Over the weekend I was talking to some friends who were making the final decisions on their kitchen fit-out. They were happy with the layout and with the finishes that the designer had offered them for the units, but when it came to the work surface, they were stumped. And this is often the case – you’ll be happy with the majority of the finishes but simply not able to be objective about the last. Let’s be honest, putting a kitchen together can be a pricey business and it’s not something you want to tackle very regularly, so you’re not alone in feeling bogged down by the selection process. There really is too much choice!
Kitchen styles are widely differing at the moment – from the ultra sleek and handless to shaker or more traditional panelled designs. Personal taste is going to play a big part in the look you eventually choose but remember all kitchens need good storage and good preparation space – hence the work surface being such a big deal. If you also want to ‘time-proof’ your choice, you’re really adding to the stress because the honest answer is, kitchens work hard and keeping them looking fresh is hard work!
Kitchens are something that clients recognise they need help with and most often they’ll turn to a kitchen company for that service. In terms of space planning and finishes I’m often asked to ‘cast my eye over something’ to make sure they are happy with the plan the kitchen company has come up with – I am after all in and out of my clients homes and know their lifestyle and they way they use their kitchen much better than the kitchen designer who often doesn’t leave the showroom. In the last ten years I’ve seen clients choosing a variety of styles for their kitchens from wood panelled and painted fit-outs to high gloss. It’s hard to say which is most likely to date, but with so many extensions looking like glass boxes (and you know I have nothing against glass), when that fashion changes, so too will the style of kitchen selected to enhance the space.
So, how do you future proof your kitchen? I would suggest taking a broader view than that. If your home is full of period features but you hanker after a kitchen full of mod-cons and a big glass extension to the rear to take full advantage of indoor/outdoor living, this will probably sway your choice to a sleek modern look. BUT in taking that route, you’ve linked your kitchen to the style of room it sits in, which means it doesn’t relate to the rest of your home. It will in effect, look out of keeping with everything else. If you were to choose a more traditional style, something that referenced the age of your house and put that in the modern extension, then you would visually link the two styles of architecture. It would create a more harmonious flow to the entire living area.
Conversely, putting a very sleek and modern kitchen into a space in your home that is rich in period detail will define the kitchen fit-out as something of a feature because you’re creating a relationship between it and the history of the house. I like the idea that as we’ve embraced the kitchen being the heart of the home, we’ve elevated it to a more important status and it should therefore go in a more ‘important’ room. Because the emphasis on modern units is concealing the fact that it is actually a kitchen, this sort of style is well suited to a period interior.
Regardless of the style you choose, there are certain elements to your kitchen space that must be considered. As mentioned storage and preparation space are crucial but lighting, electrics and drainage are equally important. These five points have to be taken into account from the very outset. You don’t have to know what style you want of the kitchen to do your spatial planning and this is the time to decide where you want the appliances and mechanics of your kitchen to go. I’m also going to be controversial and say forget about the ‘working triangle’ – the zone created by cooker, sink and fridge. In today’s kitchens, the emphasis is on islands and runs – as a result triangles end up looking like boomerangs and what you’re looking for in your kitchen is efficiency – not geometry. So put that idea to one side and if you end up creating a working triangle by chance, fantastic, but it isn’t the only way to arrange your kitchen – and nor is it a rule, although as ergonomic principles go, it is one very often considered to be set in stone. With changing lifestyles come changing needs, so relax!
First off consider the access to the exterior drainage. Try and keep that as short a span as possible. Next, where is the natural light? Can it be used to enhance your preparation area? Do you want a table in front of it? Do you need to boost the lighting? How many people do you cook for every day? Do you serve from the cooker – or take everything to the table? Is the kitchen a traffic area? Do people walk through it to get to another room or space within your house? Do you have to house a washing machine in your kitchen? How often will it be used? Where will the clothing be dried? What needs to be stored in your kitchen units? Are there some items that get used very infrequently? Do you need special cooking equipment for health reasons?
These are all issues to consider BEFORE you decide what your kitchen will look like, largely because a checklist like this will define the type of kitchen you need. When you start to feel that you understand how you have to use the room (not how you want to use it),then you can plan where you think the appliances will go. What you’re looking for is easy access; cookers and dishwashers that can be opened without obstruction, fridges that you can unload groceries into without contortion and above all the whole space needs to be safe. No carrying pans of boiling water from one side of the room to the other and absolutely no low level storage that can’t be seen easily and thus cause people to trip.
Getting the bones right is the biggest puzzle piece in kitchen planning and in my opinion, this is what stops a kitchen dating. If it is arranged to function for the purpose of efficient cooking, it will have a streamlined ease to it. The repetitive actions of pan to tap to hob will have been planned to reduce obstructions and unnecessary walking, just as will the action of fridge to kettle. You will have decided that a work surface that is robust and heat resistant will create the most efficient preparation space and you will have factored in reducing the traffic from the hob and sink areas.
How a kitchen looks is a matter of personal taste and while you are living in that space, is something that could possibly be up for debate, but how a kitchen functions is universal. Get that right and the kitchen will have appeal for many years to come.
Certain images taken from Living etc, Elle Decoration, Homes and Gardens – with thanks