This is the most comprehensive guide to kitchen design – in fact, it’s the only one you’ll ever need!
With years in the kitchen industry working with extremely high-end Clients, I have come to see what works when it comes to designing a kitchen and what a huge and important impact good design can have on your lifestyle.
There are two very important factors to have at the forefront of your mind when you start your kitchen project and they are functionality and sociability. These two things will literally transform the way you use your kitchen, here’s why –
This is so important, it will make your kitchen a joy to use. So many of us are living in open-plan spaces these days and to design a kitchen that doesn’t tick the ‘social’ box is a travesty. As a Country we are generally time-poor and strive for more quality time with friends and family. Make your kitchen a space where you can be together – even if you are cooking dinner at the same time. If possible have an island in your kitchen and work with simple blocks of furniture.
It really isn’t too difficult these days to design a decent looking kitchen. It might have the initial wow factor when you and your friends see it for the first time. But to make it look beautiful AND work well is a different matter. Think about how you work in the kitchen, and how many of you work in there for that matter. Do you cook alone or are there people in and out all the time when you are cooking? Would you like someone to be able to unload the dishwasher without getting under your feet? Do you need access available to the fridge for drinks/snacks without having to pass you at the hob or ovens? Do you have young children that may play with buttons and dials on ovens if they are at a low level? There are so many questions you need to ask yourself about your current kitchen and the things that work for you, and the things that don’t. This is your opportunity to iron out all the irritations you have about your existing space and tailor make your new kitchen to suit you and your family.
In an ideal world, your layout would be something like this –
A block of tall furniture
- To house your tall fridge, tall freezer and raised ovens, ideally 2400mm in width ( 4 x 600mm units). This could be as small as 1200mm wide though with a tall fridge freezer and stacked ovens, with an under counter freezer and dry food storage located elsewhere.
- Take care of all your dry food storage in a 600mm wide tall larder unit
- This is where your hob should be located if possible. This means that when you are cooking at the hob you can be looking out into the room and your guests/family/friends and not standing looking at a wall with your back to them. Your utensils and pots and pans will be located in a set of drawers directly below your hob for ease of use.
- Your island provides invaluable prep space and could contain a breakfast bar along the back or at one end. This is another fantastic addition to create a sociable space.
- If there is space, your sink will be on your island too (try to aim for 550mm wide sink minimum as this will fit an oven tray flat in the bottom – handy for soaking!) once again for the sociable aspect. It also creates an ideal prep zone between the sink and the hob. Your bins will be underneath the sink or in the next unit along.
A secondary run of wall furniture
- To provide additional worktop space
- To house small worktop appliances such as a coffee machine, toaster, kettle etc.
- This area could have wall units too for items such as cups, mugs and glasses.
Try to steer clear of corner unit. You will achieve a far more contemporary and high end look to your kitchen by just stopping short and not running furniture all the way to the wall. This enables you to get maximum drawer units into the run without compromising to fit a corner unit in. They frequently break (wherever you buy them from!) and are basically a bit rubbish– trust me!
Your aim is to include as many drawer units as possible. Almost everything in your kitchen is housed more practically in a drawer rather than a cupboard. Items get lost at the back of cupboards, they get gradually pushed to the back, never to be seen again! Drawers pull out to their full depth allowing you to see everything that drawer contains, front to back. The only cupboards you want are really for glassware as these can easily topple over when opening and closing drawers.
Laminate – fit for purpose. Stick to neutral colours and a nice worktop and you can create a really great looking kitchen that will stand the test of time. Fantastic for a busy family with kids and pets.
Gloss – I’d personally steer clear. It’s had its day as far as being the ‘fashionable’ thing to have and can now really date a kitchen. It’s also a nightmare if you have animals as it can become static and the animal hairs will stick to the surface.
Solid wood – a more expensive option but has the benefit of being able to sand out any minor imperfection caused by wear and tear. I would stick to a classic wood such as oak to limit the risk of the wood type going out of fashion although you do have the option to paint it at a later date – be aware, this is a major job and would ideally be done professionally.
Painted wood – looks stunning but I would avoid it if you have pets or young children’s as it can chip relatively easy.
Think about how you use your kitchen. Is it a proper working kitchen that goes to battle each day and is worked hard. Or is it more of a show piece and rarely used for cooking.
Laminate is a hard-wearing material that can handle a heavy handed approach. It has a bit of a bad reputation but is actually a fantastic option and comes in a wide variety of finishes. Its negative points are that it has visible joints and you are usually restricted to standard thicknesses.
Corian is a versatile man-made material that is good with heat and has the added benefit of being repairable and can have virtually invisible joints. Personally I think this material can have a ‘plastic-y’ look to it but is great in plain white. It can also be specified in any thicknesses of your choice.
Marble and Granite are beautiful natural products but need a lot more maintenance. They are porous and therefor you need to be conscious of spillages and heat as it can crack. Red wine, olive oil and certain spices can be disastrous for these materials. They cannot be repaired and will have visible joints. Natural stones are fantastic for baking and pastry making though as they stay very cool.
Wood is a lovely material to add warmth to your home, although I’m slightly wary of its use as worktop. It can be damaged by long term exposure to water, so can be problematic around sink areas, it can stain easily and needs maintaining with oil/sealant. On the plus side, it can be sanded and repaired within reason and wood has a natural antibacterial quality to it.
Stainless steel is the ultimate kitchen work surface. It is not porous and therefor completely hygienic, its scratches but these will become almost invisible over time and lots of use. It’s pretty much bomb proof – hence its use in commercial kitchens.
I would advise that you keep your kitchen furniture very neutral. This reduces the risk of it dating over time, and will keep it classically stylish. On trend items can be added with wall colour, accessories and even tiles. These are all at a minimal expense compared with replacing a bright orange gloss kitchen because you wake up one morning and decide you absolutely hate it!
As with everything, there is endless options here but I would opt for a matt finish ceramic tile in a large tile size. This will be the most hard-wearing material by far. If you’re looking to make more of a statement I would recommend an oak or walnut floor in a herringbone layout. This will look absolutely stunning, but beware of the maintenance involved.
Make sure you have good overall lighting within the room (ceiling spot lights for example) and also task lighting about your working areas. These need to be situated so the light falls in front of you when standing at the worktop. If it is positioned incorrectly you will find yourself working in your own shadow. If you opt for an island with a breakfast bar it’s nice to have some decorative pendants in this area – always in odd numbers, so 3 or 5 depending on the length of your island.
There is an enormous choice of appliances on the market now ranging from the basic to professional level models. I wouldn’t get too carried away with gadgets such as coffee machines, integrated microwaves and BBQ grills – they can tend to be more hassle than they are worth (especially for the cost!) I would have a worktop coffee machine, a freestanding microwave in an easily accessible cupboard (to free up worktop space) and just keep barbequing for outside! 1 or 2 single ovens are adequate for a family house, preferably at eye level as opposed to under counter. You might want the addition of a steam combination oven, these act as a steam oven, and a secondary fan oven – and even a mix of both functions. A fridge freezer, or separate full height fridge and freezer depending on your family size and requirements. A dishwasher. An induction hob – if you don’t know about induction you should! You may think these are standard electric hobs but you couldn’t be more wrong. Induction is as controllable as gas, with instant temperature control. It is more efficient than gas as there is no loss of heat and the most beneficial feature is they are so easy to clean. Induction uses the vibration of magnets using pans with an iron content (check your existing pans are compatible by seeing if a magnet sticks to the bottom – if it does then you are good to go!) to heat the pan itself, so the hob never actually gets hot – fantastically safe for young children. This also means that when food boils over or spills onto the hob surface it can be simply wiped off – no scrubbing needed. The most I have ever used on mine is a small amount of glass cleaner.
Basically your choices here are ducted or recirculating. Ducted extraction literally removes the air, steam and smells from your kitchen and takes it straight outside. Recirculating extraction simply sucks the air in, cleans it through a carbon filter and pumps it back into the room. Obviously the most effective extraction is ducted to an outside wall in the most direct route possible, but if this is not possible in your space a recirculating extractor is a perfectly fine alternative. If you currently have an extractor in your kitchen, really think about whether you actually use it. Kitchens require extraction for Building Regulations but this can simply be a Vent-Axia located on a wall somewhere in the space. Don’t feel you HAVE to have an extractor over your hob of its not something you think you will use. The money will be better spend elsewhere.
These are something that you have the opportunity to go a bit more ‘on trend’ with. For example, you could choose a copper tap which is something that may go out of fashion in the not too distant future and wouldn’t cost the earth to replace at a later date. Alternatively you could choose a statement door handle/knob which is a simple and inexpensive way to add interest to your kitchen and not a big deal to replace when you get bored of them. Regarding plinths, stick with stainless steel or co-ordinating with your door fronts if possible. Avoid plinth lighting at all costs – your plinths are functional and have the tendency to get a bit grimy (they are a kick-board after all) the last thing you want to do is draw attention to this area. I’m at a loss to why these were ever considered a good idea!
Credit: via www.pinterest.com
In open plan living your kitchen should be a beautiful piece of furniture in the space, not an un-thought-out ‘L-shaped’ monstrosity in the corner. The kitchen still is the heart of the home in this modern world, make it a wonderful place to spend time with your family and friends, from both a functional and social point of view. Trust me, it can be both!
I really hope my experience has shed some light on the minefield that you are entering into. A kitchen is a huge investment for anyone and not a project to be taken on lightly – a well-designed kitchen will literally change your day-to-day life. Hopefully you feel a little more ‘clued-up’ and you achieve the wonderful space you deserve.
Even a small update to your home can revive your love for the place and invigorate your enthusiasm to just keep on going!