Kitchen Design For Self-Builders

Jane Crittenden reveals how self-builders can create the ideal kitchen
by Jane Crittenden
26th November 2012

As the hub of the home, the kitchen is continuing to evolve to keep up with our ever-changing social habits.

Open-plan designs continue to dominate, with Nicholas Goldman, of Goldman and Rankin, saying many of his customers are asking to incorporate not only the dining area but the living room as well. Juergen Krailler from Krailler Furniture & Kitchens notes that customers want more flexibility with the kitchen space too. “An increasing number of clients have included a small office space in their kitchen, while others like to have a TV or a integrated sound system,” he says.

If you’re building from scratch, you’ll have a great opportunity to ensure optimum room size and positioning in relation to other rooms in the house. It also gives you more scope for arranging windows and doors to maximise the kitchen layout and complement the architecture.


First, determine the size and layout of your new kitchen by deciding how you want to use the space. Then work out what you like and dislike about your current kitchen.

Richard Zinzan, of Arch Angels Architects, advises clients to start ‘scrapbooking’ early on – in other words, drawing up a wish-list for their ideal kitchen and cutting out pictures of appliances, gadgets, worktops, cabinet styles, different types of storage, handles and taps.

This is a good time to play around with online kitchen planning software offered by Ikea and the DIY stores. You can print the results out and take them in store or use them as a starting point for your design.


Decide on a budget before you go to a showroom. Remember to include installation, electrics, plumbing, flooring, tiling, paint and lighting. Bear in mind that in an existing kitchen, moving appliances and the sink around will add plumbing and electrics costs, so if you’re on a small budget keep these in the same place. Look out for finance deals as some companies provide 0% interest offers.


Door styles vary enormously, from the traditional to the contemporary, in gloss, matt and painted finishes, or even natural timber. Where kitchens are in the same open plan space as the dining and living areas the emphasis is on blending cupboards into a space that is also used for eating and relaxing in too.

Another approach could be to choose a door style that complements the architecture of your house: this works particularly well if you own a period property or barn conversion.

But don’t feel you have to choose just one style; you can have painted wood alongside natural wood, combine gloss with wood, or contrast classic cabinets with a contemporary glossy worktop.

At Goldman & Rankin, Nicholas Goldman says that customers are favouring walnut and oak cabinets, sometimes stained so the wood grain shows through, or painted in classic Farrow & Ball shades. Juergen Krailler from Krailler says although strong colours are still popular, neutrals are just as desirable because they won’t date.

Paul O’Brien, business development director at Kitchens International, agrees. “When times are tough customers tend to look for a more traditional timeless look, either by opting for classic furniture or choosing ageless colours such as beige, cream and white, enhanced by an accent colour perhaps in the splashback.

Choosing a kitchen company

Kitchen companies are weathering the recession well, thanks to low interest rates and a stagnant property market, so there is plenty of choice. When comparing quotes, make sure you find out exactly what is included before you make a commitment. Ask whether the company will take the old kitchen away, manage the electrician and plumber, order the appliances and carry out the installation themselves. And check what guarantee and after-sales care are offered.

Going bespoke

The design of a truly bespoke kitchen starts with a blank sheet of paper. This allows you to have furniture designed and handmade in quality materials to suit the dimensions of your kitchen and how you use it, so is very good for making use of awkward spaces, alcoves and corners.

It’s also ideal for conversions of old buildings where you want to incorporate original architectural features, such as beams and exposed stone walls, into the kitchen design. You can specify materials: for example at Krailler the timber is FSC approved and you could choose veneered wood for the inside of your drawers.

Costs range from £20,000 to £25,000 for furniture only, rising to £100,000 or more (although Krailler starts at £7,000 and Barnes of Ashburton at £15,000). Try also Figura, Goldman & Rankin and Quantum.


A custom design is based on your choice of door style from the company’s portfolio, with all the cabinets then made to the dimensions you specify. Doors come in a broad range of styles, encompassing a variety of materials, finishes and colours, including hand-painting in any shade you choose, so there’s a huge choice.

A 500mm base unit from Schüller’s Breda kitchen from the C Collection at InHouse starts at £116.91 (ex VAT); Falken’s Systemat is £225; and Kitchen Stori’s Ultra High Gloss white and Olivewood kitchen is £190 for a 600mm base unit. You could also try Harvey Jones and Quantum’s RWK range.


Companies specialising in pre-designed kitchens offer a vast number of door styles, but the cabinets can only be bought in fixed sizes. However, this isn’t as limiting as it sounds because you might find 60 or 70 door styles in a range with 20 to 30 cabinet shapes and sizes, generally in increments of 50mm or 100mm.

Look out for grid systems such as those sold by Schüller. Here, drawers and cabinets are divisible by the same amount so you’ll be able to design a kitchen with a coherent visual line.

A 500mm base unit in Tatton from the Essentially Magnet range costs £133; Linton from Uniquely Magnet is £372; Caple’s Axis range is £133 (inc VAT) and Rio range is £244 (inc VAT); Falken’s Classic Collection is £199. Also try Aster Cucine, Four Seasons, Moben and Schüller.


The ‘take away’ kitchen is available at DIY stores and Ikea and fills the gap for those who literally want to walk into a shop, buy a kitchen and take it home to install. At the time of writing, Ikea sells 15 off-the-peg door styles, B&Q has 20 door styles while Focus sells 11. (These companies sell ‘pre-designed’ kitchens too.)

A 500mm base unit from B&Q’s IT takeaway kitchen is £46; Ikea’s Tidaholm in oak and oak veneer is £62; and the Ulriksdal in solid oak is £83.


Make a list of everything you need to store away so the designer can plan the right size cabinets in the right place. An island can almost double the kitchen’s surface and storage space, especially if used for appliances.

Other ideas include Moben’s pull-out larder that rotates 90°, while Magnet’s laterally opening cupboard doors pull out and to the side for easier access to the whole cupboard.

In open-plan rooms the emphasis is on clutter-free worktops so look for solutions like those offered at Schüller, such as integrated knife cupboards, integrated scales, built-in bread drawers with breadboards, and wall-mounted plate racks above the draining board.According to Patrick Gunning, founder of Barnes of Ashburton, walk-in larders and pantry cupboards with pull-down racks, wine coolers and refrigerated drawers or ice makers, are all becoming popular, as is the trend for hiding smaller appliances within cabinets.

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