The House Directory’s Kitchen Design Tips

Planning a new kitchen is both exciting and daunting at the same time. Kitchens are the heart of the home and major investments, so you want to give every detail the consideration it deserves. Kitchen designers have the expertise to guide you through the process of decision-making. Here’s‘s guide to help you to begin the journey to plan your new kitchen.

Jacobean Manor House Kitchen by Guild Anderson
Image: Jacobean Manor House Kitchen by Guild Anderson. Jake Eastham Photography

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, a boiling water tap, space for 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.

Fascination Kitchen by Mowlem & Co
Image: Fascination Kitchen by Mowlem & Co

Kitchen layout

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, electric 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.

Image: Cotswolds Eclectic Kitchen by Cheverell. Adam Carter Photography

An island is ideal if you have sufficient space. Allow approximately one metre between the island and kitchen units along the walls. 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 countertop for dining.

The ideal position for the sink is below a window (if the only option is facing a wall, avoid an area with cupboards above). If the sink 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 sinks in stainless steel, ceramic or Corian®.  Position electric switches and sockets as far as possible from the sink.

Image: Cambridge Kitchen by Humphrey Munson. Photographer: Paul Craig

Situate the dishwasher near the sink and tableware cabinets.

If possible, position a cooker on an exterior wall, which makes it easier to vent an extractor hood; hoods should be mounted between 53 and 76 cm from the top surface of the cooker. If there’s insufficient space for a cooker hood it is important to install a fan for ventilation. When deciding on the position of the cooker, bear in mind that if it is near an open window drafts can extinguish gas flames or set curtains alight.

Consider clearance space for opening appliance doors, especially oversized industrial models.

Choosing appliances

Select appliances first, get a technical specification for each one and then decide on where each appliance will fit in your floor plan. Consider dishwashing drawers instead of standard dishwashers. Fisher & Paykel are innovators of dishwasher drawers. The two-drawer model, shown here, would give you the option to run one for daily use or the two to use simultaneously when entertaining. Also, consider refrigerated drawers, particularly if you have a large kitchen and the main refrigerator is some distance from the cooker. A refrigerated drawer unit stocked with cooking essentials and items used every day, such as milk and butter, can be extremely handy.

Fisher & Paykel
Image: Fisher & Paykel‘s Double DishDrawer™ Dishwasher

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 precise size of the cabinets in its range and then, once you have indicated where appliances will fit in your floor plan, add the cabinetry. Remember to include cutlery and utensil drawers and consider drawers rather than cabinets for crockery, pots and pans. You will also need cabinetry, or a combination of cabinets and shelving, for breakfast cereals and dry ingredients, for spices, oils and baking goods and for cleaning products.

Worktops & Splashbacks

Standard worktop height is 88 to 90 cm.

When choosing worktops and splashbacks granite, quartz or marble are popular for preparation areas and/or a sustainable hardwood. You will also need to decide on whether you want grooves in the worktop for drainage.

Image: Kitchen by Guild Anderson, painted in Paint & Paper Library’s Salt V. charlie@lukonicphotography

Kitchen worktops should have as few joins as possible so they are easy to keep clean.

It’s useful to have a metal surface on which to put hot pans.

Wood worktops require 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.

Stainless steel is popular for worktops and splashbacks. It scratches quite easily but has the advantage of being hygienic and withstanding heat.

GEC Anderson Stainless Steel Sink and worktop
Image: Stainless steel with Series A Sink by 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 edge detail. 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 throughout. CaesarStone® is 93% crushed quartz, one of nature’s hardest materials. It comes in 48 colours from wintery white to vivid green, warm red and pebble grey and is low maintenance. There are other quartz-based surfaces suitable for worktops, including Silestone® and new innovative materials including Fenix®.

Image: Fenix® solid surface worktop in Nero Ingo from Worktop Express. A smart material with low light reflectivity, soft touch, anti-fingerprint and scratch resistant.

Glass worktops and splashbacks are heat, acid and water resistant. They can be back-painted and coated in a wide variety of finishes, including opaque, metallic and colours.

Tiles are decorative for splashbacks but are not ideal for worktops, as grout is difficult to keep clean.

After choosing the type of worktop, consider the edge detail you prefer.

Bill Davies Penny's Mill
Image: Hungerford Kitchen by Bill Davies Penny’s Mill


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. If you can integrate both waste and recycling bins into the kitchen design it will be a great help on rubbish collection day.

It’s useful to have a spice drawer and a utensil drawer close to the cooker.

Think about using pull-out corner units and door and drawer organizers to create extra storage. are suppliers of these types of kitchen fittings.

Image: New Deco Kitchen by Martin Moore

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.


The underside of wall mounted kitchen cabinets or shelving is ideal for led strip lighting. Directional ceiling spotlights and wall lights also work well in kitchens. Ensure your workspace is well illuminated. Pendant lights positioned over kitchen or dining tables create a focal point in the room.

Image: Highgate Kitchen by Naked Kitchens

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. Rust-Oleum distributes an Appliance Enamel Spray Paint for indoor metal surfaces.

Kitchen units can be sanded and painted with a primer, then finished in eggshell or gloss paint. There’s advice on paint finishes on most manufacturer’s paint colour cards, or phone your selected manufacturer for their recommendations. For a quick uplift, Johnstone’s offers a one coat Revive Cupboard Paint. You can transform even the cheapest kitchen doors with smart paint colours.

Other paint specialists include Zinsser for priming and sealing water-stained areas and Ronseal for its one-coat tile paint. Consider painting part of a wall with blackboard paint (from Ronseal) for messages and shopping lists.

Image: Shaker Kitchen by John Lewis of Hungerford

Changing cabinet handles will cost a fraction of the price of replacing a kitchen. Or, if you have inexpensive old brass handles consider dipping them overnight in a solution of Spirits of Salt. They will turn gunmetal grey. Finish with spray lacquer for handles that look like they have been cast by a blacksmith.

Other 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.

If you have room, you might want to bring furniture from other rooms into the kitchen; a cosy armchair to read cookbooks or an antique armoire converted into a china cupboard or larder.

The Sebastian Cox kitchen by deVOL

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