Kitchen design: how to design and plan a kitchen like an expert

Looking for expert kitchen design advice and ideas? Whether you're revamping an existing kitchen or planning a brand new space we have all the know-how you need

Kitchen design: expert advice on designing and planning a kitchen
(Image credit: Ikea )
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Starting your new kitchen design is a very exciting time; all the mood boards and the never ending paint samples, but there's no denying it can get a little stressful if you aren't sure what you are doing. But, whatever your kitchen plans we are here to help – whatever your budget, and whatever your style. So, if your current kitchen is outdated and needs a drastic revamp or if you have a blank canvas to design your new kitchen from scratch, read on for expert advice, ideas and, of course, inspiration.

In this three page feature, we cover every aspect of kitchen design. On this page, we take you through all the stages of designing a kitchen, from choosing cabinetry style to material types; on page two, we cover the more practical elements of planning a kitchen, such as room layout, choosing flooring, working out lighting schemes and picking worktops; and on page three, there's a chance to review all types of kitchen appliances in our expert buyer's guides. 

Looking for more kitchen advice? Go to our kitchen ideas page for more practical advice and gorgeous inspiration. 

How to choose a kitchen design

Laminate flooring in a light kitchen

(Image credit: Carpetright)

When starting a kitchen redesign, first thing to think about is its design – how the end result will look. Do you want it to complement the style or period of your home or contrast it? To match the decor of your other rooms or to stand out? What style of units do you want to go for? And how will you use colour or bring texture into the room with materials? 

All of these elements – in other words, the fun part of kitchen designing – need to be thought about early on when you design a kitchen. And once you have your vision just right, you can move on to the kitchen planning stage to work out the practicalities.

Below, we cover every type of kitchen design – modern, traditional and freestanding (use these links to jump straight down to them) – to help you envisage how your new kitchen could look. 

Then, we look at how to choose the best materials for your kitchen and kitchen colour schemes to be thinking about at this early stage. 

Then, you can go to page two for practical advice on how to start planning your kitchen design. Or to page three, if you want to look at appliances right now.

Modern kitchens: choose chic minimalist cabinetry for a contemporary look

Veerusha Diah and Yogesh Bhola's extended Woodford Green home is an uber-stylish space to hang out

(Image credit: James French)

Contemporary kitchens can work in modern or period homes, but they do look most at home in light-filled, simple spaces. Think elegant, minimalist cabinetry, carefully selected colour simple schemes and perhaps a few feature pieces in there too. 

You'll see that modern kitchens often have fitted storage and built in appliances to keep that minimalist look. If you want to design a kitchen that is clutter-free, a modern kitchen is the best kitchen design for you. 

See modern kitchens in our design gallery for tons of inspiration. 

See luxury kitchens with a contemporary edge in our design gallery – you needn't have a big budget to mimic these looks.

Traditional kitchens: choose formal, rustic or country for a period feel

Wooden farmhouse kitchen with blue aga and wooden table and chairs in the centre

(Image credit: Bridget Peirson)

Traditional kitchens fit perfectly if you live in a period home with traditional features and lovely quirks – but can also really suit modern homes in need of a touch of character. There are plenty of kitchen styles that come underneath the umbrella of 'traditional' so you can find a style to suit your tastes. 

See Shaker kitchens in our ideas gallery if you want a classic, traditional kitchen that never dates. This kitchen design suits all styles of settings, from modern kitchen extensions to rustic country cottages. Unlike some traditional kitchens, the Shaker style is simple and uncomplicated, with no elaborate mouldings or fussy decorations – a perfect blank canvas to add your own personality.

See country kitchens and farmhouse kitchens in our design ideas galleries for rustic inspiration. Country kitchens include painted designs, while farmhouse kitchens are more ruggedly rustic. 

See vintage kitchens for inspiration for creating a kitchen design that's more about homespun charm. These highlight original features of your home, like beams or original tiles, and are the perfect kitchen design if you want a space with loads of personality and cosiness. 

Freestanding kitchens: flexible furniture for all types of home

Rustic stone farmhouse kitchen with freestanding furniture

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

Freestanding kitchens will work in modern or period homes, and are less about that new, built-in kitchen look and more about mixing and matching one off pieces to create a one-off design. 

This kind of kitchen design takes more thought because it's not as straightforward as just choosing a fitted kitchen. Instead, you will need to design your own kitchen completely and decide various routes:

  • Get the bones of the kitchen sorted by buying the key parts like cabinets and the worktops from a company that specialises in made-to-measure pieces (more expensive) or one that makes fitted kitchen furniture with a freestanding look (more affordable!).
  • Spend time finding pieces that will work together and fit in your space (this is very time-consuming and sometimes fruitless).
  • A combination of the two routes above: get the main elements from a kitchen company or designer and then source one-off pieces to give it that unique feel.

Either way, we recommend making a list of your freestanding essentials (cabinets, dressers, kitchen islands, etc), take measurements, keep them to hand and then talk to both kitchen designers and joiners, but also to keep an your eye out for suitable pieces on online markets, vintage stores and even charity shops. 

See freestanding kitchens in our design gallery to get inspiration and more advice for your scheme. 

How to choose the best materials for your kitchen 

A shot of the kitchen sink, fitted in a marble-effect worktop over deep blue kitchen units

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

This will mostly come down to your budget, but we will say investing the best quality kitchen you can afford will add value to your home. Also, obviously the better quality materials you choose, the longer your kitchen will last. 

These materials lend themselves more to a traditional kitchen design:

Hardwood is the best and most hard-wearing material you can choose for your kitchen cabinets. 

Plywood is also a good choice and often slightly cheaper than a solid wood kitchen. 

If you want a sleek modern kitchen design

Fibreboard cabinets: they are usually inexpensive but are long-lasting and give you that totally smooth surface for a chic, minimalist look.

Which materials to avoid? 

Cabinets and cabinet doors that have a wood veneer tend not to last very long as the veneer layer can peel and chip. The same goes for particleboard. However both these materials are budget-friendly so if you are trying to keep your cost at a minimum they might work for you. 

For more tips on how to choose kitchen cabinets head to our guide for loads of practical advice and inspiring ideas. 

How to choose the best colour scheme for kitchen cabinets

stone floor in country style kitchen

(Image credit: Floors of Stone)

The colour of kitchen cabinets might have to be a decision you make really early on. Colour is perhaps as important as the style of cupboards you choose as it will be the first thing anyone notices about your kitchen. 

The most popular colour choice for a kitchen is white, closely followed by cream, off-white and pale grey, and this is a good option if you want your kitchen to be a backdrop for you to add your own colour and personality in decor, while retaining a classic kitchen design that won't date, is easy to redecorate around in future, and which won't put off future house-buyers. 

A white or pale-coloured kitchen design also allows you more options when it comes to choosing decor – from kitchen tiles to kitchen flooring – as you can be bolder in your choices there. See white kitchen ideas in our design gallery. 

Grey kitchens are also very on trend and work with both traditional and contemporary kitchens. See grey kitchens in our design gallery. 

See dark kitchens – another massive trend at the moment – in our design ideas gallery, too. 

If you're feeling brave or just love colour, just check out our kitchen colour scheme feature to get inspired. 

More kitchen design advice: