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How to plan the perfect kitchen

Planning and designing a new kitchen is not for the faint-hearted - contemporary or classic, hand-painted or high-gloss - where do you start? We asked the experts at Park House Kitchens.

You’ve now made the decision to have a new kitchen. It’s an exciting but daunting time. There’s a lot of choice out there. Do you want your worktops to be granite, quartz or Corian? Should the units be shaker style or contemporary? Boiling hot water taps? Induction or gas? Island or bench seating? And don’t even get started on the handles!

Emily Rowland, director of Park House Kitchens – based in the Surrey Hills – has been designing kitchens for more than 10 years, taking over the family business from her talented mother. Having grown up around high quality kitchen design, what Emily doesn’t know about new kitchens isn’t worth knowing about.

So it seemed only right that we collar Emily for her top tips on how to go about getting the kitchen that’s right for you.

Top tip #1

Don’t get too caught up with colour schemes initially. Instead, think about the space and how you and your family function. Can a wall be knocked down to make space – or put up to create a separate utility room? Would you like a desk or study area, somewhere for the kids to do their homework? Do you want an island, is there space to create a bench seating? Get the space and shape sorted first – the fun details can come later.

Top tip #2

Give serious thought to your appliances. Do you (or more usually your kids) have your hearts set on an American style large Fridge Freezer because they like chilled water and ice on tap? This will have a significant impact on the layout as it is a bulky item. If it is primarily the chilled filtered water that you’re after – why not incorporate this through your Quooker tap (which can now give you chilled filtered and chilled sparkling water with their new CUBE). Then you can consider an integrated fridge and freezer as a neater, less bulky alternative. But what about the ice for the G&T? There are a number of integrated freezers available now that are plumbed in and make ice (Miele and Liebherr).

Ovens – are you happy to bend down to take things in and out of the oven, such as with a Range Cooker? Or would you rather have these at eye level. Do you have your heart set on making a feature of a chimney / mantel above your hob? These elements have a considerable impact on the design. It is these sorts of questions that your designer should be asking you at an initial consultation.

Top tip #3

If you are going for a painted kitchen, my recommendation would always be to have the units hand-painted on site. The finish is far superior to a sprayed finish and will wear far better. It is also far easier to touch up if victim to knocks and bumps. If you are finding it hard to commit to a colour, this also gives you the flexibility to wait until the worktops are in to make your final decision. Furthermore, if – in the future – you wish to give your kitchen a facelift, repainting is far easier on a hand-painted finish.

Top tip #4

Splashbacks don’t have to just be practical they can add personality, too. There are some beautiful tiles out there or try choosing some interesting wallpaper to put behind a piece of low iron clear toughened glass. The result is so effective. And, this can easily be changed if you spot another design you love later on. Mirrored splashbacks can add a real sense of space to a smaller kitchen. There are so many lovely options to explore.

Top tip #5

Worktops. This is often a hard decision for a lot of people. It’s a big chunk of the cost and each material offers different pros & cons. Corian, a man-made material, is for those who love a really clean and seamless look. Corian is cleverly fabricated so you see no joins. The sinks are seamlessly integrated leaving no areas for dirt to accumulate. If you live in an old property with oak beams and pillars, the Corian can be fabricated around these without seeing lots of joins and cuts.

Granite is a remarkable natural material, with beautiful patterns unique to each slab. Typically associated with being a bit more traditional, there are so many different and interesting slabs coming in from all over the world, that you really can add something quite individual to your kitchen. It need not be a traditionally dark, polished granite. Achieve lovely texture with a satinato finish.

Quartz is an increasingly popular option. Also called composite and engineered stone, it is incredibly hard-wearing. Think stone but stronger! The addition of resin results in a non-porous finish. With constantly evolving colours and patterns, you will be spoiled for choice.

I wouldn’t recommend using wood for a working area. Whilst it looks beautiful to begin with, it needs an awful lot of TLC to keep it looking that way. But if you love the warmth of natural wood, why not introduce it to a desk area or mid-height unit.

Top tip #6

Getting the lighting right will really make the kitchen. Consider lots of layers – for me it’s the combination of different elements; task lighting (you need to be able to see what you’re doing without being in your own shadow), atmospheric lighting such as plinth lighting, uplights, lighting inside glazed or open units, dimmable pendant lighting above an island, cosy table or floor lamps. Particularly in a large, open-plan space, it’s important to ensure it will feel cosy and that you have enough different circuits so as to be able to combine different layers to achieve different effects.

Top tip #7

Try to work with a kitchen design specialist that offers sophisticated CAD rendered drawings of your new kitchen. This way you’ll be able to have a really accurate idea of what your kitchen will look like before placing the order. The number of times I hear customers say ‘wow, it looks just like in the visuals!’. You want to avoid disappointing surprises and feel comfortable and confident in the decisions you are making.

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