Kitchen Planning – Top Ten Tips

Plywood Cutlery Drawer

Effective kitchen planning at the initial stages of your is crucial if you want to a kitchen scheme that will accommodate all your needs and save you a fortune in costly mistakes. As the most used and abused room in the house, kitchens get a daily battering. Each day, walls get steamed, drawers are weighted, cupboard doors are slammed, worktops seared, floors subjected to red wine spills. Whether your kitchen is a family hub, social space or a cooks command post, when planning a new kitchen there’s much to consider. Jim Leach, kitchen and furniture designer and owner of Wood & Wire, shares his top 10 tips, a kitchen planning guide for how to achieve your perfect kitchen…whatever your budget.

TIP 1 – Ensure your kitchen layout is ergonomic

You may have heard of the ‘kitchen planning triangle’ – it is paramount to your kitchen planning layout. The 3 points of the triangle are the cooker, the sink and the fridge. Ideally, you want no more than 6 feet between each point. I will controversially add a 4th point to this theory (which makes a square?) and that is preparation space. Ensure you have space either side of your cooker for prep and workspace.

TIP 2 – Consider your kitchen storage needs

It’s worthwhile making a kitchen planning checklist at this stage to make sure that you accommodate everything you need.  Take full advantage of every bit of wall and floor space to maximise storage and keep that worktop clear. Drawers hold a lot more than cupboards, are easier to access and allow for better organisation. The downside is they will cost more than a cupboard, but I feel the benefits out way the cost. Avoid corner cupboards where possible – they hold a land far far away where Tupperware will never be seen again. I would always recommend a pull-out system if that’s unavoidable to maximise your kitchen cabinet planning. If you’re struggling to imagine how your plan will work, there are many kitchen companies that provide a kitchen planning tool to help you visualise the layout. If your budget allows I would always recommend working with a kitchen designer who will have a plethora of kitchen planning ideas and will get the best out of your space with intelligent design and efficient layout.

Corner pull out system for kitchen cupboard

TIP 3 – Don’t leave yourself in the dark

Planning your kitchen lighting is as crucial as planning the kitchen itself, don’t leave yourself in the dark. A central light is great for giving an overall pool of light but don’t forget to light your prep areas well. Under cupboard lighting is ideal for this. You want it bright and consistent. Well-positioned spot-lights are good to highlight certain areas, but keep them near cupboards, pointing down – if they are in the centre of the room pointing out they can create shadows. If you are wanting a pendant light, over the table perhaps, it’s worth taking into account it’s wipability! (If you have a kitchen-diner, you may want a dimmer so you can change the ambience)

under cupboard lighting in valchromat kitchen

TIP 4 – Think about access to power sources & plumbing

If your existing socket layout and plumbing works with your new design, great. If it doesn’t, don’t compromise planning your kitchen layout for the sake of moving some wires & pipes. It is worth budgeting for a few hours of a tradesman’s time than living with a kitchen that’s ‘not quite right’ and trust us when we say you can never have enough power! These days though, power doesn’t just have to come from the wall. Pop up sockets with combined USB ports are becoming more of a thing, as are counter-top wireless charging ports.

Remote control pop up power socket

TIP 5 – Work surfaces take the brunt so treat them as a key element of your project

Changing just the worktop can transform a kitchen if your budget is tight, but don’t underestimate the potential cost of doing so. You may need to replace wall tiles, employ a plumber to moves pipes and a gas plumber to move pipes to the hob. With so many materials and styles out there, you’re spoilt for choice, but it is worth doing your homework. I think the best worktops are Silestone, which is manufactured from 90% quartz combined with resin and pigment. And an acrylic-based solid surface manufactured by Dupont called Corian. These are hard-wearing, durable, easy to clean and come in many colours and styles. Although wooden worktops are beautiful, they demand a lot of constant care to maintain their appearance and durability.

Corian Worksurface

TIP 6 – Appliances are becoming smarter, check out what’s on offer

Integrated appliances are certainly my preferred option, not just because they best suit our kitchen design, but they give any kitchen a clean and smart finish. That said, there are some free standing fridge freezers and ovens around that are beautifully designed and warrant being displayed. Most cooks will say “gas all the way” when it comes to hobs, however new electric induction hobs are much more responsive to temperature change than they used to be, are more efficient and therefore easier on the environment and are much easier to clean than gas hobs, proving more hygienic. Keeping old appliances can save you money. But if money’s no object and time is tight, I’ve been asked to design kitchens with 2 dishwashers – why? One for dirty and one for clean – it saves you unpacking the clean crockery!

Integrated coffee machine and warming drawer

TIP 7 – Safety matters, especially if you have little people in the house

It is not uncommon to bang ones head on an open wall-cupboard door, so I design ours with shallow doors that extend no further than the worktop. I forged this design through my own experience! Children are inquisitive and hungry creatures so door-locking systems are essential. My preferred mechanism is a magnetised fitting that is concealed, thus retaining the integrity of the kitchens design. Keeping ovens at eye level can be easier to access and therefore safer.

Integrated oven

TIP 8 – Extractor fans have moved forward recently, have a look at the new down draught systems

Another essential in the kitchen – the extractor fan will remove not just cooking smells, but grease and moisture produced from cooking. Moisture can be damaging to walls, worktops and condensation on the windows can damage wooden frames. Again, do your research into what type of extractor better suits your needs. New brands into the market such as BORA have now superseded the big lump above your head and operate a much more accommodating “down draught” extraction method allowing you to have that beautiful island you always wanted right in the middle of the room.

Bora Hob

TIP 9 – Don’t let rubbish and recycling be an afterthought

Always include a space for general waste and recycle bins. Consider if you want your bins hidden in a cupboard or freestanding. Putting some thought into where is most accessible, convenient yet out of the way now, will save you headaches later.

Recycling system for kitchen

TIP 10 – Always choose a design and style you like, not what’s in fashion right now

Don’t be afraid of using colour. Our lifestyles are always changing. These days we prefer more open plan style of living. Because of this the kitchen has become the feature of a room. One customer chose a kitchen with yellow and blue laminated finish and said “each morning I walk into the kitchen and it makes me smile”. If you put your personal taste into something, it will always look good to you. And if the design is timeless and not adhering to fashion, you will happily live with it for a long, long time.

I’m going to squeeze in a number 11. Don’t forget your budget. It goes without saying that you need to know what yours is before commencing on a kitchen planning project. No matter what kitchen units and worktops you decide upon, the labour costs for installation (including plumbing, electrics, flooring) and redecorating will remain pretty much the same. Don’t let the word ‘bespoke’ discourage you – it doesn’t automatically mean ‘expensive’, but it does assure you a personal service, great design to your personal preference and better quality product. Most kitchen suppliers use chip board for the cupboard carcasses – these are a cheaper option, but do not stand the test of time.

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