Functionality is key when designing a kitchen and should be a priority when making all decisions about how you want the space to look. Invest in areas where you know you’ll get the most use and features that will make working in the kitchen more efficient and enjoyable.
But don’t forget about personality: the kitchen is the heart of the home, so it should represent the people who live there. So once you've chosen your new kitchen cabinetry, start thinking about how to introduce colour, pattern, texture or style that you really love and build the whole kitchen's scheme around it.
1. Be bold with kitchen tiles
Inject personality into your space using wall or kitchen floor tiles in your favourite colour or pattern. If you have gone for a strong pattern on the walls, keep the worktops and units simple. The same applies for shiny and matt: always put a high-shine surface next to a matt one to prevent it looking too over the top.
Looking for a weekend project? Check out our step-by-step guide on tiling your own kitchen.
Patterned, tiled floors make a very strong focal point, but if a full wall or floor pattern is too much, a splashback takes up little room and still adds character, plus it’s a more affordable solution.
2. Make a feature of the dining table
A table is a fantastic starting point for a new kitchen design. If you already have a gorgeous dining table, factor it into your layout from the start. It is important to ensure your kitchen designer knows what your table looks like and how big it is.
A good design should work with the style of the table, so try highlighting the material or colour with new cabinetry or worktops – or even window dressings. If your furniture is timber, think carefully about other woods used and keep the number of wood finishes to a maximum of two per room.
Further highlight and make a focal point of the table with attractive, low-hung pendant lighting and good looking dining chairs. A carefully mis-matched set of chairs can look amazing – as can cheaply-bought chairs that can be painted (find out how to paint furniture in our guide).
3. Introduce eye-catching kitchen lighting
Planning kitchen lighting? One of the easiest ways to add a design feature is with really handsome kitchen lighting. As the kitchen is now a multi-functional, family space, it’s important to layer practical task lighting with decorative ambient lighting. Overhead lighting is necessary, but not atmospheric, so add low pendants and wall lights where possible.
Visit high street stores, lighting specialists, antique fairs and reclamation yards to find your perfect style. Remember, pendant lights don’t have to be overly practical, so long as you factor in task lighting elsewhere, so go for something that looks great and makes you smile. Either highlight the colour or material elsewhere in the kitchen design, or choose contrasting finishes for a unique look.
4. Work with existing kitchen furniture
You may have a treasured freestanding cabinet or bookcase that you’ve inherited or brought from a previous home. Mixing freestanding kitchen furniture and vintage kitchen cabinets with fitted units can create a bespoke look. The trick to incorporating old and new units is to keep them on opposite walls.
For a colour accent, try upcycling a salvaged find in a contrasting shade to the fitted furniture: a simple white kitchen would look lovely with a dresser in dark charcoal or vibrant yellow. Keep an eye on local auctions and markets for one-off pieces.
5. Highlight a favourite pattern or colour
Do you have a favourite painting or fabric that could be a starting point for a new room scheme? Nothing needs to exactly match, but should be able to sit comfortably in the same room.
Keep a small swatch of the fabric or a photo of the artwork with you when you visit showrooms and check it against fixtures, such as worktops or splashbacks, to see if the combination looks good. Even if the fabric is going to be on a small blind or a window seat, it’s important to ensure it will work.
6. How to add colour to your kitchen
Paint dated kitchen cabinets to give your room a whole new look for the fraction of the cost of a new kitchen. Or, quicker still, paint your freestanding furniture bright or contrasting colours. White-painted walls? Transform your kitchen walls with on-trend paint colours.
Look at the stunning palette of encaustic tiles on the market, too. Choose vibrant colours for a splashback, the floor or even just as coasters.
Go bold with fabrics for cushion covers or a table runner, you may only need a little in a kitchen so make it count! Check out our colourful kitchen ideas for more inspiration.
7. Put colour and pattern or texture at the windows
If your kitchen cabinets are a muted colour (and who can blame you, they're easy to redecorate around and will be popular with future buyers), your floors are neutral (ditto) and you've chosen a splashback to match, you can still add colour and pattern with fabulous kitchen window dressings, such as kitchen blinds, or colour and texture with shutters.
8. Curate your own art collection
If you're planning an open plan kitchen, diner and living space, it's likely you'll have plenty of wall space not taken up by kitchen cabinets. So, curate your own art collection, making it a bright and cheerful grouping of your favourite things. Find out how to display photos and pictures to perfection and how to create a gallery wall for instant personality.
9. Add greenery with house plants
Displaying house plants is an instant way to bring life to a kitchen. Choose trailing plants for high shelves, spiky plants for kitchen work surfaces, low-growing succulents for the dining table, and a large, leafy house plant for an empty corner. You can't go wrong – especially if you find out which house plants to buy and how to care for them.
10. Throw down a rug
If you've got a living space within your kitchen, a rug's a no-brainer. But putting a rug within the kitchen area – either beneath the dining table or along the length of galley units – is right on trend. Ensure you choose one that can stand up to the wear and tear it will face in a kitchen. Indoor-outdoor rugs are a good option.