in a kitchen, there is just no way of getting away from this. It is exposed to high levels of humidity and temperature changes, not to mention all manor of spills and clean-ups.

Subject to real life these kitchens are not the easiest to live with. As an example, an in-frame solid wood door mounted on a pair of brass butt hinges will look beautiful the day it is fitted. But go and look at that same door five years later when it has endured five years of ‘real life’ and there’s a good chance that door won’t close properly. Chances are the door will have moved a little. Not enough to be noticeable but enough to mean it no longer closes properly. And most frustratingly of all, it can’t be adjusted on the hinge. It needs to be planed to fit, which then means it needs to be repainted.

There is a better way

During this time Ed began to work with Jamie. His background, up to this point had been running one of the countries leading Morris Minor restoration businesses, where he built-up an extensive knowledge base in working with wood, metal and spray painting. But he’d grown a little tired of the business so he sold up and joined Jamie in his carpentry business.

So for over ten years this was the world we lived in, frustration at both ends of the scale. English kitchens were just not as good as they could be. However, every now and then we would get to fit a German kitchen. And what a revelation that was!!!

black rok kitchen showroom cutlery draw P4303315 1200

Firstly, it would be delivered fully assembled. Not just the outer cabinet, but the whole unit, complete with drawers already fitted. Everything perfectly aligned and tensioned. No messing about on site trying to accurately measure for drawer runners and the like. It was just a case of unwrapping it, levelling it up and then fitting it in place.

Next was the quality.

Unlike English kitchens that would be built with “cam and dowel” techniques (think Ikea bookcase and those metal dowels and round connectors.) The German cabinets were perfectly square and rigid, built around a jig and then crucially glued and doweled together. And then finished with real wood bracing along the top. In fact, the cabinets are so strong you can even pick up an 80Kg drawer unit by using these bracing battens. Try doing that with a cam and dowel unit and get ready to buy another one.

The cabinets were made from high quality Eurdekor furniture board which is a highly stable, rigid substrate made from recycled wood particles and glue. Compared to the low grade chipboard we were used to seeing on English kitchens this board was a huge step up. It was so much denser, so much tougher and so much heavier. And it was edged all around with a PUR bonding technique that gives a solid 1.5mm colour matched finish to the edge of the board. And there were no exposed edges anywhere!! Even the back edge of the shelves was edged.

jenk before 1200

We would fit a big German kitchen in a few days and it would feel like we’d just built a BMW. The solidity, the weight, the integrated oil damped drawer runners and hinges. It was just a whole other level and every time we got to fit one we would say the same thing…

“One day we’ll open a kitchen showroom and all we will sell is German kitchens.”

We meet with Hacker German kitchens

Fast forward to 2011 and that dream became a reality. Through a mutual friend who worked for Neil Lerner Kitchen Design (back then they were the biggest Hacker dealer in the UK), we got to sit down with Stephen Fass, the man who had first bought Hacker German kitchens to the UK in 1977.

Many years later, on a visit to Germany, Stephen told us the first time he met us, he thought we’d never stand a chance. Running a kitchen showroom is a brutally competitive business and given both of us were from the hands-on side of installing kitchens, he thought our lack of business and sales experience would be a major problem.

But he backed us anyway. Because, he said, we were the only people who could stand there and talk more enthusiastically about German kitchens than he could.

Hacker factory

So, he gave us £15,000 line of credit, booked us two tickets to Germany and sent us on our way. Touring the Hacker factory was an amazing experience, we just could not believe the sheer size and scale of their operation. It was more like a car production plant that a kitchen factory. It was so clean, so automated and so technically advanced. We left the factory absolutely buzzing!

We find a showroom

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Our showroom on the day we got the keys back in 2011

We returned to the UK determined to find a location for our showroom.

The decision to open up in Uckfield came about because we liked how it sat right between Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne and Brighton. And whilst it lacked the chimney pots of these bigger towns we felt it could work well. The shop we found was pretty derelict, having been left empty for a few years, but we figured it had potential so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We did everything, from the floor up, refurbishing the entire space so it could serve as both our showroom and design centre.

And then came the day that our very own first delivery arrived from Hacker. A huge white artic lorry emblazoned with the words… Hacker- Kitchen.germanmade on the side. We bought the high street to a standstill and unloaded 4 life size kitchen displays.

Over the weeks and months that followed we fitted out the showroom and set up the business. On the 28th March 2012 we opened the door for the very first time and the business of Black Rok was born.

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And now 12 Years later…

Since that day, we have gone on to design and install kitchens in some of the most amazing houses in the South. We have worked for celebrities, titans of industry and a whole array of down to earth, lovely people who have all bought into our one simple idea. That German kitchens are the best.

And as Stephen Fass rightly predicted, we have struggled at times to navigate the pitfalls of such a competitive industry. But we’ve made it through each and everyone of those challenges. Not necessarily by being great at business but by being true to our word that no matter what it takes, we will do exactly what we say we will do, each and every time.

It has been an incredible journey and it’s still as exciting and as fun as ever. We get to do work we are really proud of for clients who really appreciate the efforts we go to. Getting to work in such a creative business, where you go right through the process of design, to manufacturer to seeing the final installation is just so satisfying.

Over the years we have learnt so much. We have become real experts in our niche. Working solely with Hacker for such a longtime means we have a fantastic understanding of their products and capabilities. And they are so supportive of us, too. If they can help, they will. It’s one of the great things about working with a company for so long, it becomes a real partnership.

We have done hundreds and hundreds of kitchens now; we have worked with so many kind and generous people across such a wide variety of projects. And there is nothing better than when a past client gets in touch to say they have moved house and they need another kitchen.

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The business of Black Rok continues to be an adventure. It still holds challenges, competition is fierce, markets have their ups and downs. But we created a business born out of the desire to offer people a better way of doing things. Twelve years later we still stand by that belief. That great service coupled with an excellent product is a great foundation upon which to try and build a business.

And even now, sometimes when it’s all quiet, we’ll walk around our showroom, open a drawer or two, and think back to those days when all this was just a crazy, little idea.

Stephen WoolmerStephen Woolmer
06:40 24 Jun 24
We would like to thank Jamie and Ed at Black Rok for our amazing German kitchen. From design concept to installation, they have been professional throughout and ensured we have achieved our dream modern kitchen. The quality of the build is what you would expect from a Germany company, but the little details from different draw and cupboard configuration's, to the lighting has made the difference. The quartz worktops are beautiful and the island at nearly 3m long makes this large kitchen so workable and an entertainment area in its self. We even fitted in a large pantry behind the kitchen and Black Rok have ensured we have used this space to its maximum potential. We cannot recommend Black Rok enough for your next dream kitchen.
Lorraine KlusLorraine Klus
10:54 14 Jun 24
There was no hesitation to use Black RoK for our new kitchen pantry utility and plant room in our new house having used them on several projects before. They never fail to do amazing designs and the insulation team are tidy and polite great quality kitchens .
Donna LawDonna Law
19:12 14 May 24
Great service. Such beautiful well made kitchen. High quality highly recommend
John WertheimJohn Wertheim
16:50 29 Apr 24
We love our Black Rok kitchen! Jamie showed amazing patience and design expertise over the two years that it took us to create our vision, at the same time as building our house. Jamie was able to incorporate everything that we wanted, providing great advice and suggestions along the way. The installation was amazing - nothing was too much trouble and the coordination with our builders went perfectly. We have both a beautiful and fully functional space and would thoroughly recommend Black Rok.
Dan ElsonDan Elson
07:31 20 Apr 24
Great service. All the team at Black Rock highly professional. The end result is fabulous. Many thanks Dan
D.M.N.M GutteridgeD.M.N.M Gutteridge
22:08 21 Mar 24
Thoroughly recommend the Black Rok team. We put in a new kitchen and got excellent advice through the planning process. We asked to see a number of different layout options on the computer and Jamie was very patient and helpful. The installation team were first rate and took great pride in their work. Overall very satisfied.
Linda WoodhouseLinda Woodhouse
16:39 05 Dec 23
Having downsized, I was somewhat daunted by the prospect of turning my narrow, shadowy, U-shaped, very basic kitchen into one that I actually wanted to spend time in. I now have a light, airy, functional space with practical ‘innards’ and modern, intuitive appliances. Thanks to Jamie and Ed the kitchen layout has been totally transformed and the best use has been made of the space with a sleek handle-less design and contemporary narrow worktops. Both Jamie and Ed have communicated professionally and openly at all stages of the project and Ed was even instrumental in steering me towards my final colour choices! I would thoroughly recommend Black Roc for their design and fitting capabilities.
steven eckhardtsteven eckhardt
15:00 20 Nov 23
WOW! Black Rok did a really fabulous job job with both design and fit. We have a high quality contemporary kitchen and appliances. The fit was done in just a few days with care and precision. We have had no issues but Black Rok have kept in touch and visited to ensure we are satisfied which of course we are. Fabulous colour and all very functional. Great decision to use Black Rok and we have no hesitation in recommending them.
Nigel BraggNigel Bragg
16:08 17 Apr 23
We have nothing but positive things to say about the team at Black Rok Kitchen Design. Having spent 3-4 years dithering over getting a new kitchen, we finally decided to take the plunge last year. We had 2 criteria: a sleek, modern, German style kitchen provided by an independent, local business with impeccable references. After coming across the Black Rok website, we were immediately taken by the striking designs and reassured by the volume of glowing customer testimonials along with photographs of recent projects. From the moment we met with Jamie in the Uckfield showroom, it was clear that he understood what we were looking for. Although we had some pretty fixed ideas on design and layout, Jamie was able to take those ideas and enhance them seamlessly into an overall design scheme that exceeded our expectations in all departments. We had a few design meetings, several phone calls and email conversations, and within fairly short order were signing off on a final specification for delivery in early 2023. In the lead up to installation, communication was great and the technical drawings provided by Jamie for layout of plumbing and electrical services were described by our builder as the most detailed and accurate he had come across. Indeed the Black Rok team came onto site during the preparation works to meet with our builder and electricians to ensure a smooth installation process. Everything was delivered on time and exactly to the agreed budget. The cabinets and interiors are really well made and constructed with an engineered precision you might expect of a German manufacturer. The installation team of Ed, Zac and Jake were really personable, treated our home with great respect and worked extremely efficiently to ensure the kitchen was installed quickly and accurately. They solved every problem posed to them, displaying great attention to detail and tidying up diligently at the end of each day. We are utterly delighted with the new kitchen, which certainly delivers a "wow" moment when friends and family come to visit. The quality of the workmanship is incredible value for the overall price paid. We still pinch ourselves when walking into the room and are so pleased with ourselves for choosing Black Rok.
philip mccabephilip mccabe
07:30 11 Jan 23
Fantastic, intelligent and responsive service from Jamie and Ed from start to end. The kitchen design stood out from the beginning for its attention to detail and a real understanding of what we wanted from the space. They recommended excellent builders and then worked with them to make sure that the end result was picture perfect to the design. Fitting was spot on from a skilled, diligent team and we were never kept waiting. Issues with 3rd party appliances were dealt with in a way which made it crystal clear that our satisfaction was the priority. Brilliant. Easy 5 Stars.
Helen DaviesHelen Davies
19:03 24 Oct 22
We are so pleased we elected to go with Black Rok kitchens, as they have designed and installed the kitchen of our dreams! Throughout the process, from design to installation we were reassured by the professionalism of Jamie and Ed. Jamie created a fantastic design for our kitchen and suggested ideas we had not previously considered and the installation by Jake, Zak and Ed has been completed to an exceptionally high standard! Nothing was too much trouble. If you're considering upgrading your kitchen, don't hesitate to contact Black Rok, you won't regret it.