Designing or remodelling a kitchen can be a daunting task. Whether you’re starting from scratch, completely refurbishing or making a few minor renovations, some basic know-how and handy tips will help make your kitchen design project a success.
It is essential to stay focused on your needs and lifestyle in order to understand the possibilities of your new space. Choosing cabinets, counters, appliances, furniture and lighting requires careful thought, since all these elements play a role in the overall comfort and look of the kitchen, which needs to be a functional and stylish space that will stand the test of time.
Identify your needs
Today's kitchen remains the heart of the home, the social hub where family and friends gather to eat, meet, relax and celebrate.
Of course, a kitchen is first and foremost a place to prepare and cook meals. But in reality it is much more than that – it's also where we read the news, surf the Internet, catch up on paperwork, where the kids do their homework, and so on. That's why it is essential to identify your needs before starting to plan the space.
Makeover or total facelift?
There are two kinds of kitchen renovation. You can either keep the existing layout and elements and simply change the look by repainting the walls or replacing the cabinet doors, countertop, tiles, sink or faucets, without touching the electricity or plumbing. Or you can completely remodel – generally the option for kitchens that are small and outdated with insufficient storage space. In this case, the kitchen is completely redesigned; this may mean knocking down walls or integrating an adjoining pantry. The plumbing and lighting is redone and all the cabinets are replaced.
A functional kitchen should have three basic work centres or "stations":
There may also be a designated eating area, depending on space and needs. While the dining area in kitchens used to consist of a table in the centre of the room, today we are more likely to opt for a bench, lunch counter or eating corner with a small table, which better suits our busy lifestyle. The main family evening meal is typically served in the adjacent dining room.
The important thing when planning kitchen layout is to observe the natural "flow" through the kitchen. In what order are tasks done? How many people cook or prepare food at the same time? Think about the logical sequence of events. When you come home from shopping, you put the food away in the fridge and the pantry. Later, you take it out to rinse it, chop it and prepare it, then you cook it on the stovetop or in the oven. Finally, you serve it at the table. If the work stations are arranged to follow this order, your kitchen tasks are made easier. If more than one person is cooking or preparing food at the same time, a double sink will prove very useful.
The triangle and other functional shapes
For many years, kitchen designers used the triangle principle as the ideal layout. This principle works on the basis that the three most important elements in a kitchen – the refrigerator, cooktop and sink – should be laid out so that each represents one of the points of a triangle. The combined distance between the three, i.e. the total perimeter of the triangle, should be between 15 and 26 feet. The concept also recommends that no distance be longer than 9 feet and that the shortest distance – the one between the sink and the cooktop – should be between 4 and 6 feet. Ideally, traffic flow through the kitchen should not pass through the work-triangle area.
Though the triangle principle remains a logical option, the popularity of open-plan kitchens has led designers to rethink the idea. The current trend is to merge the kitchen with the adjoining dining room by removing a wall to open up the space, a concept that can also be taken a step further by including the living room in the open-plan design. Indeed, many new homes are built on this model. Traffic flows more freely, it is easier to manage tasks, and the open space lets in plenty of natural light. The kitchen remains the central hub but people can circulate freely and are not confined by four walls. Open-plan kitchens are often laid out in an "L" or "C" shape, occasionally an "F" shape.
Modern kitchens often include an island or peninsula, which marks the boundary between areas with different functions. The island can also double as a breakfast or lunch counter, simply by adding a few bar stools. An island may include a sink, cooktop and even a dishwasher. Kitchen islands or peninsulas offer useful storage space as well as additional counter surface and they help create a convivial environment.
Choosing the right appliances
Appliances make life easier; all the more so if they are chosen carefully to meet the family's real needs. Kitchen appliances should be arranged in a logical layout; for example, the oven should ideally be near the pots and pans, and the refrigerator close to the pantry.
Space permitting, an increasingly popular choice is to have a separate cooktop and a wall oven – easier to access than the traditional free-standing range. The area below the cooktop that would have been occupied by the range provides space for deep drawers to hold pots and pans.
Choice of range hood is important. The power, or air exhaust flow (CFM) of a range hood must be suitable for the type of cooking, whether electric, gas or induction. The location of your hood will depend on whether or not it is vented to the outside. The style of hood has an impact on the overall look of the kitchen: a modern chimney-style hood lends a contemporary look, while a hood built into or underneath a cabinet is a more traditional choice.
The latest trends in appliances include microwaves built into base cabinets and dishwashers raised by about a foot for easier access. A common feature in European kitchens for the past 10 years or so, this type of installation is becoming more and more popular as the population ages. Wine is another lifestyle trend that is strongly influencing kitchen design. A regular-sized wine cellar will fit under the counter, while larger models may be placed alongside the fridge.
A well-designed kitchen deserves to be shown in its best light! Pot lights are popular because they are always in style and can be dimmed to change the mood as desired. Unobtrusive, they are perfect for the ceiling and above the sink, as well as under cabinets. A pair of dimmable pendant lamps is a good idea over an island or peninsula, lighting your work surface when needed or providing a subdued glow for evening meals. Above the table, a striking chandelier will add 'wow' factor and echo the style of the dining room.
Finishing touches: designers’ trade secrets
An efficient kitchen is a well-organized kitchen. Pull-out spice racks, wall-mount utensil racks, slide-out shelves, pots and pans drawers, soft-close dampers for cabinet doors – there are storage solutions and accessories to meet every need. The market is brimming with products, gadgets and decorative trim of all kinds, colours and finishes. Check out the many options and enlist the help of a kitchen designer to help you find the solutions that work for you.
Mindful of the move toward universal design, kitchen designers are increasingly incorporating a walk-in pantry. This small room within or just off the kitchen provides a useful storage area for food, as well as kitchenware, a second fridge, recycling bins and so on. A small countertop may be included to keep the coffee machine and toaster out of sight. This may also serve as a breakfast or lunch counter, to free up space on the main kitchen countertop.
Materials and colour
Once you've planned your layout, you can have fun choosing your decor style. Large floor tiles lend a contemporary feel; mouldings around the ceiling create a more classic look. For a touch of eclecticism, why not include both?
Pale colours will make the room appear larger. Durable, noble materials like wood and natural stone make sensational countertops.
Renovating the kitchen is an investment. But whether the space is large or small, a well-designed kitchen that is both chic and functional will increase your home's resale value. Drop in to your store to meet our experts, who will offer you tips, advice and a host of options to help you create a stylish and practical kitchen that truly reflects your tastes and lifestyle needs.