How to design a kitchen

Whether you’re updating your existing space or adding an extension, follow these steps to successfully design a kitchen Whether your kitchen is outdated and in need of a refresh, or you’re designing a kitchen from scratch thanks to a new kitchen extension, knowing how to design a kitchen well is vital to your success. And by ‘design’, we don’t just mean concentrating on your kitchen’s looks or cabinetry style. Planning your kitchen storage options and practicalities such as lighting and flooring are essential, too.


Kitchens used to be hidden-away work spaces, but today they’re rooms in which we spend huge amounts of time. Not only do they need to offer the preparation and cooking facilities that suit all the home’s occupants, but they must also be stylish space we want to enjoy being in. Often, they’re a zone in an open-plan kitchen diner and living space, so the kitchen’s decor must work harmoniously with dining and relaxing areas as well. Planning ahead is key if you wish to successfully design a kitchen that fulfils all your expectations, and our guide will get you there, whether you’re going it alone or have called in the help of an expert. We know choosing a kitchen designer, architect or builder is a big part of the process, which is why we’ve put together specialist guides aiming to help you choose the best professional for your project.


A comprehensive checklist to ensure you’ve considered everything your new kitchen might need: Kitchen wall units Kitchen base units Glazed kitchen display units Kitchen larder units Kitchen island Kitchen island seating Breakfast bar Ovens Hob Kitchen sink Taps or boiling water tap Ceiling or downdraught extractor Dining area Living area Underfloor heating Pantry storage Utility room Rooflights Bi-fold or sliding doors


When you design a kitchen, it’s important to understand the space you’re working with. Ask a kitchen company, an architect or architectural technologist – or use graph paper – to carefully make scale drawings of your kitchen’s floorplan.


The kitchen layout should be designed to perfectly fit your lifestyle. Focus on the layout of the working part of the kitchen, as well as on its relationship with a dining table, if there is one, or – in an open plan kitchen-living-diner – the other zones. To plan the preparation and cooking space, use the design concept of the working triangle of the kitchen. The three points are the fridge, sink and hob with imaginary lines between these forming the triangle shape. The three points should be near enough to each other to make meal preparation efficient but each work station should be uncramped.

Galley kitchen This may consist of a single run of units along one wall, or a double galley, which has a second run directly opposite. In an open-plan space, the facing cabinetry may take the form of an island, leaving the run of units on an exterior wall. A galley is an efficient working arrangement. In a double galley, putting the sink opposite the hob makes for a sensible design. Plan in worktop space either side of the hob. U-shaped kitchen Here, the units are positioned around three walls to make a U shape. It’s simple to form the working triangle with one each of the hob, sink and fridge on each of the unit runs. A U-shape is especially valuable if you want plenty of worksurface and don’t have the space for an island. However, in a larger kitchen you could add in an island at the U’s centre as well. Consider, too, using the shape in an open-plan room with the third run of units creating a peninsula between kitchen and dining space


With the layout planned, it’s time to consider the look of your kitchen. Overall, the choice is between cabinetry with a contemporary look, and more classic designs. Contemporary flat-fronted or slab kitchen units Modern in appearance, these kitchen units can be handless, have recessed handles, or complement cabinets with a modern finishing touch like bar handles. L-shaped kitchen In these layouts, units occupy two walls. The working triangle can be formed with, for example, a sink on one wall (especially if this is where the window is), and hob and fridge on the other. Ensure you leave preparation space either side of the hob in an L-shaped kitchen, whichever section of the L it’s on. Don’t overload an L-shaped kitchen with wall units. Try limiting them to the longer part of the L.

A bank of tall units on the short part of the L, meanwhile, can be space-efficient, if there’s not a window positioned there. Open-plan kitchen If you like the idea of incorporating a kitchen into an open plan layout, it usually makes sense to have the kitchen in the darkest part of the space, with the dining and living areas – where you will spend more time relaxing – closest to windows overlooking the garden. There’s a growing trend for ‘broken-plan’ living, where the spaces are only partly separated – you may want to include a half wall between the kitchen and living space, or a pocket sliding door that allows you to divide off the dining room for more formal entertaining. Breakfast bars or kitchen islands.

A key component of most kitchens these days, take time to consider the best location for your breakfast bar or kitchen island. You can ask your designer for advice. You don’t want it to interrupt the flow of the room, and may want to integrate your sink or hob into the island to allow the chef to interact with people using the rest of the space. Glazing choices Your choice of glazing should be carefully considered if you intend to design a kitchen with an open-plan layout, or as part of a new kitchen extension.

Though desirable from a design perspective, bi-fold or sliding doors across the back of the room will limit the wall space available for kitchen units here. A door with less width, plus a window, will leave you with an under-window area for kitchen cabinets. Shaker style cabinets Based on a simple frame around a centre panel, shaker style cabinets have certainly stood the test of time, and if you opt for wood, are easy to update in future, too. Georgian and Victorian panelled door kitchens With details such as cornices and pelmets, traditional Georgian and Victorian panelled cabinet doors make a grand effect. They can suit period rooms with high ceilings, as well as kitchen extensions to Victorian homes

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