Interview: Massimo Buster Minale – How we're taking on the KBB giants

InterviewFeatures Tue 18th Jul 2023 by Tim Wallace

Interview: Massimo Buster Minale – How we're taking on the KBB giants

Interview: Massimo Buster Minale – How we're taking on the KBB giants

Feature by Tim Wallace | Tue 18th Jul 2023

Tim entered the KBB world in 2004 with industry title kbbreview. He was appointed editor in 2011 before leaving to go freelance in 2019. In 2016, Tim was named Best Trade Journalist of the year at the Bathroom Manufacturers Association Media Awards. More

Last October Massimo Buster Minale opened Buster & Punch's first UK interior design showroom, and is now rolling out freestanding kitchens and bathrooms via a growing network of dealers. Tim Wallace gets the full story.

Q: You’re best known for your industrial-themed hardware and lighting. What’s the thinking behind launching complete kitchens and bathrooms?
A: We’re essentially a very small horizontal brand but we’re now taking on the monolith KBB giants. All of these industries are owned by a few very large players but the bit they’re all missing is that they don’t quite understand trends. They don’t understand what people want and they can’t move quickly enough. After seeing the millionth photo on Instagram of a nice kitchen with our hardware on it, we thought how great it would be to create a closed offering that all feels like it’s made in the same way as our very small details.

The Buster & Punch showroom

Q: Tell us more about your business model?
A: Initially it was very much e-com but we’ve discovered that people buying a kitchen want to see it and feel it. So within the next three months we’ll have about 10 showrooms up and running. This will include ours in Shoreditch as well as companies that haven’t traditionally sold kitchens. We also have accounts with retailers like Kuche & Bagno, Culina + Balneo, Complete Fitted Furniture and Panik Design.

Q: What’s your design philosophy?
A: We looked at the small details first, unlike most kitchen designers and brands. A lot of the focus was on how the doors felt when they opened, the adjustable feet and the frame and we went from there outwards. We’re in the space between full custom and the mainstream. We love the idea that people have a handful of choices that are curated to make their dream kitchen. We can offer a cheaper product with better quality. People appreciate Buster & Punch funnelling down thousands of market choices into three door colours and two frame colours.

A kitchen display in the showroom

Q: And you’ve used Scandinavian freestanding furniture as your inspiration?
A: Yes, my wife is Swedish and I spend half my time in Stockholm. Freestanding is more affordable for younger people. A customer might just want a five grand island unit whereas the big boys are an all-or-nothing beast. We like the DIY custom spirit. You can add bits and move bits. Over the last two or three years people have started to live in very different ways. Living rooms are kitchens and vice versa. We bring a Scandinavian spirit. The idea is that the home is one room rather than all these different rooms.

Q: Where is the furniture manufactured?
A: We would rather not make our suppliers’ names public but the cabinetry and steel frame are all made in the UK. As we roll out to other countries we’ll try to make as much as possible in local territories and roll it out slowly rather than aggressively.

Q: Who else is offering the same concept?
A: I really like a Danish company called Frama who are similar to us. There’s also Vipp and Reform CPH who just do kitchens. They get a lot of famous architects to design the door fronts. I also like the Italian brand Very Simple Kitchen. It’s made like a commercial kitchen but with fun colours and feels a bit different. Not many kitchens are made out of stainless steel.

Q: Why is the UK not fully embracing freestanding?
A: It will come, they’re just taking their time. It’s a hard one because when you build a freestanding kitchen it needs to be perfect in all dimensions. The sides and backs of built-in units can be rough because you box it all in, and the feet can be plastic. A lot more engineering goes into freestanding. All the innovation is in the frame.

Q: And the idea is to offer either a complete kitchen or parts?
A: Exactly - it’s a mix or match depending on your budget and your appetite. Importantly, people have access to all of it but can just choose some of it. A kitchen going into a three-bed terraced house might sell for around £60,0000. But for someone buying their first flat you could just have one of our tall units, an island, a tap or some handles. We’ve also just launched a boiling water tap.

Q: Which UK furniture companies impress you?
A: Guys like Plain English and DeVol do that lovely handmade Shaker thing brilliantly. That style is not dying out but it’s losing a bit of momentum. Shaker kitchens are very expensive and hard to install and maintain. I like the more commercial hardwearing kitchens that are made for real life.

Q: Tell us more about your bathroom offering…
A: It’s the one room where if you’re having steel you want everything in steel. We’ve worked on a special wet metal formula for our products and it’s a room we’re really excited to get into. At the moment we just offer accessories and lights but we’re working with Gessi who make our kitchen taps to grow the brassware side.

Tags: interview, features, massimo buster minale, buster & punch, hardware

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