We used to love Formica, remember - Life and Style - The Independent

We used to love Formica, remember

Fancy a new look for your kitchen? Then think about tomorrow as well as today, warns Felicity Cannell

The kitchen has come a long way in the past 50 years since, after the Second World War, the lady of the house found she was going to be the one who had to work in it.

The 1940s and 1950s saw Formica and the beginning of the fitted kitchen, the 1960s introduced the stylish design detail, the 1970s were the years of "knocking through", and the 1980s saw Glenn Close and Michael Douglas bonking on the draining board in Fatal Attraction. Today the kitchen is a family room where people work and relax as well as cook and eat.

Apparently 60 per cent of women rate the kitchen as the most important room when house-hunting. This isn't necessarily because they plan to spend most of their time there: perhaps they just realise this is the most laborious and expensive room to alter.

If you do decide to change your kitchen, the possibilities are endless, with reams of magazine and advertisement space given over to ideas. But beware of going mad; you want your new kitchen to sell your house for you one day, as well as be a place to hang out at parties. So what do you choose? Tastes vary immensely of course and no matter how much time, effort and money you expend, the next person to walk into it may hate it. But there are trends, short-lived and lasting, and a classic kitchen can look fashionable today and be adaptable in the future.

So what is popular now? According to Dream Home in Chingford, which is fitting out developments in London's fashionable Docklands and Islington, the trend is for plain doors in maple, cherry or pear. Faddish sounding maybe, but these are gentle pretty woods or wood finishes, and will probably outlive pine and its "effects".

A painted "picture frame" door, Shaker-style, remains a popular choice. The beauty of these kitchens is that they can be adapted to look traditional, contemporary or ultra-modern. Stick in an Aga, a butler sink and a ceiling rack and you have a country kitchen. Choose curved stainless steel fittings, enclosed appliances and a resin work surface and you're in the 21st century. A scrolled, inlaid door with twiddly bits around the shelves is far less adaptable.

Stainless steel has become so fashionable that cheap appliances are being covered in it to look state of the art. If you're worried about being ripped off, Neff appliances are made almost exclusively in white because the company refuses to pander to fashion and is more concerned about the quality than appearance.

Modern ranges are increasingly popular as buyers struggle with their twee desires for an Aga but don't want to live in a sauna all summer. Butler sinks are still fashionable in the suburbs but are rather impractical unless a) you are short with long arms or b) you want to bath the baby in the kitchen: they are so low they cause chronic backache and so deep they take half a tank of water to fill. If you've already discovered this, do what they were doing 30 years ago; chuck it into the garden and grow pansies in it. And as for those willow baskets - what's wrong with hygienic, easy-to-clean plastic?

Prices vary enormously. You can spend pounds 1,000 or pounds 50,000 fitting out the same area. The major appliances used to be the difference between cheap and expensive but now worktops can be diamond-polished granite, at pounds 200 per metre, or laminated board at pounds 25. Handmade wall tiles from Fired Earth cost pounds 137.59 per square metre while at the The Reject Tile Shop they cost pounds 43.75.

Cheapest by far are off-the-peg kitchens from home centres such as Ikea. Self-design and assembly is no longer necessary; many stores have computer imaging to plan for the best use of space. This is invaluable; the largest kitchen can end up crammed with redundant areas of work space if designed by an amateur. And the small ads can provide a kitchen fitter at a reasonable price. Self-assembly is a saving you may want to do without once it comes to mitreing those work tops and overdosing on the mastic to fill in the gaps.

Two details not to overlook are electrics and lighting. There is no point modernising a kitchen if the old electrics cannot cope with the volume of new appliances. And apparently people over the age of 50 require at least 100 per cent more light to read by than they did when they were 20 so presumably that goes for slicing the carrots as well. Undercabinet lights could be a solution.

Another serious design fault for many kitchens in today's world of once- a-week shopping for pre-packed convenience food is fridge space versus larder space. A refrigerator disguised as one of the units might be adequate to cool a bachelor-boy's beer but is near useless for a family. Strangely enough, the fridge is never visible in glossy magazine advertisements.

When choosing a fitted kitchen purists refuse anything other than a Siematic, but there are hundreds of good alternatives. Sadly many of the selling techniques leave much to be desired. The kitchen company that sends a salesman to call has a large profit margin, so don't be afraid to haggle. Every salesman has his bottom line but it sometimes takes all evening to get there!

Fired Earth 01295 814300: Reject Tile Shop, Wandsworth Bridge Road 0171 731 6098: Dream Home 0181 531 3413: Ikea 0181 208 5600.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week