How to create the perfect kitchen
Avoid design fads, invest in quality and remember that planning is key, says Kate Watson-Smyth
Wednesday 27 January 2010
At first it might seem overwhelming trying to create the perfect kitchen, but the chances are you've already worked out what's annoying you about your current one, so start by thinking about what you would do to put that right.
Sometimes it's simply a question of changing those ugly cupboard doors, or more commonly it's about a lack of storage for all your homewares. If that's the case then you need to start by having a really good declutter to work out what rubbish you have been hanging on to for years and then seeing how much extra space you really need.
If you've got a friend who likes cooking, it's a good idea to invite them round to use your kitchen and cast a pair of fresh eyes on your set-up. They are more likely to notice if the pans are miles away from the hob and the chopping boards are inaccessible – things that you have become so used to that you no longer notice.
Ben Huckerby, the designer behind Channel 5 programme Britain's Best Home, says: "Planning is key. Before I design a kitchen for anyone I first eat a meal with them so I can see how they use the kitchen and how they move around the space. Most good kitchen companies will offer a free planning and visual service which will leave you with a computer generated image which you should take advantage of.
"Start where you want to sit and eat and work round that. The main work area should face the seating area. If you have an island, I would have one side as the breakfast bar with storage underneath and the other with the hob so you can talk to people as you cook."
And what of the ever-popular kitchen triangle that kitchen fitters are always recommending? Well, it turns out that 50 years ago, efficiency experts tracked the average woman's steps in the kitchen and found a natural pathway between the fridge, cooker and sink, hence the work triangle. The distance between those three items and how easy it is to reach them is still a measure of the perfect kitchen today.
A complex equation works out the optimum measurements, but basically the sides of the triangle don't have to be equal, but the distances should add up to somewhere between 12ft and 23ft. So, if the cooker and fridge are three feet apart, the sink and fridge, could be eight feet apart and the cooker and sink 10ft. And one other technical measurement: if you're having an island there should be at least four feet between it and the nearest counter.
When it comes to your work surfaces, experts are increasingly suggesting using a mix of materials. Marble is great for prepping food but can stain. While Corian is perfect for round the sink as you can create an all-in-one sink and worktop that is hygienic, and wood is nice for islands. If you're only having one make sure it's as heat and wet resistant as you can afford.
When it comes to the colour despite the current trend for yellow and turquoise, Huckerby suggesting keeping it neutral. "I always go for black, white or mocha. These colours won't date and you can make dramatic changes by painting or papering the walls."
The big issue for any kitchen is storage. Open plan shelving is very fashionable but your pot and pans will get dusty. Deep drawers are also popular as you can see everything at a glance rather than losing the turmeric at the back of a high cupboard. You'll need to leave enough space for the recycling boxes as well. These days one box by the back door simply isn't enough and you don't want it all on display.
Huckerby is a big fan of Siematic, an individual tracking system that can be added to the backs of doors and inside cupboards to create up to 30 per cent more storage space. "You can create exactly what you need and add to it later if you want," he says.
Siematic ( siematic.com; 0844 3356595) might not be cheap – a full kitchen starts at around £15,000 – but it offers individual cupboards, worktops and a larder at more affordable prices.
Finally, if you like a gadget then do have a look and see what's out there. You can ditch the kettle in favour of a hot water tap for example, or one that delivers filtered water all the time. You can have a TV on the fridge door, or a fridge which incorporates tiny door so you can just reach in and grab the milk, an extractor hood that looks like a chandelier. Don't forget a slimline wine fridge or scales that will slide into an awkward space and save space.
Cook up a new-look kitchen: Dos and don'ts
* Do buy big brand names. Not only do they add a luxurious air to a kitchen but they will help with resale values. But you don't have to blow the budget, shop around and you will find deals. This is where you should spend the money. Steam ovens are particularly popular at the moment and do everything from vegetables to sponge cakes. Also consider installing a great coffee machine, like the Francis Francis X7, pictured – it adds a real wow factor. ( espressocrazy.com; £199)
* Don't buy highly decorative features as they will just collect grease and grime and you are likely to go off them quickly.
* Do consider granite or marble worktops. They add to the feel of quality of a kitchen and never go out of fashion.
* Do your research on storage. You will always need more than you think and you need to leave space for the new things. There are so many options now from pull out larders and spice drawers to tall cupboards for the ironing board.
* Don't blow the budget on a fancy glass splashback that you are likely to tire of. Once you've done the planning, spend on the appliances next.
* Don't worry if you are on a tight budget. There are some great options in the Cooke And Lewis range at B&Q for example with high-end touches such as soft-close drawers, touch open cupboards and LED lighting. All those details will add to the feel of quality.
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