Design solutions for kitchens

Design advice for maximising open-plan, galley, and square kitchens

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Make the most of your space, whatever its size or shape, with this invaluable advice from industry experts.

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Galley kitchen

‘Think of your room as having a variety of different zones,’

…says interior designer Nicola Holden. ‘A successful galley layout is all about maximising the space, and can be one of the most practical for cooking. Producing a meal is a process, starting off with ingredients and finishing with food on a plate. Thinking about this process will help you plan the most efficient kitchen.

‘Most kitchen designs concentrate only on the work triangle – the imaginary lines that connect the three main appliances within the kitchen: the fridge, the cooker/hob and the sink. To achieve an optimal layout, it is important to take this a stage further and think about the different zones in a kitchen: for ingredients, preparation, cooking, dishing up, cleaning and, finally, dining. When planning your kitchen, consider how one zone will flow into another. Maximising your storage and keeping your worktops clear and uncluttered will also allow this small room to feel more spacious.’

Avant white kitchen from Second Nature

‘Use visual tricks to make your space appear much larger than it is,’

….says Jamie Telford, director of Roundhouse. ‘With a galley kitchen, you need to optimise every inch of space and squeeze in as much storage as you can. Keeping the design clear and light, using handleless cabinetry to create a smooth, uninterrupted run of cupboards, and reflective work surfaces and splashbacks all increase the impression of greater space. An undermounted or integrated sink keeps the work surface neat. Flooring can be laid widthways across the room to increase the impression of greater breadth.

‘Keep worktop appliances to a minimum – don’t waste space by having under-used gadgets on display. Boiling water taps remove the need for an electric kettle. Include as many clever design features as you can, such as pull-out larders, pocket doors and “magic corners”, which utilise difficult to reach corners.’

‘Prevent it from feeling like a narrow corridor,’

…says Graeme Smith, senior designer at Second Nature kitchens. ‘Resist the temptation to cram walls with too many cabinets as the space will feel hemmed in. Consider a floor-to-ceiling larder, which will hold a surprising amount of groceries. Glazed wall units or open shelving will create a sense of space and open up the design, while introducing a mix of materials and finishes will add interest to the scheme. Cabinets with staggered depth and heights will achieve solutions for a variety of cooking activities and storage requirements as well as preventing it from feeling like a passage. This can be achieved by adding in gable ends, breakfronts or a dresser. The room’s linear layout doesn’t mean you can’t introduce shape to the design – try adding flow with gently curved cabinets.’


Kitchen design by Kitchens International

Large square kitchen

‘Don’t be tempted to include units on all of the walls’

…says Tina Riley, director of kitchen specialist Modern Homes. ‘Square-shaped kitchens can look boxed-in, but limiting the run of units to two walls can make them feel more spacious. This can be enhanced by creating extra storage in an island, leaving worktops clear. Ensure that there is at least 90cm space around the island, or it could look cramped. If you are having a social area with stools, position this at the open end of the room. Where a kitchen leads to the dining room, use the same floor colour in both rooms for a seamless flow. Position appliances to allow for ease of movement, and to follow the logic of how the kitchen is used, with the hob and sink close to each other for food preparation.’

‘Choose furniture that isn’t overpowering,’

…says Louisa Forsyth, senior designer at Kitchens International. ‘Large kitchens need to be designed proportionally, with the appliances, furniture and activity space all equally sizeable. The best layout is a mix of open-plan and U- or L-shaped. Bear in mind that the cook wants to be involved in the social space, but not tripping over family and visitors. The bigger the kitchen, the more space there is available to avoid bottlenecks around the fridge and cooker.

‘There is also room for many appliances that make life easier, such as a warming drawer or a steam oven – a healthy way to cook food. Good refrigeration is essential and, if possible, include a wine cooler or cabinet. To make appliances less obtrusive, hide them behind folding doors. Twin sinks, one for preparation and one for washing-up, are another key part of a large kitchen, allowing it to be zoned in its uses.’

‘Work with, not against, the existing shape of your kitchen,’

…says Bryan Turner, founder and managing director of Bryan Turner Kitchen Furniture. ‘While a square can be one of the best kitchen shapes to work with, it’s still important to think about the flow of movement and activity, taking into account main entry points and ‘destinations’, such as the fridge. A peninsular unit can help to define a square kitchen: one side for food preparation, cooking and clean-up, and the other for eating, living and relaxation. Place feature appliances, such as a wine cooler or integrated coffee machine, on the side of the unit intended for entertaining. Islands can also work well, designed and built in proportion.

‘Lastly, good lighting can turn a kitchen into something special. Ensure working areas have good task lighting in each corner, and define entertaining areas with ambient lighting that can be adapted to the mood.’

Seamless kitchen extension by Architecture for London

Open-plan design

‘Allow space for clear circulation within a narrow terraced house,’

…says Ben Ridley, architect at Architecture for London. ‘A useful idea is to push the dining table over to one side of the kitchen, with fixed bench seating along one wall, which maximises space in the centre of the room. Consider placing a single strip of cabinets on one side of the space, with an island separated by one metre to allow a clear route through to the garden.

‘In a terraced house with a basement, a utility room can be created from the original coal cellar, if the level of the cellar floor is reduced to provide adequate standing height. This is a great location for the utility, as it allows the noisy appliances to be well soundproofed from the kitchen and reception rooms above.’

‘Blur your kitchen and living areas with an open-plan layout,’

…says Hugo Tugman, co-founder of Architect Your Home. ‘Opening up our homes with combined kitchen/dining/living spaces brings in daylight and garden views, but there is an art to it. This lies in fine-tuning the subliminal definition of the different “zones” within an open-plan space. Kitchen islands are very popular, but the main reason that they work so well is that they allow us to define where the food-preparation zone is and is not. Guests know which side of the island to stay so as not to get in the way. Dining spaces are usually clearly defined by the presence of a table and chairs, and living spaces by sofas, fireplaces and a TV, but changes in floor finish, ceiling height, lighting, floor level and myriad other devices can help to increase or reduce the level of definition that is desired.’

Side return extension by Build Team

‘When extending, ensure that you allow in as much light as possible,’

…says Dan Davidson, design director at Build Team. ‘Open-plan layouts are particularly popular with families, and side-return extensions are a great way to create one. Bi-fold doors leading to the garden, along with a glass roof or series of skylights over the side return, will help natural light to flood in.

‘Ensure you have a sufficient distance between the three main kitchen points – the cooker, sink and fridge – to reduce traffic through the area, and allow at least 1.2m between units that face one another to make sure there is enough room to move around. Keep the colour schemes relatively similar to create synergy between the existing and new rooms. This is particularly important if you intend to sell the property after completing the extension. Having too many different colours can put off potential buyers.’

Featured image: This Urbo kitchen has been painted in Dulux 10YY 27/060, with Silestone work surfaces in Blanco Zeus Extreme. Fully fitted, bespoke kitchens from Roundhouse cost from £35,000