How to plan the perfect kitchen – Top ten tips

Plywood Cutlery Drawer

The kitchen is probably the most used and abused room in the house – walls get a regular hot steam, drawers are weighted with crockery, cupboard doors bang open and close, worktops seared with hot pans, floors subjected to red wine spills. So whether your kitchen is a family hub, a social space or a cooks command post, when planning a new kitchen there are many practical things to consider. Jim Leach, kitchen and furniture designer and owner of Wood & Wire, gives his top 10 tips on how to plan your perfect kitchen…whatever your budget.

TIP 1 – Ensure your kitchen layout is ergonomic

You may have heard of the ‘kitchen triangle theory’ – it is paramount to planning the layout of your kitchen. 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 work space.

TIP 2 – Consider your kitchen storage needs

Take full advantage of every bit of wall and floor space to maximise storage and keep those work tops 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 tuppaware will never be seen again. If it’s unavoidable, I recommend a pull out system. There are many kitchen companies providing online design packages to help you plan the layout. If your budget allows I would always recommend working with a kitchen designer who can get the best out of your space with intelligent design and efficient layout.

Corner pull out system for kitchen cupboard

A pull out corner system helps keep things organised

TIP 3 – Don’t leave yourself in the dark

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

Under cupboard lighting is ideal for illuminating preparation areas

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 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

Pop up power ports now come flush fitted in the same finish as your work surface and can even powered by remote control

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 90% quartz and Corian, an acrylic solid surface. 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

Corian worktops can be fitted with wireless charging points

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

This bean-to-cup coffee machine and warming drawer by Siemens is a caffeine lovers dream

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. This design was forged 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

Eye level ovens are much safer in kitchens where little people roam free

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

Down draught extractor hobs such as BORA are gaining popularity

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

Always include a space for general waste and recycle bins. Whether you want them hidden in a cupboard or free standing in a convenient spot, put some thought into where is most accessible, convenient yet out of the way.

Recycling system for kitchen

Recycling systems can be fitted either under the sink or in their own cupboard

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 have changed over the decades and a more open plan style of living is often preferred. 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 be discouraged by the word ‘bespoke’ – it doesn’t automatically mean ‘expensive’, but it will 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.