Designing the Heart of the Home

Planning a new kitchen: It’s food for thought

Feature by Maria Stokes               

It’s long been said that the heart of any home is its kitchen. The kitchen is where families meet first thing in the morning and gather in the evening to catch up on the day. It’s where the conversations begin. It’s where friends come to laugh, cry or console. It’s where love is given in the form of everyone’s favourite dish and lately, it’s certainly where many have chosen to escape the real world by getting busy baking or creating new cuisine.

Whether you’ve just bought a new home, are thinking of selling up or have been happily settled for years in your abode, is it time your kitchen received the TLC that it deserves?

Choosing a new kitchen is one of the most exciting home renovations you can carry out, and today, more than ever, there are designs, colours and finishes that can look fantastic whatever your budget. But, if the process is not thought-out properly in advance, it can become expensive, stressful and time-consuming.

So, it’s vital you take the time to consider what you really want, breaking it down into these manageable steps to make decisions feel a little easier:

Assess your needs

Think about how your current kitchen works. What do you like about it? What frustrates you about it? Does the space you have work, or do you need to consider extending? A popular decision is often to knock down a wall between an existing kitchen and dining room to create one spacious open plan room. Do you have space to incorporate a breakfast island? Consider whether you have enough cupboard space, whether appliances will need to be moved, would you want them integrated and which appliances are important to you should you need to make compromises.

Set a budget

Before you get totally carried away with ideas for your new dream kitchen, set yourself a realistic budget. As you start to make decisions about layout, cupboard space and choices such as what kind of worktops, appliances and flooring, bear this figure in mind. This way, if things start to quickly spiral past your maximum budget, you’ll know it’s time to compromise on a few choices. For example, could you go for a cheaper flooring if you want to keep high quality appliances, or laminate work tops instead of quartz or granite to allow budget for more cupboard units? Be prepared to research prices. You can often save hundreds of pounds just by checking different supplier’s prices.

Let there be light

Lighting in a kitchen requires thought. Will you be having inset spotlights or a single light fitting? If you’re extending, is a glass roof lantern or skylights an option? How about under-cupboard lighting creating a soft glow across the work surfaces by night? Do you want LED’s in your plinth? Are you having an island that would look great with two or three feature lanterns or glass pendants hanging over? If you think about the most attractive kitchens, there will be a flexible lighting system. Popular choices are spots above cooking areas, secondary under cupboard lighting and feature lighting over an island, breakfast island and/or dining space.

What’s your inspiration?

Just like any other interior project, a new kitchen is a very personal choice. You may already know the exact style you want to create. You may have found a tile choice you want to incorporate or a material such as wood, but if you’re unsure, searching through home magazines, the internet, Pinterest and Instagram can really help. You may find that you’re drawn to white, grey or navy colour palettes, contemporary gloss kitchens or classic Shaker kitchens with a country pastel tone. Although your kitchen will be new, try to make choices that flow with the adjoining rooms. For example, if you live in a period home with character features, a high-tech gloss kitchen may not complement the rest of your property, but a Shaker kitchen could be ideal. Once you know what styles and colours you seem to consistently like, you can start to imagine your own kitchen in those styles and tones.

Consult a kitchen designer

Unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s best to consult a kitchen designer when it comes to the design and installation of a kitchen. An experienced designer will be able to talk you through how you’ll use the kitchen, advising the best layout for storage cupboards and appliances. They’ll also provide a CGI of your new kitchen and an accurate quote once you have chosen your kitchen style, fittings and fixtures. You should be able to see an example of your kitchen in a show room where you can check out the standard of quality of the work surfaces, cupboard fronts and drawers, as well as fixtures such as sinks, taps and handles.

Call in the professionals

Once all decisions have been made, you’ll be ready for installation. You may be able to fit the kitchen yourself or know someone who can do the job for you. If not, your kitchen supplier should be able to recommend skilled fitters. Dependent on the scale of the project you may also need to organise builders, electricians and plumbers. It is essential to manage the project thoughtfully, so that each tradesman is able to carry out their part in the right order for the next one to start.

Finishing touches

Once your kitchen has been installed it’s time to have fun with all the little details. Will you be installing blinds? If so, think about textile and colour choices that will work well with your kitchen style. Installed a breakfast bar or island? What stools will work best? If you’ve gone for oak work surfaces, wooden stools may be more in keeping than contemporary upholstered ones. If you’ve gone for a classic or country style kitchen, vintage finds such as retro storage tins and traditional scales on the work surfaces will work nicely and create character. However, if you’ve gone contemporary, then a more minimal look will work better with some bright pops of colour from plants and some well-chosen work top appliances such as a stylish kettle and toaster. If you’re lucky enough to have the space for a family area, try to keep the style in line with the kitchen. Choose complementary furniture, colours and patterns. For example, if you’ve used Moroccan vintage-style tiles in the kitchen, you could incorporate similar patterns and colours into cushions on a sofa.

Last but not least, have fun with it all! A new kitchen will most likely cost thousands of pounds, so be excited by the process and for the endless possibilities and choices available. Understand, that while a new kitchen is being fitted, mealtimes may become a little stressful, so be prepared in advance to cook simple meals in a slow cooker or microwave, and know that eating out and takeaways will be on the cards for a week or two. There could also be mess and dust to contend with. But always remember, all those things will be worth it when your family and friends can enjoy your new kitchen at the end of it all!