When planning a home, it is the kitchen that makes the heart beat fastest. James Sherwood visits three dreams come true
BOASTING ABOUT your fitted kitchen - with or without Aga - now sounds as naff as Beverley waxing lyrical about her "Rotisserie" in Abigail's Party. Faux country kitchens, with every appliance discreetly masked by pine panelling, look wrong in urban interiors. Equally unsettling is the minimal approach that sacrifices personal expression for designer kudos. Appliances like the Dualit toaster, Krups espresso machine, Divertimenti mixer and Alessi blender are contemporary design classics. They need to be seen. But a new approach to colour and space smoothes the clinical edge from the stainless-steel monolith. The urban kitchen has to work hard for most of us. Apartments and lofts especially combine kitchen and dining room in one. The single strip of work space, lining one wall, leaves the rest of the room open to interior interpretation. The key to the Nineties kitchen is design for living: open plan, mobile and made to reflect your lifestyle.

Louise Bradley

Interior Designer

"I FIRMLY believe an interior should be about a person, not a fashion. It has to say something about you, rather than about what is in the interiors magazines that year. I wish I had the time I devote to clients to work on my own house. My kitchen is a small room, so I knocked through an outside wall to build a balcony on what was a roof below the glass doors I had put in. It is very relaxing in the summer to have breakfast looking out on the back streets of SW3 and not see a soul. For the kitchen interior, I went for the easy option. Kitchens don't have to be complicated or cluttered, especially with the help of Marks & Spencer. I work a lot with Connaught Kitchens and commissioned a simple black granite work top on stainless steel units. I then layered stainless steel shelf units up on that wall. I'm into sleek, modern kitchens, but I like to live with contrasts. So I put two nineteenth-century lanterns bought in Paris on either side of a twentieth-century painting. Simple glass pasta jars sit next to earthenware pots from the antique markets in London. I softened the stainless steel with polished plaster on the walls and cream limestone on the floor. I like the mixture: the fusion of old and new.

Louise Bradley lnteriors 0171 589 1442

Rosie Sykes

Chef at Lola

"WE MOVED into the house about three weeks ago, but the kitchen was the most important room for me to get up and running. People ask whether I can be bothered to cook at home when I work in a restaurant kitchen all week. I love to cook. I spend hours in a kitchen, so it was crucial for me to have a big, open space. The kitchen was originally a car mechanic's garage and we left the original concrete floor - apart from painting it a dark hue of green. James Shead, a young bespoke carpenter friend, made the birch kitchen units, which form an L-shape in the far corner of the room. Even with a kitchen table and chairs, it leaves a vast open space. I'm thinking of a mobile unit, so I can wheel it into the centre of the room and talk to guests while I'm cooking. The fridge is a silver Zanussi; such a beautiful piece that it would be criminal to hide it. In the rest of the house we've left pipes exposed and painted them with Hammerite silver. We're thinking of doing the same to the ceiling of the kitchen. For anyone, it is a joy to have a big kitchen but, for a chef, it is heavenly. I like the kitchen to be a hang-out for friends, not just a cooking station. I think we've succeeded with this kitchen and will start doing dinner parties as soon as I get a day off."

Robin Stummer

Journalist

"When I moved in two years ago, the kitchen was a grey plastic MFI number. The tiles were pink and grey and coated with grease. The floor tiles were too painful to remember and there was enough storage space for an army, more than was humanly possible to fill. So I took a very large hammer to the lot of it and spent a week solid obliterating every last trace of the old kitchen. It took me two long weekends to build the new kitchen myself. Fitted kitchens are an anathema to me. I had to throw the old cooker out and buy a new British racing green Canon. The beauty of a free- standing kitchen is that I can take it with me if I move. Building a single unit which contains the washing machine, dryer and sink was simple. I tiled it with green and cream tiles which were end-of-line and cost about pounds 50. The aprons in front of the units were off-cuts from John Lewis, which cost about pounds 2, and I bought the brass rails for pounds 30 from a pub which was being refurbished. I'm sure the cupboard was in the first episode of Only Fools and Horses. Del Boy had one exactly like it and I bought mine from a builder's yard in

Hampshire for pounds 10. It needed stripping and repainting, but it's the kind of piece you'd pay hundreds of pounds for in shops such as After Noah. The table was another "student special", for pounds 4 from a junk shop in Stoke Newington. There's a Forties feel to the room - probably because of all the junk furniture - but also with the oxblood red linoleum flooring and Forties Marconi radio. The lino was a left-over from a curry house and I love it because it's an original lino colour and quite retro. I just don't like uniformity or interiors that look too finished."

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