Decide how a kitchen is to be used and plan accordingly: as a laundry room, to watch TV, or as an area for children to do homework? Will you need more than one oven, a dishwasher, coffee machine, a warming drawer, built-in microwave, waste disposal, space for several countertop appliances? Interview designers or kitchen planners and ask several to submit ideas and a budget.
Contact the Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association for a list of affiliated members nationwide. It publishes a free consumer guide with practical advice for those who are considering buying a new kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or home office. (Image: Plain English)
If starting from scratch, use graph paper to make a detailed floor plan of your existing kitchen. Show doors and the direction in which they open, the size and position of windows and the location of existing appliances, plumbing, fixtures and cabinets.
Think about ergonomics to ensure a kitchen is arranged for maximum comfort and efficiency. Ideally, the sink, cooker and fridge should form a ‘work triangle’ – no two should be more than double an arm’s length away from each other. Worktops should be fitted to suit your height (usually 88 to 90 cm high).
An ‘island unit’ is a useful feature if you have the space. You should allow approx a metre between the island and the other kitchen units. Ideally, it should be equipped with electrical points and storage. Sometimes the island incorporates space for the kitchen sink, or the cooker (with extractor hood above) or an extended counter for worktop seating. (Image: Martin Moore)
The best position for the sink is below a window (if the only option is facing a wall, avoid an area with cupboards above). But if it is to be incorporated into an island, it should be positioned so that it faces into the room. Consider whether you need a single or double sink; whether you prefer stainless steel or ceramic. Position switches and sockets far as possible from the sink. (Image: DeVOL)
Position a dishwasher near the sink and crockery cupboard.
If possible, position a cooker on an exterior wall which makes it easier to fit an extractor hood; hoods should be mounted between 53 and 76 cm from the top surface of the cooker.
Before positioning a cooker near a window bear in mind that drafts can extinguish gas flames or set curtains alight.
Consider clearance space for opening appliance doors, especially oversized industrial models.
If you choose your appliances first, then get a technical specification for each one, you can decide on where they will fit into your floor plan. Consider dishwashing drawers instead of standard dishwashers. Fisher & Paykel sells a dishwasher with two drawers (shown here); one could be run for daily use or the two could be used simultaneously when entertaining. Also consider refrigerated drawers, particularly if you have a large kitchen and the main refrigerator is not close to the cooker. A refrigerated drawer unit stored with cooking essentials and items used every day can be extremely handy.
Standard cabinet units in the UK are normally 30cm wide, 60cm wide or 90cm wide.
You can get a catalogue from the company you are planning to buy the units from in order to establish the exact size of the cabinets in its range and then, once you have indicated where appliances will fit in your floor plan, add the cabinetry.
When choosing a worktop consider a combination of stone for working areas, with a drainer made from a sustainable Indonesian hardwood and a wooden chopping surface.
When designing a kitchen worktop create as few joins as possible, as they can be difficult to clean.
It’s useful to have a metal surface on which to put hot pans.
Wood worktops are ‘high maintenance’; they need to be regularly protected with a linseed-oil based sealant. Wood will mark when scorched or scratched.
Granite worktops are hardwearing, can withstand high temperatures and are ideal for pastry-making (as it won’t stick to the cool surface).
Marble and limestone can easily be stained by contact with lemon juice or oils.
Reinforced concrete can be cast on site to create a seamless surface. Contact Paul Davies Design for further details.
Stainless steel is popular for worktops and splashbacks. It scratches quite easily but has the advantage of being hygienic and withstanding heat. (Image: GEC Anderson)
Laminate worktops (thin plastic bonded to chipboard, plywood or MDF) are inexpensive, easy to clean and available in a wide range of colours. If you opt for a solid colour laminate, think about fitting a wood or stainless steel edging. Laminate worktops can chip and scorch and the laminate may come unstuck if moisture seeps into the seams.
Solid surfaces such as Corian ® are man-made composites of natural materials. Durable, non-porous and easy to clean, blemishes can be lightly sanded as the colour runs all through the surface. Corian ® worktops are costly though. CaesarStone® is 93% crushed quartz, one of nature’s hardest materials. It comes in 39 colours from wintery white to vivid green, warm red and pebble grey and is low maintenance, but expensive. There are other quartz-based surfaces suitable for worktops, including Zodiaq®, Okite® and Silestone®.
Glass worktops and splashbacks are heat, acid and water resistant. They can be ordered from Deco Glaze, painted and coated in a wide variety of finishes, including opaque and metallic, and over 40 standard colours. Or order a bespoke design from Steve Robinson. After choosing the type of worktop, consider the design of the edge: bullnose, square, radius, bevel, ogee.
Whether you are planning a new kitchen or updating an existing one, try to use every inch of space. Baseboards can be removed to create extra storage, while pelmets and false panels can be hollowed out to store wine. Banquette seating can also double as storage.
Don’t forget waste bins, now that we all recycle. If you can integrate recycling bins into the kitchen design it will be a great help on rubbish collection day.
It’s useful to have a spice drawer close to the cooker.
Think about using pull-out corner units and door and drawer organizers to create extra storage. Have a look at www.fitmykitchen.co.uk.
To make the most of space at the back of deep or low-level cabinets, fit shelves or compartments which glide out, or consider well-constructed drawers as an alternative to cabinets.
Updating an old kitchen
If you have a tight budget, consider updating rather than replacing your existing kitchen.
You can paint appliances, but it is important to paint any appliance that gets hot with heat-resistant paint. Ray Munn has one in spray format called Appliance Enamel.
Kitchen units can be covered with Ray Munn’s Eico Multisurface Primer, then painted in an eco, satin or eggshell finish. You can transform even the cheapest kitchen doors with smart paint colours from Fired Earth, Little Greene, Paint & Paper Library, Sanderson or Zoffany. Image: Paint & Paper Library
To design a cost-effective and practical splashback, consider using a sheet of glass glued to the back wall in between the top and bottom units, then painted with Ray Munn’s Toopak Glass Paint.
Changing cabinet handles will cost a fraction of the price of a new kitchen. Or, if you have inexpensive old brass handles consider dipping them overnight in a solution of spirit of salts. They will turn gunmetal grey. Finish with spray lacquer for handles that look like they have been cast by a blacksmith.
Things to bear in mind
Detailed price specifications are important. The cost of the work surface or handles, for example, can significantly change the budget.
A written agreement from the contractor detailing the scope of work, timing and method of payment is essential. Make sure the contractor, architect or designer is aware of local building regulations before they knock down walls, or install new plumbing or electrics.
Consider painting part of a wall with blackboard paint (from Beckers) or an adhesive blackboard panel (from Brume) to write messages and shopping lists on.
If you have room, you might want to bring furniture from other rooms into the kitchen; a cosy armchair to read cook books or an antique armoire converted into a china cupboard or larder.