Mike Schirmer is the director and designer at Goolwa Kitchens and Wardorbes. Having started out as a carpenter, Schirmer moved into kitchen design and manufacturing.

He has travelled extensively and tries to incorporate a lot of what he sees in overseas kitchen design trends into his designs here in Australia.

‚ÄčArchitecture & Design ‚Äčtalked to Schirmer about travelling to a trade show in Milan, how he designs a kitchen, and how he likes to vary his design style.  

Tell us a bit more about yourself, including your background, education and training, as well as your role at Goolwa Kitchens and Wardrobes.

I started in the kitchen industry in 1977 as an apprentice carpenter and joiner, and in those days everything was done by hand with little machinery and minimal cabinet hardware. The hinges we used were piano hinges and small, but hinges and roller catches to hold doors shut along with particle board was just being introduced.

The machinery used for manufacturing kitchens nowadays is extremely sophisticated with CNC machinery that is computer controlled, which you need for drilling holes accurately for the modern drawer and hinges available today.

My Apprenticeship was four years and I did a TAFE course in business management. The cabinet industry is an ever evolving industry so you are always learning. I started my own kitchen manufacturing business in 1985 and our business is still manufacturing today although I have a business partner.

I have been designing kitchens since I was an apprentice and I am a member of the Housing Industry Association (HIA), Kitchen & Bathroom Designers Institute (KBDI) and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia (FIAA).

A couple of years ago I travelled to Milan in Italy to attend a trade show which was equivalent in size to five football fields of all the latest design and hardware in Europe, which I think was very beneficial to me as a kitchen designer.

My roll at GKW is a director, designer and estimator, while my business partner Ben’s roll is the manufacturing, scheduling and running of the factory. Our wives also work in the business at the showroom end in administration. Our business has won numerous awards at the highest level for design and manufacturing. We also have a cut-to-size business where we supply painted doors and cut to size carcasses to the trade through our web based online ordering system called "goCabinets" which is fast becoming a major part of our business.

Why kitchen design?

The reason I got into the industry is because I always loved wood work at school and worked for local builders in my school holidays as a carpenter’s assistant.

What does your standard day involve?

My standard day consists of the daily running of a kitchen manufacturing business which employs 15 staff. I also usually have appointments daily with new clients, and also provide quotes for builders and clients.

What tools and software do you use when designing kitchens?

When designing kitchens I use the concepts of BLUM's Dynamic Space. The purpose of Dynamic Space is:

  1. planning sufficient storage space
  2. planning in five kitchen zones
  3. avoiding shelves in base cabinets
  4. select full extension with an inner dividing system
  5. fitting that function perfectly for an excellent quality of motion.

I listen to what my customers want and try to incorporate their wishes in to a functional design. I use computer software called Cabinet Vision Solid Drafter for designing my kitchens and our own developed software for estimating, which is also web based so I can use it anywhere.

What is the favourite part of your day?

The favourite part of my job is when my clients see their kitchen or cabinets turn from drawings into reality. The look on their faces is priceless.

What is the biggest challenge you face every day?

Probably my biggest challenges each day is switching from one job to the other all the time as customers are constantly ringing or emailing with questions or the like. I have tried to minimize this problem over time with structured processes and procedures which we have in place and our clients are made aware of them right at an early stage.

What interesting upcoming work do you have?

Most of our work is interesting as most of our work is custom design. However, we have just finished doing an Art Wine Tasting Centre at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills with the owners architecturally designed house on the same site. It came up a treat and the clients are very happy, which is my favourite part of the process.

Another project that we are currently working on has a six metre long concrete finished island bench with water fall ends which will look sensational when complete.

What is your personal design/style approach?

My personal design style varies as I do not like to be a designer that gets stuck in the same old routine. I travel around and see different ideas and concepts and I like to incorporate them into my designs.

A couple of years ago I travelled to Sri Lanka and noticed that they used concrete for kitchen bench-tops with very few cabinets, mainly due to cost. So I have tried to incorporate that concept into my designs now. You see this in a lot of kitchen magazines.

When I was in Milan at the trade show I was inspired by the use of shadow lines under bench-tops and mitered panels on corners instead of butt joins. Even mitered end panels where they return onto drawer fronts – I use them in my design as a point of difference.