Kitchen Design Principles

In many ways the kitchen is the most important room in the house in terms of design, orientation, layout and functionality. It’s where we now tend to spend most of our time, and is no longer a cramped room tucked at the back of the house.

The kitchen has come to claim centre stage in our homes and has grown to include open-plan dining and family areas.

Islands and a strong connection with the garden via large expanses of glazing are two popular trends with the modern kitchen

Kitchens are usually the most expensive rooms due to the appliances, equipment, cabinetry and gadgets we like to include, and therefore this space demands some serious consideration at the design stage.

THE BASICS

Planning a new kitchen carefully is vital, and what better opportunity to get the room you want than by self-building or extending and designing it completely from scratch? Take time to focus on what you dislike about your current kitchen, such as a lack of workspace, and try to eliminate these problems in the new design.

This is the one room which will be overflowing with appliances and gadgets so allocating enough space is vital. Utility rooms are ideal for containing much of this clutter, so consider building or creating a separate room with a second sink, where all the behind the scenes tasks such as laundry can take place.

Consider an appliance ‘garage’ for hidden storage of small appliances, which can be permanently plugged in and accessed by pulling up roller shutters.

It can be helpful to mock up the room using graph paper to represent the fixtures and furniture. Alternatively, online virtual kitchen planners, such as kitchenplanneronline.com and magnet.co.uk, allow you to plan the room layout and position cabinets and appliances, often in 3D. Most kitchen companies offer a free, no-obligation planning service and will be happy to visit your home and discuss your requirements – usually producing a computer-generated design which will help you visualise the overall effect.

Assess your needs and list your priorities. If you enjoy cooking and entertaining then this will influence the overall layout and design. Decide if you need a formal dining area of whether an island or a kitchen table would better suit your needs. Plan how much storage space you’ll need for your groceries, cutlery and crockery and decide what equipment you want to include. A large range cooker may be a dream for many, but if space is at a premium this might not be the most practical choice.

Kitchen Layouts

ISLAND

An effective island layout typically involves more space than is available in a small kitchen. This plan which is more suited to medium sized kitchens may still give you some ideas that you can incorporate into your final kitchen design.

GALLEY

A galley kitchen is a single line of cabinets. As the name suggests, a galley is normally long and narrow. With careful planning and resourcefulness, however, the design can function as an efficient and streamlined kitchen.

DOUBLE GALLEY

With cabinets along two walls, a double galley kitchen offers more storage space and the opportunity to introduce more design features, such as staggered depths and cabinet heights.

L-SHAPE

A practical and popular layout that offers good storage and ergonomics, and provides a very effective working triangle. It works efficiently in small kitchens and in a larger room allows space for a dining table, so it´s good for families and entertaining.

U-SHAPE

An effective U-Shaped layout typically involves more space than is available in a small kitchen. This plan which is more suited to medium sized kitchens may still give you some ideas that you can incorporate into your final kitchen design.

OPEN-PLAN KITCHENS

The dining room has become a casualty of modern living, with many of us far happier to congregate in a large kitchen to cook, eat, talk and watch television. Unless you hold regular formal dinner parties or will use a separate dining room for other activities, such as a music room or study, it may make sense to dispense with it altogether and use the space to enlarge your multi-purpose kitchen.

Interestingly, when rooms are combined to create a multi-function kitchen, the additional space tends to be devoted to sociable purposes and the working area stays roughly the same size. 

This ensures that the food preparation space remains functional without the need to walk long distances between areas.

Think carefully about where to locate key activity zones. Positioning the kitchen centrally is a common mistake, which can prove annoying and even dangerous if people are constantly walking through this part of the room treating it like a corridor. It is also easier to route drainage if the kitchen is located close to an external wall.

Position the eating area as close to natural light as possible, ideally overlooking the garden, and when budget allows you could install French doors or a wall of full-height folding sliding glass doors.

PLANNING THE LAYOUT

Few selfbuilders choose to build a galley kitchen: they are simply too impractical, with little circulation space and, although all the important areas are close together, storage is often a problem.

One-wall kitchens are proving increasing popular, where storage and appliances are all concentrated in a single wall, often coupled with an island.

Double galleys provide a practical solution and offer more storage below the worktops. The most important factor is to leave enough space between the two lines of units so that you can bend over to look into your oven or open cabinets without bumping into the cupboards behind you.


PLAN FOR EFFICIENT WORKING

When it comes to kitchens, efficiency rules. There is no room for error when working with hot pots and pans, so practicality should be at the top of the list. This means that food preparation, sink and cooking areas must not be too far apart. A rule of thumb is that there must be an area of worktop between the sink and hob where the food can be prepared. 

The oft-quoted ‘working triangle’ actually works. 

Plan the activity areas of cooker/hob, fridge and sink close to one another in a triangle for the perfect working kitchen, and avoid placing the fridge next to the oven as the difference in temperature may affect their efficiency.

If possible, try to face into the room when you cook rather than onto a wall. Preparing and cooking food is a sociable activity, and an island unit is a good way of naturally dividing the space.

The kitchen should reflect the style of the rest of the house. Modern appliances such as dishwashers and coffee machines can still be incorporated into period kitchens, behind subtle doors.

A U-shaped design will provide plenty of work surface and storage space. It can, however, become a little enclosed if the wall cupboards run all around the room. If this layout is chosen for a bigger room then one of the legs of the U may be used as a breakfast bar or shortened to open up the circulation space. Place the dishwasher and hob to the centre of a run so that they don’t obstruct other units when opened.

The L-shaped kitchen provides adequate work space and storage below the worktop, while walking distances between the main zones will be minimised. 

Another big advantage of the L-shaped kitchen is that one section of the room will be free to use as a dining area. The main problem with this layout is often the space under the worktop in the corner, with solutions including a rotating carousel unit, diagonal sink or hob.

Islands are hugely popular, providing a free-standing unit with access on all sides, which can accommodate appliances while also creating an informal seating area. If you position your island hob facing into the room you will be able to cook and talk to guests as the same time.

Decide which part of the kitchen area you want to commit to seating and organise your units around it, considering views out of the windows. 

THE CABINETRY

The problems of awkward corners and unusual window positions can be eliminated with the help of a good designer, although you will usually pay a premium for a bespoke kitchen.

One of your first decisions will be choosing between fitted units or a free-standing kitchen.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages. If you choose a fitted kitchen it will make the most of available space, as all the difficult corners can be used for storage. You can choose between flat-packed, rigid or custom built to suit your needs and budget. A fitted kitchen will add value to your home, but you can’t take it with you when you move.

A free-standing or unfitted kitchen offers an individual and informal look which can be mixed with dressers and other furniture to create the atmosphere you prefer. When you move, you can take your furniture with you and use it again.

Solid wood, veneers, laminates and vinyl-wrapped or painted MDF are all popular materials for kitchens, and technological advances mean that durability is no longer a problem. Factory-applied lacquers are also recognised for their hard-wearing advantages and have a shiny finish that is both easy to clean and light-reflective. The lighter species of timbers such as maple and birch work very well but so, conversely, do darker walnut and deep cherry.

Gone are the days when the age of your house dictated the style of the kitchen.

Nowadays, you are just as likely to see a high tech stainless steel design in a Victorian semi as you are to admire a bespoke traditional kitchen in a modern home.