Planning a kitchen can be one of the most exciting parts of renovating your home. It can also be stressful and time consuming if not planned carefully. It goes without saying that your kitchen is probably the largest investment you will make in your house. And the room you will spend the most time in. So how do you go about planning a kitchen that you will still love years later? Here are my tips for creating your perfect kitchen.
You may already know what kind of look you’d like for your kitchen. If you don’t, the best places to start are Pinterest, Instagram or interiors magazines. Collect together images you are drawn to and try not to spend too long on it otherwise you’ll start to confuse yourself. Don’t worry about curating your ideas perfectly right from the beginning. You can group them into themes later and decide which style you are most drawn to. Also make note of surfaces, materials or accessories you like. Sometimes just one image is enough! This kitchen by Devol is one of my favourite inspirational images. Then make a shortlist of three kitchen companies to visit. Any more than that can get overwhelming.
LIST YOUR NEEDS
Every person uses their kitchen differently and you need to make it as easy as possible for your kitchen designer to understand your priorities. If you do the following two exercises up front you’ll find the design process will be much easier and quicker.
Firstly, make a list of your storage needs – eg plates, baking trays, ice cream makers etc! It sounds so basic but it helps your designer plan the right kind of storage. Once you see your design in a drawing you can then work through your list and make sure everything has its place.
Secondly, make a wishlist of other items and prioritise into Must Have and Nice to Have. So these will be items you’d like incorporated in your kitchen. You may for instance have fallen in love with a pantry cupboard or a particular style of cooker. This kitchen by Martin Moore is centred around an AGA, which is at the heart of the kitchen.
SET YOUR BUDGET
Most suppliers will ask what your budget is at the onset. This isn’t about arrogance but a designer’s desire to manage your expectations. As a very general rule most bespoke kitchen companies will have a minimum budget of around £20k. But there are always exceptions to this, so don’t assume a company won’t be interested in your project. Always be honest about your budget so that your designer can help you work out where to save and where to invest.
Make sure you have a written quotation that covers every aspect of the job including fitting, flooring and any structural alterations you have discussed. Most kitchen companies only manage the installation of the cabinets; appliances; worktops; and sometimes flooring. So you also need to factor into your budget additional building work and miscellaneous items. This includes new pipework; adding electrical sockets; underflooring heating (which is great for freeing up wall space for storage); and tiling. Don’t forget other items such as lighting; bar stools for your island; blinds and quality faceplates for sockets (as an alternative to standard white plastic). These items all add up!
Try and bring all of these costs together into one budget and then add 10% for contingency. Once you have all your costs you are in a much better position to work out where to invest and where to save. Unless you are in the lucky position of having a healthy budget!
In terms of where to spend and where to save I would advise to buy the best worktops you can afford. They are one of the most hardworking elements of any kitchen. Composite work surfaces (such as Cambria Quartz and Caeasarstone) are good investments as they are tough, durable and will give your kitchen a luxurious finish. Marble is beautiful but it’s expensive and at risk of staining. On appliances buy the best oven you can afford and consider less expensive brands for dishwashers and fridges. It’s all about compromise if your budget is under strain.
Finally, think about the items you will touch. That’s where I would always invest. Quality taps and cabinet handles add such a sense of luxury in a kitchen and are incredibly durable. Cheap fittings can let down the feel of the whole kitchen and will just need to be replaced in time.
PLAN THE SPACE WITH A PROFESSIONAL
To get the most from your space the input from a professional designer is invaluable. Their experience will offer you ideas you might not have even considered. Start by thinking about the classic kitchen work triangle, which means keeping optimal space between cooker, sink and fridge. Then try and keep the sink, bin and dishwasher next to each other. Have your wall cabinets above this area so you can to instantly put away plates, mugs etc without having to walk across the kitchen. What you want to do is eliminate unnecessary steps.
If the ceiling height allows, think vertically, by installing wall cupboards that extend all the way up to the ceiling. This will draw the eye upwards, creating the illusion of space, and means you can store less-frequently used items on the top shelves. This also creates a play on scale, which makes the space feel interesting. This kitchen by Devol is a perfect example.
If your kitchen is part of an extension position the sink and dishwasher area so you can look out into the garden to watch children.
An open plan space is always a challenge to design. On a positive note, they offer a wonderful large sociable space where you can keep an eye on children. On the negative side it means you can never hide the washing up when entertaining! If you have the luxury of space then consider a pantry where you can hide all this mess away. Pantries are making a big comeback. I absolutely love this pantry by Humphrey Munson (photo credit – Paul Craig) which as well as being practical has such charm. Visit their website for more inspiring images.
SELECT A COLOUR SCHEME
Colour can completely alter the mood of a kitchen as well as express your personality. When planning your kitchen consider three elements: the feel you want to create; practicality; and your personality.
- The feel you want to create
You probably have a good idea about what feel you’d like for your kitchen. But don’t just consider styles (eg Shaker, Scandinavian etc). Also think about what kind of atmosphere you’d like to create. Do you want it to be welcoming or calm for instance? This really helps you to pin down what colours to work with. So with a welcoming kitchen you may go for more colour but for a more calm feel neutrals and greys or blues work well. This kitchen by Plain English is one of my favourite images. The room is calm yet still feels welcoming with the additional of this wonderful warm blue.
Neutral units can look fantastic but if you choose a shaker style kitchen you will find it requires a lot of fiddly cleaning. The lovely beading you get in this style of kitchen attracts a huge amount of dirt, as do the kick boards, which get scrapped by vacuums. If you have young children these lighter colours will suffer more from the dents of toys. If you love white though then consider a darker colour on the island or even the rest of the lower level units.
In larger kitchens with high ceilings I would encourage you to experiment with darker shades, as the amount of light and space the kitchen has will ensure the room still feels airy. In fact, applying too much white to a kitchen of this size may make it feel sparse, meaning light shades should be balanced with warmer and darker tones.
This beautiful kitchen by Devol is flooded with light so can take bolder colour. But only go for these kind of colours if you really love them, which brings me to my next point!
Always work with colours you are drawn to rather than colours you “should” have. You’ll spend so much time in your kitchen that you need to love the colour. Bold or deeper colours are great but if you feel you are going way outside of your comfort zone you may tire of the colour quickly! If you don’t have the confidence to go for a dark colour in the whole kitchen then painting the island in a bolder colour is a great compromise.
Another great place to show your personality is with the tiles or fabric you choose for blinds. So you could go for fairly neutral units and bring in colour elsewhere. I have written a more detailed article about choosing a colour scheme for a modern country home here.
INVEST IN AN AGA?
An AGA is the classic choice for a country kitchen but there are also some other great range cookers on the market. From my perspective I think they are a wonderful additional to a home and create such a centerpiece for a kitchen. They do take a little time to get used to but I personally wouldn’t swap mine now. Remember an AGA is on either all of the time or most of the time, depending on which model you select. So in the winter it’s like having a huge warm radiator in the room but in summer you’ll be desperate to turn it off!
From a personal perspective I would only invest in a three or four oven AGA because it gives you more flexibility with your cooking. The four oven AGA only has a roasting oven (around 220 degrees), a baking oven (around 160 degrees) a simmering oven (around 120 degrees) and warming oven . With the two oven AGA there is no baking oven, which is rather constrictive for certain types of cooking. For baking cakes I also found the AGA was a little tricky to get used to. When I updated my own kitchen we added a small wall mounted oven into another part of the kitchen. This gives the temperature control that you need sometimes.
In a smaller kitchen a large range cooker may be hard to incorporate. In these types of kitchens the slimline options will save space. Many manufacturers now make narrower models which means you don’t have to compromise on style. The classic AGA comes in a 60cm width that’s ideal for a compact kitchen. Lacanche also produce a 70cm width cooker, which looks fantastic. I love this example in a kitchen by Middleton Bespoke.
DON’T FORGET THE FINISHING TOUCHES
One important element to consider is texture. This sounds like a strange tip I know! Tiled splashblacks look fantastic and add a more textural element to the smooth surfaces of painted cabinets and smooth worktops. There are some great tile suppliers. Metro tiles can be sourced at a very reasonable price but if you want more colour or to show your personality look at websites such as Bert and May. They also have some great taps in beautiful brass finishes.
I’m a huge fan of ironmongery. High quality handles can make a standard shaker kitchen feel so much more special. Any you touch the handles every single day so they need to be high quality. If your kitchen company don’t provide the handles then look at companies such as Armac Martin
PLAN YOUR LIGHTING
This is such an important area. Your kitchen designer may include lighting in their plans but this often only covers under cupboard lighting and plug points. You need to think of the lighting in your kitchen in a wider way and take a layered approach. By this I mean considering four types of lighting, which are each on a different dimmer switch:
- General lighting – the substance of your lighting. Downlights normally provide this type of light. But plan these carefully! The typical mistake people make is to have a grid of downlights which can totally overwhelm the room with cold blue lighting, whilst bleaching out your paint colours
- Task – task lighting helps you with tasks such chopping vegetables. In kitchens, these fittings are typically downlights/LEDs under kitchen cupboards
- Accent – to enhance important features. This type of lighting can really add a sophisticated and luxurious feeling to a kitchen It’s an area that tends to be neglected. Examples include an interesting splashback or a picture you’d like to highlight in the dining area of your kitchen
- Decorative – feature lighting that adds decorative interest. I love oversized pendant lamps in kitchens, as show in this kitchen by Blakes (see website below). These decorative lights can also provide the task lighting over islands. But do make sure they provide enough light.