7 secrets of successful kitchen design
How do you plan a new kitchen? Whether the end result is easy to use or a waste of space will depend on how much forethought you put into its design
Whether you want a quick make-over to up your kitchen's selling potential or a complete renovation, redoing your kitchen requires indepth planning as it plays a huge role in your life and home. Your kitchen should reflect your interior design style and the choices are endless: industrial, classic country, contemporary, retro, rustic, Shaker-style - and everything in between.
1 PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Clever storage, lighting and colour palette will play a vital role in making a small kitchen feel larger. If you have more space to play with, consider additional features such as kitchen islands and peninsula units, butcher's blocks, glazed wall units, larder units or kitchen dressers. Think carefully about the design choices you make, from worktop materials to cabinet handles, as all the details add up to make your perfect kitchen scheme.
Before you go any further, make a list of dos and don'ts. You want to avoid any costly mistakes. Establish your requirements and decide how a new layout, storage and design will best achieve these goals.
2 Work to a budget
Be clear about what you can afford. By simply replacing unit doors and installing new tiles and flooring you can totally change the look of your kitchen for an outlay of a few thousand euros. The next step up is to buy new units and appliances from a DIY shed such as B&Q, Ikea or Woodie's, where you'll find a great display of styles, both contemporary and traditional. If you're longing for a bespoke kitchen, then you'll have to invest serious funds to make it happen - and the sky is the limit in terms of cost.
3 Think about function
Your new kitchen may look beautiful but does it function as a working space? Ideally you need a working triangle between the sink, cooker and fridge. To ensure that your work space either side of the three appliances is not cramped, the sides of the triangle when added together should ideally be 3.6m or more.
4 Go with the flow
Remember the dining room? Combined kitchen/dining/living areas have become the norm these days and the formal dining room, if it exists at all, is rarely used. So now that the kitchen has become part of a multi-functional area, how do you marry the various zones so they flow into each other? The best method is to choose units that look equally at home in living and dining areas as well as the kitchen, and curved units can help the areas flow into one another.
"Flexibility in kitchen design is really important for people now as they need their kitchens to function with small children and equally well with teenagers," says Denise O'Connor of Optimise Design. "Family life changes fast and our homes can struggle to keep up. The brief from many of our clients now is to deliver a solution that will allow them to adapt their home to suit their ever-changing needs. This kind of flexibility of space is critical to the success of today's homes."
5 Be realistic about timescale
When working on a major kitchen renovation, it's important to sort out a realistic time scale and allow for planning time. "Note that if planning permission is required, this could add up to three months to your programme," says London-based Irish architect Brian O'Tuama.
6 Build to last
If you decide to invest in a bespoke, handcrafted kitchen, you're creating a made-to-measure kitchen that's designed to last. It's a large but worthwhile investment and you'll be getting the most choice in terms of finish, design and creating a kitchen that's perfect for your needs. Dunnes Stores homewares designer Helen James, also a judge on RTE's Home of the Year, recommends spending as much as you can on designing your kitchen space. "Most people spend a lot of time in their kitchens so splash out on good units if you can. A well-made table and chairs will last, too."
The key to a successful bespoke kitchen project is creating a thorough brief for your designer. Establish the purpose of your build, your needs and design style, and ensure you find the most suitable architect or kitchen design company.
Luxury bespoke cabinet makers Cillian Johnston, who are based in Delgany, Co Wicklow, hand make all of their kitchen designs to order. Their work is split 50:50 between contemporary and traditional kitchens, although their preference is for more modern designs using hard-wearing materials such as poured concrete and exotic woods like Burmese Teal. "We have a leaning towards more contemporary designs because they tend to be more challenging," says Lisa Johnston. "All the detailing is really pared back, the design has to be functional, it can't be too gimmicky, and the challenge is to make a statement that's going to last."
7 Small changes can make a big difference
If your kitchen is looking a bit tired and you don't have a fortune to spend, then simply work with what you've got. It takes a little time, effort and creativity - and maybe a few enjoyable hours scouring Pinterest - but you'll soon pep up the heart of your home. Try the following:
- Fix minor snags in the kitchen such as repainting chipped skirting, tightening loose hinges or changing your kitchen handles - you'll find it can make a massive difference.
- If your cupboards are a bit dated in terms of style and/or colour, consider just replacing the doors, particularly if the framework is still in good shape. There are a host of companies, including Ikea, that specialise in providing replacement doors.
- Tatty kitchen units can be given a new lease of life with a little imagination, some elbow grease and some well-chosen paint. Painting and refreshing your kitchen units is a lot cheaper and less hassle than replacing the entire kitchen and being bold with your colour choice can add a real sense of drama. "Upgrade existing kitchens by painting them in a strong and moody shade," says interior designer Roisin Lafferty of Kingston Lafferty Design. "If that is a little too brave, consider painting the island a strong contrasting colour to the main kitchen."
- The addition of artwork, soft furnishings and shelving displays make open-plan schemes feel warm and inviting, and they are easy to replace and update whenever you fancy a new look.
- You can add charm to classic and country kitchens with vintage cookware from sources such as antiques shops, charity shops and eBay. A beautiful old dresser with glass doors or even a simple shelf are both great ways to store and show off your favourite pieces.
- Bored of your tiled splashback but don't want to go the expense of having the tiles removed and retiling? Simply tiling on top of tiles is a very quick fix and can work wonders when it comes to sprucing up your kitchen space.
- A new kitchen tap, which can be upgraded on a budget, creates a real statement. There are lots of affordable options and you could also consider installing an instant water tap. As technology improves they are becoming increasingly affordable and popular.
Choosing a new worktop
Replacing your worktop can be an affordable and dramatic way to change the look of your kitchen. By far the most cost effective option is laminate but there are countless other solutions including granite, wood, glass, composite stone and stainless steel. Each option has different advantages, so it's important to look at all the factors involved. Here's what you should consider before you buy:
- Think about practicalities, such as the maintenance of your worktop. If you have young children, a material that marks easily such as glass, is not ideal.
- If you like cooking, consider a heat-resistant material such as granite around your hob, so you can move hot pans off the heat and straight onto the worktop.
- If hygiene is a concern, think about anti-bacterial materials such as Corian or stainless steel. Remember that steel will scratch over time, creating a worn patina that some love, but if you want a pristine worktop it might not be the right choice.
- Consider concrete as a worktop material - it is on-trend, long-lasting, versatile, seamless and relatively cheap. Plus it can be tinted in any shade. Try Concrete Design Studios (Concretedesignstudios.ie), a favourite of Roisin Lafferty, who will customise to your needs.
Everything plus the kitchen sink
From cleaning and rinsing to filling and scrubbing, the humble kitchen sink plays a vital role in everyday life. Here’s our quick guide to the different materials available.
- Stainless steel is a nearly indestructible and easy-to-clean material — a great all-rounder that can look good in any surroundings, from the traditional to the crisp and modern. However, the metal can scratch.
- Porcelain is perfect if you’re going for a vintage style and there is a wide variety of colour options that can be used in more funky designs. It can chip though and pans may leave marks that are tough to shift.
- Increasingly popular, granite composite sinks are very durable. Made of granite particles and polymers, they look fabulous and resist chipping. Design-wise, the range of colours means they are very flexible. However, some TLC required as the lighter shades can become discoloured.