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Kitchen Design: Everything You Need to Know

kitchen design
(Image credit: Martin Moore)

Kitchen design is a hugely important part of your home as a whole. Have you ever noticed how, whatever size your kitchen might be, it is the one room that everyone tends to congregate in?

Kitchens are no longer purely seen as places in which to prepare food — they are truly the hub of the home. We not only cook in our kitchens, we eat in them, entertain in them, work in them, relax in them and come together as families in them. Often, kitchen design also has to take into account the fact that not all of us have utility rooms too, meaning space for extra appliances has to be found and practical finishes need to be chosen that are easy to clean.

Not only does good kitchen design need to take into account all of the above — it also needs to ensure this is a space that looks good. This means everything from unit doors and worktops, to lighting and flooring needs to be taken into account when putting together a kitchen plan. 

Finally, be aware that kitchen costs can run well into the tens of thousands. This is why it is important to be aware of what each element of your kitchen design will cost, including installation fees.

(MORE: Get a quote for your new kitchen)

Good Kitchen Design Begins With a Good Brief

Get started by having a really hard think about exactly what you want to use your kitchen for. List everything that will be going on in the space, including not only cooking and dining but things like homework, entertaining and working from home.

You also need to think about how you will use the space — for example, are you a family who loves to cook on a frequent basis or entertains large groups of people, or do you live alone or with one other person and prefer convenience foods or to eat out? Will you be using your kitchen to host dinner parties or simply use it as an informal area to perch for breakfast? 

What are your storage needs? Do you have a separate larder for most of your food storage? How many appliances will you need space for? Do you love kitchen gadgets?

kitchen design

Consider whether you want an entirely open plan kitchen or one that is more 'broken plan' such as in this example from Trend Interiors Bedrooms, Bathrooms and Kitchens, where the run of full height units acts as a divide between the kitchen and dining areas.  (Image credit: Trend Interiors Bedrooms, Bathrooms and Kitchens)

Next you need to think about how you want goods to be stored — are you super tidy and love to clean? If so, hanging racks, open shelving and glass fronted units could be for you. If not, stick to solid doors and drawers that can conceal your clutter instead.

Finally, what styles are you drawn to? Maybe crisp, minimalist and modern is your thing, or perhaps you are more drawn to classic, country style kitchen designs. Your material choices and the finishes you opt for, as well as your unit design and worktops should all reflect these preferences. 

Finally, what is the total amount you are happy to spend on your new kitchen? You need a firm idea of your budget to be able to begin shopping around and, if you plan on using a builder or kitchen designer, to hand to them. They will help you get the most for your money, but can only do so if you are clear about what you have to spend. 

Who Should Design my Kitchen?

The majority of people find that the easiest route to getting a kitchen designed is to head to a specialist kitchen company. Not only can they come up with several designs (usually for free) for you, based on your brief, but many also offer fitting services too. 

Other options include coming up with your own design and asking your building or an independent kitchen fitter to carry out the fitting, approaching an interior designer or asking your architect or design professional for help and advice. 

(MORE: Get matched with a kitchen design specialist)

kitchen design

The most common route to getting a kitchen plan is to ask your kitchen supplier to come up with several designs based on your brief — you can tweak these until you are happy with the layout and price. This kitchen design from Wren is lit from above by a huge roof lantern.  (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Where to Buy a New Kitchen

Whilst the most obvious way to buy a new kitchen is to head to your nearest kitchen showroom, there are other options — some of which can be more suited to those designing a new kitchen on a budget

Many people now choose to purchase a kitchen online, supplying their measurements and requirements before getting the whole thing delivered to be fitted on a DIY basis, by a builder or kitchen fitter, or by the suppliers themselves. Although purchasing online can be a cheaper way of buying a new kitchen, it is not always possible to ascertain the quality of the products you are buying.

Some people choose to mix and match where they purchase their kitchen. You might, for example, opt to buy cheaper, standard unit carcasses from an online retailer, DIY warehouse or builders' merchants, before heading to a kitchen specialist for the unit doors — try Naked Doors and Plykea. You could also buy worktops separately, along with knobs and handles. 

kitchen design

This kitchen from Brayer Design is laid out in one single run, with glass-fronted wall units providing additional storage space.  (Image credit: Brayer Design)

Flatpack kitchens from DIY stores can be perfect for those sticking to a tight budget and allow you to fit the units yourself. Suppliers can still assist with design ideas and plans for your room. 

Have you considered an ex-display or second hand kitchen? Many offer excellent value for money. Ask in kitchen showrooms or head directly to companies specialising in used kitchens, such as The Used Kitchen Hub or The Used Kitchen Company

Those with a larger kitchen design budget might want to consider a completely bespoke kitchen, hand built just for you.  Alternatively, you could commission a joiner to make cabinetry for you to a design of your own or one you have spotted elsewhere. 

Layout is a Crucial Part of Kitchen Design

Assess the size and shape of your new kitchen in order to work out the best kitchen layout options. Your supplier or designer should be able to suggest layout ideas that will make the most of the space you have available. 

Your kitchen layout should keep the essential 'working' areas of the kitchen – the sink, oven and hob and fridge – within easy reach of one another.

Use graph paper to draw up a scale plan and play around with layouts that could potentially work for you, remembering to include any seating areas and bearing in mind clearance spaces around and in front of appliances. 

There are several main layouts to consider: 

  • Single line layout: This is a common kitchen design for open plan kitchens, where all units are set along one wall, facing an island or dining space
  • Galley: This layout comprises two runs of units facing one another and works will in narrow areas.
  • L-shaped and U-Shaped: As the names suggest, the units are positioned in 'L' or 'U' shapes. In 'L' shaped kitchen, the shorter part of the 'L' is often a breakfast bar
  • All of the above can, if space allows, incorporate a kitchen island. 

kitchen design

The units in this kitchen from Trend Interiors Bedrooms Bathrooms and Kitchens are laid out in an L-shape, with the breakfast bar turning the whole thing into a 'U' — this really makes the most of the space available.  (Image credit: Trend Interiors Bedrooms Bathrooms and Kitchens)

Kitchen Design Styles

When it comes to which style of kitchen to choose, the world really is your oyster. There are, quite literally, thousands of styles, colours and designs out there (not always a good thing if decision making isn't your thing.)

You probably have a fairly good idea of the type of interior decoration you're after and if not, a browse in kitchen showrooms, magazines, interior design websites and even round friends' houses can give you a good dose of inspiration.

Those after a contemporary kitchen design should focus on unfussy unit doors. Handleless is a good way to go, where discreet grooves in the top or side of units replace knobs or handles, or else a push-click mode or operation is used. 

Consider runs of full height units, combined with built-in eye level appliances and stick to flush doors too. High gloss units tend to have fallen from favour a little in the last couple of years (perhaps something do do with the way their show up fingerprints and greasy smudges so readily) so consider a matt finish instead — far more forgiving. 

(MORE: Get tailored advice and a quote for your new kitchen)

kitchen design

The dramatic deep colours of this design from Kitchen Makers mean the classic Shaker unit fronts make a really bold design statement — particularly when paired with the brass fittings.  (Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

Avoid decorative plinths or pelmets.

If you are after something more classic, a Shaker kitchen is ideal, offering a simple, timeless look that can be easily updated with different handles or knobs as time goes on. Simple tongue-and-groove unit fronts offer a nice, classic look too. 

Don't feel you have to have wall units — these days many people often opt for alternatives such as shelves or full-height units and replace some base units with large deep drawers to house pots, pans and crockery, as well as cutlery. 

Kitchen Worktop Ideas

Your choice of worktop will form a major part of your kitchen design — as well as affecting how the space works from a practical perspective. 

Whilst you can choose worksurfaces from the selection on offer from your kitchen supplier, it can often be cheaper to buy them from a specialist worktop supplier, timber merchant or stonemasons. There are also online worktop companies who will cut worktops to fit. 

kitchen design

Combining different types of worktop is both practical and visually attractive — in this kitchen from Brayer Design, ash timber has been used for the breakfast bar, whilst Caesarstone Quartz worktops make up the island.  (Image credit: Brayer Design)

Laminate worktops have come a long way in recent years and are now available in a multitude of colours and finishes and with benefits such as heat and stain resistance.

The huge range of timbers out there means that there is a wooden worktop for every style of kitchen and every budget — but be aware that they require maintenance to hold on to their good looks.

Composites and solid stone look beautiful but do tend to lie at the upper end of the price scale. 

Choosing Kitchen Appliances

Whilst most people these days choose to shop around for their kitchen appliances, many kitchen suppliers also offer packages and deals that include them — particularly large white goods such as fridge freezers, ovens and hobs, as well as cooker hoods

However, it is usually possible to find appliances a little cheaper by shopping around. Additionally, if you are after something with an eye-catching designer twist you will probably need to head to a specialist in the type of appliance you are after. 

Along with the more obvious kitchen appliances mentioned above, consider what other items could really make your kitchen work for you. Bakers could benefit from proving drawers, wine enthusiasts might like to consider a wine cooler, whilst those who need a caffeine boost first thing should take a look at the array of built-in coffee machines on offer these days. 

kitchen design

Skema is the new ceiling hood by Falmec. It features two tempered glass panels with diffused LED lighting, plus a central metal panel designed to conceal the extraction area.  (Image credit: Falmec)

All these items should be planned in from the beginning, so you can work out the right balance in terms of how much space will be given over to storage and how much can be used up by your new kitchen equipment. 

A cooker hood is essential to ensure your new kitchen won't be filled with steam and cooking smells every time you decide to use your hob. Ideally you want your hood to be vented to the outside.  

How to Choose a Kitchen Sink and Tap

As with appliances, sometimes sinks and taps are included in a package from your kitchen supplier, although it is also possible to source them separately. 

When it comes to choosing a kitchen sink, think about the way in which you plan on using your kitchen. Will you be washing up a lot or will you rely solely on a dishwasher? Do you need to do handwashing? Do you have bulky items of equipment that will need to be washed in the sink?

Think about your answers — they should give you an idea of the size and configuration of the sink that will suit you.

With regards to a kitchen tap, many models are now available that do far more than dispense water. From filter taps to those providing instant boiling water — there are even taps that give you sparkling water these days.

kitchen design

Kitchen taps are no longer simply devices from which water is dispensed — they can now provide filtered, chilled and instant boiling water too, as with this design from Qettle.   (Image credit: Qettle)

Kitchen Storage Ideas

The importance of good kitchen storage cannot be overemphasised when it comes to kitchen design. You will need to look around your current kitchen and take stock of what you need to keep in your new one. How much equipment do you own now and are you likely to gain more in the future?

Think too about the way you shop. Do you do one big shop a week? A month? Consider where you will keep all your dried goods. What else will you need to keep in this room?

You can then come up with the kinds of storage you will need. Options include extra deep drawers, dressers, corner units and those with pull out shelves and rotating carousels. Hanging racks, open shelving on walls and within island units, alcoves built in either side of the cooker and racks placed on the ends of runs of units — all should be considered when it comes to keeping your new kitchen ordered and tidy.

kitchen design

Extra large, deep drawers such as these from Rational are perfect for storing everything from crockery to pots and pans.  (Image credit: Rational)

Flooring for Kitchens

Kitchen flooring should, first and foremost, be practical. It needs to be easy-to-clean and able to withstand a lot of footfall, along with being able to cope with hot liquids and stains.

It should go without saying that hard flooring is the best option. Ceramic tile is amongst the most cost effective of options and is also easy to lay on a DIY basis — plus it is available in almost every colour, size, shape, pattern and finish you could want. 

Porcelain tiles tend to be more expensive than ceramic but are denser and less porous so tend to be more durable.

kitchen design

The Aged Bernac Limestone from Martin Moore Stone is perfect in this spacious family kitchen.  (Image credit: Martin Moore)

Polished concrete and natural stone are both brilliant options too. Some natural stones are softer and more porous than others and can become stained if not properly sealed so do check which stone is best for you. 

Timber flooring can be used in kitchens, but be aware than softwoods in particular are prone to movement and can warp and twist when exposed to changes in temperature and moisture levels — a common occurrence in kitchens. Engineered timber is a more stable option than solid boards. 

(MORE: Complete Guide to Flooring)

Choosing the Right Lighting for Your Kitchen Design

Before your units are fitted, you will need to have your first fix electrics installed. You should, at the planning stage, have come up with a lighting design for your kitchen. If your new kitchen is part of a larger renovation project, you may well have employed a specialist lighting designer or asked your lighting supplier to come up with a plan. Alternatively, you might decide to take on the task of planning your lighting scheme yourself.

Think about where bright, focused light will be required — above food prep hot spots, for example. Downlighters designed to shine a beam of light exactly where it is needed, unaffected by the shadow of the person working at the work surface is ideal, as are spots on tracks. 

Elsewhere, use strip lighting under wall units and even concealed beneath base units to provide a nice ambient glow. Low-hung pendants work well over island units, breakfast bars and dining tables. 

kitchen design

Use a combination of light sources in the kitchen — here, John Cullen Contour Linear LED strip lights have been used under the counter and island.  (Image credit: John Cullen)

What Does a New Kitchen Cost?

As with so many home improvement jobs, there is, unfortunately, no exact way to predict what your individual kitchen costs will be. However, it is possible to offer an approximate idea. 

Typically, a new kitchen will set you back between around £5,000 to £10,000, including appliances and installation — although it is frighteningly easy to spend up to £50,000 or more! 

The reason it is so difficult to give out any precise costs is that specification, location, kitchen size and your choice of appliances will all massively affect your end costs. Whilst it is true that a basic flat-pack kitchen can be picked up for as less than £400 and then fitted by the homeowner, many people prefer to spend a little more to ensure quality and a professional installation. 

Bear in mind that the above costs do not include: 

  • Design fees
  • The removal and disposal of the old kitchen
  • Plumbing and electrical work
  • Flooring, tiles and tiling
  • Heating
  • Lighting

Editor's Note: Homebuilding.co.uk partners with the UK's best kitchen specialists to match your requirements with their services. Simply answer a few questions on what you need from your kitchen and we’ll put you in touch with a suitable partner.

How Long Does it Take to Fit a Kitchen?

Once again, this is a tricky one to call. A simple rip-out-and-replace can take as little as a week when carried out by a set of professionals — which will probably include a kitchen fitter or builder, an electrician and a plumber. You might also need the services of a decorator and/or tiler.

If, on the other hand, you are carrying out a kitchen extension, kitchen relocation or a hefty remodel of the space which will involve knocking down internal walls, adding new windows and doors, fitting a new underfloor heating system and so on then it will obviously take longer.

You should discuss your schedule of works and timescales at the start of the project with your builder in order to get a good idea of how long it will all take and the length of time you are likely to be without kitchen facilities. 

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