Kitchens are the most hard-working room in the home. In many modern households they are so much more than a place to cook and clean. They’re the hub of the house, where people come together to eat, relax and socialise.
With all these different jobs to perform, getting the right kitchen design is essential. Kitchens must, of course, be practical, but with an ever-increasing range of kitchen cabinets, kitchen appliances, kitchen worktops and kitchen accessories to choose from, they can also be a stylish space that reflects your personality.
How to design your dream kitchen
People use their kitchen in different ways depending on the amount of space they have to play with and their individual lifestyle. However, there are a few basic guidelines that apply to any kitchen design and will provide the groundwork for designing the perfect kitchen.
Begin by separating your kitchen into different zones for cooking and work (food prep and washing). Your cooking zone includes your oven, hob or range cooker, an extractor fan and a microwave if you have one. Make sure this area is not in the pathway to a door or blocking the main thoroughfare through the room – handling hot cookware while people are trying to walk past you is a recipe for disaster.
Other things to consider include leaving enough space next to the hob for setting down pans, allocating an area for serving up dishes, and making sure there is enough space in front of the oven for the door to open unhindered - a minimum of half a metre is a must.
The work zone is where will have your fridge-freeze as well as your kitchen sink, dishwasher and kitchen waste bin - these should all be as close together as possible so you can tip leftover food into the bin, rinse the plates then stack them in the dishwasher with minimum effort. You might want to position your kitchen cabinets and drawers for storing crockery and cutlery close by as well, for ease of putting away.
If you don’t have a separate utility room, you may also need to factor in a washing zone for your washing machine and tumble dryer. A combined washer-dryer will save space and can be tucked away behind kitchen unit doors when not in use.
In an open-plan kitchen, you will also need a separate dining and/or living area, placed as far away from the work zone as possible so as not to disturb anyone eating or relaxing in those areas. A breakfast bar is a smart way to squeeze in informal seating in a small kitchen.
How to choose the right kitchen layout
The kitchen layout you choose will be dictated largely by space. A U-shaped kitchen is one of the most space-efficient designs, and is perfect for small kitchens. It packs maximum storage and worktop space into minimum square footage. Make sure you include corner cupboards with carousels so not an inch of storage space goes to waste.
An L-shaped kitchen works well in an open-plan kitchen design. A row of kitchen units runs along one side of the ‘L’, while a row of low-level units runs along the jutting out portion of the ‘L’ – an easy way to create a barrier between the kitchen prep and dining or living zones.
Galley kitchens are the top choice of professional chefs and aspiring amateurs as they are super-efficient. Two runs of kitchen units run parallel to one another, putting everything within easy reach. This may not be the best solution for small kitchens, as you need an absolute minimum of 120cm between the runs of units to allow for safe traffic flow – 140cm if more than one person is likely to be cooking.
A more open-plan version of the galley kitchen is to have a run of kitchen units along one wall with a kitchen island unit opposite. As with the L-shaped kitchen, the island unit can form a divide between the working kitchen space and the dining area or living area. If space allows, the non-work side of a kitchen island is a great place to include bar stool seating or open shelves to store cookery books.
How to create your kitchen style
Once you have devised the perfect layout for your kitchen, you can start to inject some of your own taste and personality into it with the cabinets and finishes you choose. Finishing touches such as kitchen worktops, kitchen splashbacks, kitchen doors, kitchen flooring and kitchen handles will all have a huge impact on the overall look and feel of your kitchen.
If you’re a fan of contemporary design, sleek handleless kitchen units with modern kitchen worktops in Corian or steel may be up your street. If you’re running a busy family household, painted kitchen units with hardwearing laminate worktops might be a more practical choice. The great thing about painted units is you can easily repaint them for next to no money when they get marked and scuffed.
Make sure you include enough kitchen storage
It’s easy to underestimate how much kitchen storage you will need. Make a list of all your kitchen equipment – pots, pans, crockery, cutlery, appliances, linen, cleaning products – as well as anything else you may need to store in your kitchen, from food and drink to the ironing board and vacuum cleaner. Once you have your list, you can design storage solutions around it.
A pantry or pull-out larder is the most practical way to store food, while a built-in wine rack, or even a wine fridge or wine cooler, can also come in handy. Kitchen cupboards with built-in spice racks or kitchen drawers with built-in dividers for cutlery are a great help when it comes to keeping things organised. A pull-out bin with an integrated recycling compartment makes it easier to do your bit for the environment.