DIY SOS star Julia Kendell shares her top ten kitchen design tips

A new kitchen is usually the biggest spend when it comes to home renovations – and silly mistakes can cost more than just money.

DIY SOS star Julia Kendell is used to being called in to rectify all manner of disasters on the TV show, but she believes the key to designing the perfect kitchen is planning.

‘Get it right and it will last 20 years,’ says designer Julia. ‘Get it wrong and you’ll be changing it in five years. That’s bad for your bank balance and even worse for the planet.’

Here, Julia shares her design tips to help create your dream new kitchen – or update your old one.

Evaluate your needs

There’s often a mismatch between a client’s aspirations, available space and budget. It’s important to be realistic from the outset, prioritising what is ‘needed’ as opposed to what is ‘nice to have’.

Walk through your current kitchen, working out where most time is spent, identifying the ‘clunky’ areas you want to change and deciding what is needed to make a seamless kitchen experience.

Over the past 18 months, the kitchen has played a key role in home-working, home-schooling and time together, so initial design considerations need to address all the demands made on this critical space.

Savvy storage

Most people worry about needing more storage. I’d say 50% of what we have would not find its way back into a shiny new kitchen.

Edit cupboards and work out what tools, equipment and foodstuffs you use, and are required – how best these can be organised.

In many of our designs we incorporate a breakfast and/or baking cabinet, ensuring everything needed for that task is in one place. Make storage more considered rather than throwing more cupboards at it.

Create space

You don’t need to commit to a costly extension upheaval to get extra space in your kitchen. Often moving a door or window can have a drastic impact on the layout and flow of the room.

Taking down existing internal walls to create an open-plan space should be considered, too. Even stealing half a metre from an adjoining room by moving the internal wall could allow you to have the space for that bank of ovens you covet.

The current trend for open shelving rather than wall cabinets can dramatically change the feeling of space and openness.

Let there be light

Good-quality light, whether natural daylight or artificial, is very important to our wellbeing and should be a major part of design considerations.

Full-height doors across the back can be transformational. Or, if wall space is at a premium, high-level, slim horizontal windows can bring in light and add interest.

Plan artificial lighting to complement the kitchen design, ensuring task lighting where it’s needed and layers of dimmable lighting for softer effects for evenings.

Green credentials

Sustainability should be a big driver. Wherever possible old kitchens should be sold on to new homes (see usedkitchenexchange.co.uk; theused kitchencompany.com) or donated free to ensure they are kept from landfill.
Longevity of materials and a timeless style – giving a minimum 20 years’ use and enjoyment – will help your finances and the environment.

Choose a manufacturer demonstrating a strong sustainability policy, either using eco-board for their cabinetry construction or with Forestry Stewardship Council accreditation and low emissions: standard cabinets are assembled using a glue containing a small amount of formaldehyde that can off-gas into the home and the air you breathe for up to two years.

Sustainable materials

Look out for worktops that use 100% or part-recycled materials, including sintered stone, recycled glass and recycled timber surfaces.

Whereas granite is a limited natural resource extracted in an energy-intensive process, quartz engineered stone is a great eco-option, made using recycled materials and resin.

It will last decades if looked after and doesn’t require any toxic maintenance sealants. Consider every element including eco-grout in tiles, zero-VOC paints, LED lighting, A+++ rated appliances, good waste management and minimised water consumption.

Gadgets

Some gadgets are worthy of the hype and investment. The boiling water tap is one of them.

Every kitchen we supply has one these days and the addition of a hilling/sparkling unit means good-quality, filtered water can be enjoyed on-tap, encouraging better health, saving electricity and reducing one-use plastic bottle waste.

Another absolute must-have is an induction hob with integral venting. They’re energy efficient and easy to clean and maintain.

On trend

Minimalist, handleless design is still the current go-to with dark colours a firm favourite.

The last 18 months has seen a ‘softening’ in interior design with warmer tones, natural timber, stone finishes and matt paintwork creating ‘anxiety-reducing’ spaces.

Wire mesh is taking kitchen design by storm, with burnished brass moving the industrial trend forwards. ‘Concealed’ kitchens, with working areas and appliances hidden within pocket doors, are popular for open-plan spaces.

Budget blowouts

Prioritise the budget on the most-used and appreciated elements. If you regularly cook for family and friends, a large, fully functioning oven is worthwhile, whereas a couple who mostly stir-fry would prioritise an efficient hob with a wok burner.

These days, even budget cabinetry tends to be well constructed with soft-close doors and drawers – so a simple door choice combined with a good-quality surface and beautiful tiles or splashback will give the illusion of a better-quality kitchen.

Work surfaces are always worthy of investment as they get the most wear and tear.

Easy updates

Decide what is letting the existing kitchen down. It is lack of light or space? Or is it just looking tired? Replacing wall tiles with glass or mirrored splashbacks, removing some wall cabinets to open up the room or changing the colour scheme can all be transformative.

Cabinetry can be upgraded with new handles and/or a change of door front. Most doors can be repainted and solid surface overlays can elevate your kitchen.

Julia Kendell (kendellco.com) is design expert for the Homebuilding & Renovating Show, Nov 5-7, Harrogate Convention Centre; Nov 20-21, Bath & West Showground, Somerset

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