Interiors Association member Gwen Kenny of Divine Design offers her expert advice on how to design the perfect kitchen…
In my opinion, the work triangle has gone out the window. That would be the basic assumption that the person using the kitchen moves between three spaces – the sink, the cooker and the fridge. Many kitchens are still designed in that triangular pattern but we don’t live that way anymore. These days, the hob and the oven might be in different parts of the kitchen. The dishwasher is also a major hotspot. That means our kitchen triangle is more like a pentagon! When I design a kitchen I’m constantly looking for adjacencies. What needs to be besides what? Ideally, whatever you need should only be one step away.
So think about how you use your kitchen. This will be different for everyone. If you like to rinse dishes, then the dishwasher should be close to the sink. Do you like to cook from scratch? Then you’ll need a big fridge with lots of compartments and a decent compost bin. Have a think about which bins you use most and how often you want to empty them. Many kitchen designs only allow for one bin but most households have a minimum of three: a black bin, a recycle bin, a compost bin and a place to store glass bottles.
Many of my clients want their kitchen sink underneath the window, mainly because that’s where their mother used to have it. The poor woman stood there for hours, washing the dishes. Now, most of us have dishwashers. So I’d often put it to them: would you not rather have a nice chair by the window so you can have your cup of coffee there, rather than giving up all that prime real estate and natural light to the kitchen sink?
Kitchen islands are on everybody’s wish list but they don’t suit every kitchen. You need a large room to accommodate one. If you’re stuck for space, consider a peninsula. That has all the features of a kitchen island, but you can only walk around three sides of it. With an island, you can do a lap. If you do go for an island, consider what you want on it. Some people want hobs, some people want sinks and some people want nothing at all. It all depends on how you keep your kitchen. A build-up of dirty dishes in the sink or pots left on the hob can spoil the look of a kitchen island. You might prefer to keep that backstage. If you want to include a hob, you will also need an extractor fan. Downdraft extraction is the obvious solution, but the air needs to be vented somewhere. The trick is to think about all this at the planning stage, otherwise, you’ll end up with an overhead extraction hood.
Countertop materials can be confusing. There’s a huge range available, with a wide price range in each category. All the materials have their pros and cons. Wood needs to be oiled. Laminates like Formica can look good but need to be protected from heat. Natural stone can stain while composites like quartz, which is engineered from ground stone, are durable but expensive. If the budget allows, I’d often suggest Dekton, which is a composite material made out of quartz, porcelain and glass. It’s strong enough to chop on and can withstand the heat of pots straight from the oven. Whatever you choose, go for a reputable brand that offers guarantees. And don’t follow trends. A kitchen is a big investment, probably the most expensive element in the house. Make sure that you chose something that you will still love when the trend is gone.
And finally, whatever your countertop, don’t dance on it. I’ve seen some worrying Instagram reels of people dancing on their kitchen islands. It’s not safe and I’d be concerned that the countertop might crack. Kitchen islands are not built for dancing!
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