The way in which we use our kitchens has changed dramatically. We lead much less formal lives and cook more informal meals, so many homes incorporate an everyday dining area in the kitchen. The kitchen has become the centre of family life and as a result it is probably the one area of the house where we spend the most money.
1 Consult a kitchen design company to sketch out the units and layout so you can make the most of the space you have. But it is your family and lifestyle, so stick to your guns and never let anyone talk you into the latest fashion or concept for the sake of it.
2 Where space is an issue, it is worth considering a separate utility space, where you can store all your bulky items, oversized crockery and appliances. It is essential that kitchen workspaces are kept clean, clutter-free and ready-for-use. A kitchen should be, above all, accessible and easy to use.
3 If you do have a dining area with a smaller kitchen – as I do – it is worth installing sliding doors or some form of screen between your kitchen and dining areas. You can then reveal a beautifully laid table to guests and close the door on any after-dinner mess. Open-plan space can lead to a lack of surprise, which is a key element of good design and entertaining. With the sliding door open, the integrated dining and kitchen space will adapt perfectly to informal entertaining and weeknight family dinners. When closed, you can hide the kitchen away to create a more relaxed dinner party.
4 In any well-thought-out property, it makes sense for your kitchen to be on the same level as your dining or entertaining space. Whether you are entertaining formally or having a casual dinner, you won’t want to be running up and down stairs to serve the meal, deserting your family and guests in the process. Organisation and forward-planning are key where eating is involved. In an ideal property, your dining, living and kitchen spaces would all be on the same floor, so you don’t have to go from one to another.
5 If space allows, a proper kitchen table is wonderful. It must be chosen carefully, as you will need to use it all the time and for different types of occasions. If opting for a rectangular table, you should keep in mind that it should be narrow enough to allow people to talk across it.
6 The kitchen has taken over from the dining room as the place to relax and socialise. A bar with stools offers extra kitchen workspace and acts as a barrier between the kitchen proper and its dining area. It is sometimes good to install the sink in an island unit, as it keeps it hidden from view in a kitchen/dining space. All family members need something different from a kitchen – whether it is an Aga, somewhere to do homework, or watch TV.
7 I love combining contemporary and traditional influences in a design and the kitchen is one room where you can go to town with technology. Chic new appliances, a good-quality oven and practical storage units that look sleek are essential. For character, add a chandelier.
8 Before designing your kitchen, plan how you will use the space. If you are a keen cook, excessive soft furnishings and detail will only take up precious work space and collect dirt. However, if you are more interested in the entertaining side, rather than hands-on cooking, you can afford to be more decorative. For those who are going to add a sofa, make sure the upholstery wears well.
9 If you are happy with the existing layout of your kitchen but want a facelift, change your work surfaces. This will instantly transform and modernise a kitchen. Replacing cupboard doors or handles, substituting small round knobs for longer, brushed steel handles will also bring your kitchen up to date.
10 Plan the lighting carefully, so there is a degree of flexibility. Low level lighting is useful if you are going to eat in the kitchen.