19 Aug 2022

The Heart of the Home: Key Considerations When Designing a Kitchen

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When it comes to a self-build or renovation project, there is a real opportunity to choose a layout, features and materials that will truly enhance day-to-day life. Here, Karl Andrews, Head of Category, Bespoke & Modular Kitchens at Benchmarx Kitchens, discusses the key considerations when designing a kitchen.

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Layout

The joy of working with a new, custom space is that the room really is your oyster. In the first instance, it can help to gather ideas and decide how you want your kitchen to work for you, as this will naturally inform your design.

An L- or U-shape layout is a common option, particularly where an open-plan space is the goal. Although it can be tempting, don’t feel you have to put overhead cupboards on every wall, as this can leave the room feeling too enclosed. For a functional yet appealing look, opt for cupboards on two adjoining walls, or incorporate open shelving to soften the cabinetry.

It may sound like a contradiction, but in open-plan spaces, it is important to define different zones to create a space that includes exactly what you need, such as a dining area, lounging space or additional workspace to prepare meals. For a minimalist look, choose to hide certain features behind cabinet doors, such as breakfast shelving, a bar area or integrated desk space that you’d prefer to shut away at the end of a working day.

An island unit or peninsula can provide extra preparation and storage space, as well as allowing you to include seating options that give your kitchen an individual edge. If you are using the island to incorporate a hob or sink area, be sure to include enough worktop space for food preparation or to stack the washing up. I’d always advise allowing a 1200mm buffer around the unit to allow room to move around comfortably.

Thinking about how you plan to use the area early on in the design process will help you ensure electrics, plumbing and both windows and doors align with your finished goal. For example, if you’re planning a multi-functional island unit, then it can help to factor in plug sockets and a sink, hob or integrated extractor fan. It’s easier to plan these in the early stages rather than adapting once an installation is underway.

Think outside the box

I always advise customers to challenge their preconceptions about how a kitchen should be designed – especially when working on an extension or self-build project. Rather than hosting a washing machine and dryer in your main kitchen, creating an adjacent laundry or utility area can pare back your design and maximise floor space.

Equally, building a boot room into your architectural plan can help contain muddy wellies and paw prints after a rainy walk. Also, consider integrating a walk-in pantry, separated by glazed doors or a room divider. Continuing the cabinets from your kitchen will help this space feel like a seamless extension of your wider design while offering all the functionality you need.

In smaller adjoining spaces and corners, achieve a flexible set up by incorporating a seating nook. Building a small bench into surrounding units can really maximise floor space, and positioning a small table in front will create a versatile feature.

Ask the experts

I would always recommend getting experts involved in your kitchen design early on to ensure you maximise the features that are important to you. There is a wealth of knowledge available at kitchen retailers who not only follow the latest trends but, working with the kitchen ranges day in and day out, are best placed to discuss ways to achieve a bespoke look. Many manufacturers will have options available that can replicate a look at a range of price points, so if you have a style in mind, then it is certainly worth talking this through.

Specialist designers can suggest options for cabinets, work surfaces and appliances that will create your desired look within your budget. They can also help pull your ideas together into a bespoke 3D design, so you can see where must-haves are included or compromises can be made, and may even open up new possibilities not previously considered.

When involving a kitchen designer in the planning stage of your build, you might find that you align your desired design with your architect’s plans for maximum effect. For example, rather than filling dead space at the end of a run of cabinets, adding or removing a few centimetres can allow your kitchen to fit the space like a glove. This also applies to locating rooflights above an island, perfectly placed bi-fold doors and windows around a seating nook.

Maximise storage

Creative storage is a simple but effective tactic to ensure you make the most of every inch of space. While larders and pantries can play an important part – internal storage is also key. Integrated carousels are excellent for convenience as they allow you to locate different utensils quickly, and pan drawers provide the depth needed to store larger items whilst keeping them accessible. Internal drawers, pull-out wire shelves, and storage baskets can also help you stay organised; you will be thankful for paying attention to these details when using your new kitchen.

Lighting

Finding the right products to illuminate your kitchen can be just as important as choosing your cupboards or worktops. By incorporating lighting early on in the design stage, you can add another dimension to the space.

In larger kitchens, customisable lighting can subtly divide a space using coloured lighting and shadows. This is an excellent option for multi-functional and transitional spaces, such as kitchen diners, to help define the purpose of each area of the room and emphasise certain features to draw the eye to a specific focal point, such as a dining table, breakfast bar or kitchen island.

Innovations, such as Sensio under cabinet, plinth and LED strip lights, offer increased control to create a personalised scheme at the touch of a button. Using voice activation and colour temperature control technology, it’s possible to seamlessly transition from warm to cool temperature lighting, making it the ideal accessory to create the perfect ambience.

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