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.

Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

    £26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003