It all started when a young, twenty-year-old cabinet maker from Italy joined a small woodworking studio outside Toronto. Within months, Mike D'Uva became co-owner and, soon after, sole visionary of what would become one of the industry leaders in custom kitchen furnishings: Downsview Kitchens.
Now more than fifty years later, two generations of D'Uvas guide the company, which has evolved into a state-of-the-art custom kitchen manufacturer. While known the world over, Downsview Kitchens remains, at its heart, a family business deeply committed to its core values of integrity, craftsmanship, and innovation.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Gianni Casiraghi about kitchen design, artistry, and what's on the horizon for this thriving sector of interior design.
Q: Let's talk about what sets Downsview Kitchens apart: your commitment to craftsmanship. Where are your kitchens made and by whom?
The Downsview goal from the start has always been to elevate the status of the kitchen from a simple service area of the house to the social hub of the household. The two main ingredients were to create fashion statements—we always wanted to be part of the fashion industry and not of the "woodworking" industry—and provide the best quality possible, by the uncompromised selection of the material we used.
The Downsview product is manufactured in the Mississauga, Ontario, plant located in Toronto. Every component is custom built and finished in-house by highly trained craftsmen with the aid of the most advanced technology.
Q. Downsview combines artistry with innovation, resulting in highly functional, stylish kitchens. Modern Reflections immediately caught my eye for the mix of diverse materials. The result is seamless and downright luxurious. Oh, the storage! Tell us about this design.
As in most of the cases, it's the room that dictates the design: the proportions, light sources, and character of the space. In this kitchen, the mirrored stainless-steel glass doors create a "light echo" by reflecting the light source of the window on the opposite wall. This is enhanced by floating the glass cabinets' reflective area over a dark background of concealed storage cabinetry. The stainless cabinets below the cooktops and the high-gloss lacquered island with recycled glass top are light conduits.
Q. I am still a big believer in the classic white kitchen. They are always optimistic! Essential White is one of my favorites. It's modern and fresh. Are white kitchens as popular as they once were?
White kitchens are never out of style or out of fashion. There are times when they almost take over the market. All other colors or wood finishes eventually go out of fashion. At any time, white is a good starting point. White comes in many shades and goes with everything.
Q: Let's talk about materials. Could you share some of the innovations in countertop materials. What is currently the most popular counter material you are installing?
Like most things in life, availability dictates trends. As traditional stone like Carrara (almost extinct) and Calacatta (overpriced) are getting harder to find, stones from the Quartzite family are becoming more popular. Human ingenuity, as is often the case, also comes to the rescue with all kinds of artificial surfaces.
Q: What's new in floor coverings? Are clients getting a bit more daring?
There's almost too much to choose from today, but the true winner looks like porcelain. If there are any trends in the last several years, I would say that using the same material throughout the entire house is one of them.
Q: We all dream of a well-organized, efficient kitchen. Can you discuss ways to increase storage and functionality required by a modern kitchen of today?
We always rely on what's available from the furniture hardware industry. The last two decades were simply revolutionizing. The task is how to better utilize or adapt what is in the market. Storage and functionality in a kitchen are custom designed to the client needs and the client's love for "gadgets". Like the wheel is to the car, the adjustable shelf is the foundation of storage in a kitchen. After that, the sky is the limit.
Q: I must ask about these coffee stations. I can literally smell the ILLY expresso brewing. How popular are these becoming? Are they meant to be seen or unseen?
Breakfast nooks and coffee station are getting more popular for kitchens that are the family meeting place and center of entertaining. The option to hide these specialized work stations results in an even greater flexibility for the kitchen.
Q: Hood design has come a long way. Are hoods becoming more important to the overall design scheme of the kitchen?
With the stove or cooking area being the center of any kitchen activity, the hood has always been the main focal point of a kitchen environment. As the room's center of activity, the hood deserves center stage.
Q: The kitchen is the heart of the home and today's families seem to be eating, working, and entertaining there. The boundaries of the traditional kitchen have dissolved and extended to fit today's lifestyle. Are clients asking for more dining options in the kitchen?
That's a good and easy question to answer. Very simply: Si (yes)!
Q: Some homes are literally built around the kitchen! I would imagine it's no longer taboo to gather there?
It's the result of a very long evolution that started many decades ago. It's definitely not a taboo. After what we are seeing during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the kitchen will become, even more so, the largest room in the house, to the demise of the formal living and dining rooms.
Q: Downsview's commitment to artisanship extends to other areas of the home, both the well-traversed and private. Can you talk about these bespoke spaces? Closets and bathrooms?
As in the tradition of kitchen cabinet manufacturers, we always offered bathroom vanities and cabinetry for laundry rooms.
The use of sophisticated finishes and high-quality construction for a more fashionable kitchen has allowed us, with the proper design evolution, to penetrate the custom built-in furniture market. That would include wardrobes, walk-in closets, bedroom furnishings, bars, entertainment centers, bookcases and any other part of the house that needs elegant storage.
Q: I see your designs are expanding to living spaces?
Downsview has made an effort for the last several decades to provide a product that can adapt to any custom furnishing need around the house. That allows our dealers and designers to work with a product that lets them satisfy and realize any of their client's needs. Our company logo name is Downsview Kitchens and Fine Custom Cabinetry.
Thank you, Gianni for this Kitchen Confidential, and for sharing all the right ingredients for kitchen success from Downsview!
For more information, please visit downsviewkitchens.com
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INTERVIEW BY LESLIE NEWSOM RASCOE
Images courtesy of Downsview Kitchens