Thursday 17 October 2019

Architect's clinic: 'I don't know where to start with updating my kitchen'

A free-standing kitchen can be made to measure, like this one by Damian Dowd Kitchens and Furniture, and you can also take it to your new home if you move. Photo: Andrzej Witkowski
A free-standing kitchen can be made to measure, like this one by Damian Dowd Kitchens and Furniture, and you can also take it to your new home if you move. Photo: Andrzej Witkowski
Glass-fronted cabinets are great for storage and add style. Photo: Paul Kelly
Splashes of bright colour, like this table, bring a modern touch to a kitchen. Photo: Paul Kelly

Architect's clinic: Roisin Murphy

Query: We have moved house recently, and while the existing kitchen is functional, it urgently requires updating to make it more homely. But I don't know where to start. I am particularly torn between having open shelves or built-in presses. Do you have any tips?

Answer:  Never has it been more likely that you want your kitchen to look and feel like a cafe or aspirational high-tech work hub, with perhaps a sprinkling of Rachel Allen too. Television cookery programmes have influenced our perception that we can face out into a room with hanging pots, pans and open shelves and all our accoutrements as trophies to our home-making and culinary ambitions. And the good news is, you can.

There is now so much available to home-makers to furnish or makeover their kitchens and, despite the idea that a new kitchen is still very much part of doing up the house, most people inherit a kitchen.

Budgets don't always stretch to ripping out the old kitchen to buy a new one, so chances are you have doors that you would love to change - while they are perfectly fine, they are outdated - and you are quite rightly looking for more on-trend styling.

Storage - open shelves or cupboards?

In your case, simply go for both: use a combination of hidden storage and open shelving. But ditch the overhead storage. It's probably the most dated aspect of any kitchen - and usually bang-on your eye-line when you walk into the room.

Install a simple shelf or hanging rails for pots, pans and storage jars, or whatever is your style. With a nice pop of tiles or stone splashback between shelf and counter, you will make a simple, elegant statement. Nothing beats a shelf for accessibility and it is stand-alone in terms of space-saving. You can add a pot rail or grid to walls, too, for added interest.

In addition, a nice full-length storage piece like a larder can often take up any storage shortfalls. And again, it's a chance to add style - this piece can have a metal- or glass-fronted cabinet, or can even be an antique piece. It doesn't and shouldn't have to match your kitchen doors.

Use colour to personalise your kitchen

It's no longer the style of your kitchen doors that signals you're on top of the zeitgeist, it's their colour - and that has the single biggest impact on mood. It is relatively easy to repaint doors or get them professionally resprayed, and doing so will give your units a totally bespoke new look. This year, colour is a huge trend, so think of opting for yellow or a sharp pink. If you are nervous, opt for a neutral colour and then zip it up with a bright fridge or a larder press in colour.

Create the 'Hygge' effect

If you can't cope with bright colour on your doors, opt instead for charcoal shades and an industrial style, with a glass and steel cabinet or open-metal shelving. Stash goods in rows of Kilner jars, or try a display cabinet sourced from a vintage or mid-century shop.

Two other nice touches are a basket of books and that almost-ubiquitous feature, the chalkboard, which is an easy lick of blackboard paint on a wall.

You can also add mood with plants - another huge trend this year - and use hooks with open woven hanging bags for fruit. You'll have the 'hygge' kitchen nailed, as well as helping the environment.

Counters and islands

Counters can be replaced or refinished according to your taste - although this is easier said than done, as counters require specialist paint and patience. You can also add sheets of metal in aluminium or stainless steel.

The golden rule of all good kitchen design is the configuration of the sink, fridge and hob into a "triangle". For maximum efficiency, they should be within reasonable proximity to each other. But there is no reason you cannot incorporate a new piece into an existing kitchen to make a tighter triangle.

Islands or butcher blocks or trolleys are all part of the arsenal of an adaptable kitchen and readily available, even off the peg. You can opt for one on wheels that can be used as an extra run of counter top, which is ideal for adapting existing kitchens. They are ingenious for mopping up a poor kitchen triangle.

The free-standing kitchen

If you are in the market for a bespoke piece, think of investing in a free-standing piece made by a kitchen-maker. It can be made to measure and can incorporate drawers, a dishwasher, a bespoke sink or taps - the works. A free-standing kitchen also means you can bring it from home to home, so your initial investment is returned.

In Germany, it's common to move your own kitchen with you, especially if you are in rented accommodation. We may very well be doing the same in years to come, as housing and the way we live adapts with our changing city.

If you are considering changes to your home, work with a registered architect. Find one on, the registration body for architects in Ireland

  • Roisin Murphy MRIAI is an architect and broadcaster

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