Kitchen queen - Diane Berry on new starts after 40 years in the business
- Credit: Archant
Diane Berry is marking 40 years in the kitchen industry by opening a large new showroom in Prestwich.
No-one knows the ingredients for a winning kitchen quite like Diane Berry. It is now 40 years since she started working for her dad’s kitchen company in Prestwich and since then she has become the most decorated kitchen designer in the country.
Her latest project isn’t a kitchen though; she’s working on her new office. It’s the final stage of the development of the new showroom she recently opened in Prestwich’s old British Legion building.
‘I’ve always dreamed of having a bigger showroom,’ she said. ‘I’ve wanted to move for years but I also wanted to stay in Prestwich. That’s where my dad’s kitchen shop was where I started when I was 16, and it’s where my mum still lives.
‘It was a big thing to take on an old building full of asbestos. My grandfather played darts here years ago but the building has had no money spent on it in the last 30 years or so and it was in such a terrible state.
‘We’ve installed insulated floors and electric car charging points – it’s been a huge investment for us. We took the front of the building away and made it all glass. I’m super excited to have saved the building. It’s great to have a bigger showroom – it means clients who want a big kitchen, but have only seen architects’ drawings, can visualise it at actual size.’
And clients aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the move to the spacious new showroom on Bury Old Road – the staff are enjoying the new enviroment as well.
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‘One of the reasons we wanted to move was to give staff more room,’ Diane said. ‘I’d like to increase the design team but until now we’ve not had the room, so now we have more space I’m looking to recruit a couple more designers.
‘We have a team of 12 at the moment, five designers and the rest are fitters, joiners, installers and people in the warehouse. We’re unusual in still employing our own fitters rather than sub-contracting that out. The old offices didn’t have any daylight and there was nowhere for staff to take a break or eat their lunch. People ate at their desks, or in their car. Now there is more space, a chill out area and somewhere to have lunch away from their desk.’
Diane’s career started long before she left school, listening to her father who ran his own kitchen and plumbing business. Subliminally, the youngster became immersed in technical and design ideas. Then, to earn pocket money, she cleaned her father’s studio – a boring job for a teenager and one she was determined not to have to go through when she had her own home.
At the age of 16, her father convinced her to join the business. Diane had other plans, but he offered her a Vauxhall Chevette and driving lessons. She started the next day.
Diane left her father’s guiding hand in her early 20s to begin a career that has seen her become one of the most recognised kitchen designers in her industry, with a long list of awards to her credit.
After an excellent practical training with her father, she worked in other kitchen design studios gaining an enviable reputation, before establishing Diane Berry Kitchens in 2002. And 18 years on, her enthusiasm for kitchens remains as strong – and as infectious – as ever.
‘I wanted to change the world 15 or 20 years ago but now I just want to be the best I can be,’ she said. ‘We don’t do bedrooms or bathrooms – I’m just into kitchens – and I’m passionate about getting it right for each client.
‘People don’t always know what’s available when they come to the showroom, our job is to show them what there is and to create a kitchen that suits how they live – not to try to sell them things they won’t need.
‘I always say honesty is the best policy. If you’re untidy, don’t tidy up before I or one of my team visit. We need to know your exact needs, so don’t cover anything up. We won’t be shocked by anything, I promise. We need to know how tidy you are, how much you like to cook, how you live. Some people feel they have to pretend they love to cook, but then say they buy M&S ready meals - that can mean they need a different style of kitchen to someone who does a full roast dinner every week. I’m vegetarian – and I’m not all that into cooking – but I need to know how to cook that roast so I can give people the best advice.’