Putting together a kitchen design that suits your lifestyle, budget and home’s interior scheme will require a bit of investigation. But with so many key elements to consider, from kitchen costs and layout to cabinets and kitchen worktops, where’s best to start?
A good place to start is with identifying how you and your family actually engage with the kitchen. Are you avid cooks? Do you love baking? Will the kitchen be used as a social space?
The kitchen used to be a place for the behind-the-scenes activity of food prep and cleaning, situated separate from the comparative calm of the dining room. However, thanks to the rise of open-plan living in modern homes, the way we use the kitchen has evolved.
This contemporary hub has veered away from being a singular-use space, and now commonly serves as a home office, an area for kids to play and do homework and a zone for entertaining guests in the evening.
The fact that the kitchen is more on show than ever before has created an opportunity for it to become one of the major design features of the property, too. With a host of stylish finishes and sleek appliances on offer for you to choose from, what’s the best approach to specifying a kitchen design that’s perfect for your bespoke requirements?
The first step is to decide how your kitchen will be used on a day-to-day basis – from here you’ll get a good feel for the right kitchen design. Will it be a lively zone where family members are likely to leave piles of unwashed dishes and dirty worktops? Or will it be a well-ordered, minimalist space? This will dictate what size of room works best.
For instance, if you have a busy life and prefer to eat out then a smaller space and more compact kitchen design might be sufficient. Alternatively, if your lifestyle means several people preparing food simultaneously, or if cooking is your passion, you’ll need ample worktop space and plenty of room for circulation.
The location of the kitchen will have a big influence on the ground floor layout. Many self builders choose to position this zone at the back of the house, with a strong connection to the garden, often via glazed doors. As your plans develop, think about how you’ll use different appliances and where worktop space is best located. Work the design in a way that minimises the need to move between different parts of the kitchen to maximise efficiency.
Thinking of extending your home as part of your new kitchen design? Take a look at these Kitchen Extension Ideas: 20 Inspiring Designs
Imagine what you’ll need to do at each stage of food preparation then arrange the layout in this order – this will ensure your kitchen design is as functional as possible. As a starting point, storage should be in one area with worktop space next to it, followed by the cooker, then somewhere to put the meal into dishes or onto plates, and finally a sink for washing pots and pans. But you may want access to the sink when preparing food, so U- and L-shaped plans often work better than a straight line.
It can be challenging to make decisions when faced with the huge range of kitchen design styles and finishes available for fitted models, but you can follow a few practical rules to help you choose a successful combination. Firstly, work out the number of storage cupboards you need by looking at your current kitchen design scheme. The appliances are usually easy to list, with the choice of models left until further down the line. The size of the worktop space is harder to estimate, but thinking through your process of preparing, cooking and washing up is a good start.
Aside from the area needed for these activities, don’t forget to allow room to fit your collection of kitchen gadgets or pieces of smart home tech, which may go beyond toasters, food processors and a radio/TV.
Are you considering incorporating smart home technology into your new kitchen design? Read More: Smart Home Technology: How to Plan & Design Your Smart Home
CLOSER LOOK Designing Plant rooms & Utility Rooms
The more tech you have in the home, the more space that’s needed. With all the kit that’s now required for modern heating and ventilation systems, for instance, it’s worth factoring in an adequately sized space from the early design phase of your project so you can avoid struggling to squeeze in all the equipment later.
It’s a good idea for your designer to look to rationalise building services as much as possible by creating a hub in the plant room, with all the appliances and core controls in one location. Keeping the important kit all in one place will also make finding and fixing faults easier in future, and allows the runs for different services to share the same routes, making it easier to integrate them discreetly into the building fabric.
For some houses, a cupboard of 1.4m by 1.2m might be adequate, but this will only accommodate a boiler and some water storage. If you intend to have underfloor heating, solar panels, and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery you could need twice this or more. If you’re concerned that it may turn out to be too big, consider doubling it up with another use, such as storage of household tools and equipment that can be easily removed when it’s time for periodic maintenance.
Getting a kitchen design right is crucial, not just in terms of looks, but for practical, day-to-day living. Using an architect or interior designer is the most expensive option; they may price per hour or for the whole job. Check what’s included, too – it may be as little as outline sketches, or as much as detailed drawings, assistance with planning applications, specifying suppliers, appointing contractors and supervising the entire process.
At the other end of the scale, you could design it yourself for free, taking inspiration and advice from magazines and websites. How about looking to our real-life readers’ homes case studies?
By gathering kitchen design ideas yourself from a collection of places, this gives you the option to source units, worktops, appliances and other components from anywhere you like, but also brings the responsibility for managing the project throughout.
Many people, however, go for the middle option of using their kitchen supplier’s own design and installation service. They’ll be able to help you draw conclusions about how to make the most out of your kitchen space and budget.
A good fitter can make a distinctly average kitchen appear fantastic, whereas poor fitting will make the most luxurious kitchen look terrible. Bear this in mind if you’re planning on doing it yourself and, if you’re using a pro fitter ask to see a kitchen they’ve put in recently so you can check the quality of their work.
When investing in a bespoke kitchen design, it’s wise to use the company’s own fitters. Otherwise, finding a good installer is, as always with tradespeople, a question of recommendation. Checkatrade estimates that professional fitters typically charge between £200 and £240 per day, with an average job cost of £1,750. However, costs can be higher or lower depending on the specifications and where you’re based in the country, with prices typically greater in London and the Southeast.
CASE STUDY Striking self build with contemporary kitchen design
Freddie and Katie Pack saved up to build this contemporary and efficient house on their family’s Romney Marsh farm after living in a small cabin a few fields away. They set out to renovate an existing 1950s brick house on the plot, but soon realised it would be easier to knock down and self build a new home, recreating the farm-style design with a modern twist.
The beautiful new home is clad in two types of Siberian larch, and the stunning interior features a bright open plan kitchen-living-diner. The new home features a striking open-plan kitchen design from Portrait Kitchens, complete with handlelss units in a dark teal design and sleek kitchen island. Portrait Kitchens cost around £20,000 – £30,000 for the model and installation, with larger kitchens costing £40,000+.
Chipboard or MDF cabinets faced with veneer or laminate sit at the most economical end of the scale. You can source flatpack units from budget-friendly suppliers such as Ikea and B&Q for less than £2,000 for a small to average-sized kitchen – though this won’t include the cost of your appliances, worktop, floor finishes etc.
Choosing a budget supplier that prices items individually can give you visibility on prices, helping you to keep costs to a minimum. For instance, Ikea’s Metod base cabinet frame is priced at £35 per unit. Add in shelves and a cabinet door and the price increases to £82 per unit, and so on.
Middle-range kitchens from suppliers like Howdens are achievable for between £5,000 and £15,000, depending on the size and the spec you go for. High-end solutions or anything bespoke are likely to cost £25,000+.
Kitchen worktops and floors need to be durable and hygenic – they’ll be used consistently by all members of the family with people walking through in muddy shoes and spilling drinks from time to time. It’s important to invest in good quality materials that will last well, suit your lifestyle and fit your budget requirements. They can be expensive, though, so shop around for the best deals.
According to the Federation of Master Builders, budget flooring options such as laminate or sheet vinyl are available for as little as £7 per m². But high-end solutions, such as premium hardwoods, stone or polished concrete could cost upwards of £100 per m², with a plethora of options in between.
For kitchen worktops, the most stylish solutions also tend to be the most expensive. Expect to pay around £100 per m² for laminate worktops that are made to fit, though cheaper solutions are available if you can use a standard size. Depending on the species you choose, timber worktops are available for between £150 and £350 per m². Granite or quartz can easily climb above £300 per m², as the material is cut specifically to your dimensions.
Optimum storage is one of the most important elements of a good kitchen design, but knowing how to maximise the space and how much storage you might actually need can be difficult. Use integrated kitchen storage solutions to enhance the efficiency of your cabinets. This may be shelving units that are already fitted into the cupboard for different purposes, or tall cupboards that have pull out pantry storage (this will be super handy for herbs, spices and condiments).
Speak to an expert or kitchen designer about which storage systems will work best for your lifestyle. When do you need the different items and in what order, how frequently do you use them and are there heavy items that need to be close to the countertop? These are all questions to consider when deciding how to maximise your kitchen storage.
If you have space for a kitchen island, these multi-functional zones can offer a wealth of benefits. They offer a zone that can be used for food prep, cooking, dining, washing up – the list is endless. Many kitchen islands have integrated appliances on one side (often backing onto the rest of the kitchen), with the other side left open for recessed seating or open shelving units for food or cook books.