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.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices