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11 expert tips for planning a successful kitchen design

Planning a new kitchen? Don't do anything until you've read this blog.

100 interior designers were asked by The Kitchen Think what advice they had for anyone planning a new kitchen. I've rounded up their top tips so that you can feel confident you're heading toward a successful design when beginning to plan your kitchen.

1. Take the time to research

Planning for a new kitchen can seem overwhelming, but there is a plethora of useful tools which can provide you with inspiration. The best starting point is to identify the kind of look you like and the feel you want to create in your new kitchen. Find inspiration online using social platforms like Instagram, Houzz, and Pinterest as well as kitchen and design magazines, and create mood boards of kitchens you really like. Whether it’s cabinetry, colour schemes, finishes you want to include… Even if the images you save are totally random, or you’re not sure how you want to include certain features, save them anyway. A good designer can help you work through your likes and dislikes and create a cohesive end result that embodies everything you’re after.

This is one of the first things I do to kickstart a project with my clients. I’ll invite you to share your inspo pics with me, so I can work with you to translate your ideas into your perfect design. There are so many decisions to make when planning your new kitchen, so try not to get overwhelmed by the smaller details and specs at this stage. I’ll be able to give you advice and my design expertise throughout the project, breaking each stage down into manageable steps.

2. Make a wishlist

It’s always a good idea to create a realistic wish list and set up a budget early on. Begin by making a list of the things you don’t like about your current kitchen, and instead how you would like these to be within your new space. Think about what you do like too. What works, what doesn’t, what do you love, what drives you mad… Once you start understanding how you want your space to function, you can begin creating a wish list with all of the elements from appliances to furniture that are important to you. Think about what you really need, and what will bring you the most joy. Then, define what’s an absolute must, what are things you’d really, really like, and what things would you like but could live without.

Having a clear understanding of what my clients want and don’t want from their new kitchen is a vital part of the design process. Armed with all your ideas and wishes, I’ll consider the practicalities for creating not just your desired look and layout but also how it will work in the space, offering advice on options and alternatives available.

3. Consider your lifestyle needs and flow of the space

Kitchens are multi-purpose spaces nowadays, used by different members of the family, for different purposes at different times of the day. So reviewing how you want to use your space and how it needs to work for you is really important in the planning stages, and will influence the structure of the layout and how you’ll navigate the space. For instance, will there be one or two or more people cooking at the same time? Do you have young children? or regularly have guests over? You’ll want to consider accessibility, storage, preparation space, and walkways… where you’ll cook, eat and relax. If your kitchen is well-planned, everything will flow much easier.

Every kitchen I design is bespoke to suit my client’s lifestyle. In the planning stages, we’ll discuss ideas and your day-to-day movements so that I can work out what layout best suits your requirements. You may already have your heart set on a large island, when in fact a peninsular may actually work better for the space or how you’ll use it, so I’ll be on hand to offer alternatives and spatial solutions so that you can achieve your wish list goals!

4. Use an interior designer

The most important part of planning a new kitchen is making sure you find the right interior designer that you can work with and trust to create your dream project. There are so many elements that contribute to creating a successful working kitchen, and it should ideally be a team effort between you and your kitchen designer. As well as collaborating and enjoying sharing ideas, a kitchen designer’s experience, and expertise will offer plenty of simple ideas as well as innovative ones – that you might not have even considered. After all, kitchen designers spend all day trying to find new inventive ways to design spaces that are more practical, attractive, and as clever as possible. Something that may seem difficult or impossible to achieve can usually be worked out!

There are so many decisions to make when creating a kitchen space. I aim to make the experience as stress-free and enjoyable as possible for you. I will work with you to make sure all of your needs are met from both a practical and design perspective. I will confidently push the boundaries for your concept, offering design suggestions and product recommendations to bring your dream kitchen together.

5. …as early as possible

Don’t underestimate the work involved in project managing a kitchen design. An interior designer who project manages can potentially save you a lot of time and money. Especially if your project involves any building work, seek the help of an experienced kitchen designer early on. It’s important to make sure you can fit your dream kitchen into the space before you have permanent fixtures decided on. Moving a door or window, or electrical and plumbing connections slightly can make all the difference to the layout possibilities. So don’t risk misjudging measurements and requirements that will disrupt things and cost extra money if you have to change things halfway through. And even when there isn’t any building work, having the creative input from a designer early on will give you maximum time to enjoy planning your space’s options rather than feeling rushed into decisions.

One of my recent projects involved an entire house renovation. Luckily I came on board early enough before the building work had commenced. Although my clients had sought the services of an architect, without my interior design expertise, the kitchen and open-plan living space wouldn’t have delivered all that was possible.

Here’s a testimonial from the client:

"My only regret is that we didn't get Leisha on board earlier - she made changes to the architect plans which have honestly transformed the way we use and enjoy our house. Professionalism aside, she's also an absolute joy to work with. Her energy, enthusiasm, adaptability, vision...Leisha can take on an ambiguous brief and make it look it look incredible. She is truly remarkable."

6. Prioritise practicality and storage

Practicality over aesthetic should always come first when designing your kitchen.

You can invest in a stunning kitchen and still hate using it. So make sure it works for you. Consider how you cook – do you prepare a lot beforehand and therefore need more worktop space? Or is storage more important? Take your lifestyle and habits into consideration and design with the working triangle in mind (sink, cooking, and fridge zones all in relatively close proximity). And don’t forget about small things like sockets and switches, recycling and food disposal, where a TV can be positioned, and charging points for phones and iPads! If you have the space, a bespoke larder cupboard or even a walk-in pantry is a great investment that won’t be regretted. It will revolutionise your storage and free up lots of space in your other cabinets, helping with the flow of traffic within the kitchen.

I love creating space-saving solutions. Having effective storage solutions will make your life easier, so when designing kitchens, considering practicality and storage is top of the list. Appliances especially take up a lot of space so it’s vital to plan these into the design. If you don’t benefit from or have a small utility room, storage, and cabinetry even more so need to be really well thought out.

7. Work with the highest quality materials you can

A kitchen is an important investment. A well-made one can add value to your property and provide years of enjoyment to you and your family, so it’s worth taking the time to get things right. Higher quality materials will afford that luxury, and they also help make a kitchen beautiful. So invest wisely. Going bespoke is also a real luxury and one which will pay off. Everything is built with high-quality materials and specs, crafted to fit your space. There are no awkward edges and no cupboards that squeeze in around corners. It’s built exactly how you want it and that’s what creates long-lasting perfection. Remember, cheap units and cheap appliances are cheap for a reason! If your budget is tight, opt for fewer units that are of a higher quality to ensure a design that will last.

8. Opt for bespoke over off-the-shelf

A kitchen is a very personal thing that needs to suit your own needs whilst also being an amazing feature in your house. Don’t settle for a standard or generic design that you can get from anyone. A bespoke kitchen designer can give you something totally unique and allows for optimum flexibility. They’ll listen to your exact needs and requirements and will fit them around a plan that will be in keeping with the space, and respectful of the architecture too. If you have an unusually shaped room, really high ceilings, or original features, a bespoke kitchen will always be better than an ‘off the shelf’ version in these situations. And a great kitchen designer can add bespoke features or unique elements into otherwise unused spaces. For example, an alcove can be adapted into a diner-style booth or turned into an open-door pantry.

Bespoke kitchens are what we do best. My partner Handley Bespoke who I use for all bespoke kitchen projects is an expert in his field, crafting bespoke kitchen cabinetry and furniture to the highest specifications and quality materials.

9. Don't forget lighting

Good task lighting is key but also add some striking ambient and feature lighting on dimmers to create atmosphere. Creating different zones allows flexibility depending on mood and occasion and can really lift the whole project. And it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Consider the placement of lights and the type of lighting you want to use, as well as where you would like sockets to go, at the beginning of the project. Adding these elements later is disruptive and expensive so a good lighting and electrical plan is key.

Lighting in the kitchen is an essential consideration for both functional and aesthetic purposes. There’s more than just general ceiling lighting. Task lighting should be used to illuminate specific areas where work is done, to allow for easy and safe food preparation, and accent lighting to highlight specific features or areas in the kitchen, such as a unique backsplash, artwork, or decorative items. Dimmer switches are definitely the way to go nowadays and by using a combination of general, task, accent lighting, and dimmer switches, you can create a well-lit kitchen that meets all your needs while adding style and character to the space.

10. Design for you

Go with your gut! Don’t feel you need to follow the crowd and be trendy. If you love a certain feature or colour scheme, then incorporate it in your new kitchen, as you will continue to love it over the years. Choose elements that bring you joy and make you feel excited to walk into your new kitchen every morning. Also, rather than following trends, opt for a style that suits your property. An interior that is sympathetic to the period of the property and its features will always look best.

11. Be patient, have fun, and be open-minded

Don’t be frightened by what may feel like an enormous project. It can easily be stressful making decisions that you will have to live with for a very long time so it’s important to give yourself enough time to plan. Work with your kitchen designer, exchange ideas, and let them guide you through the options available. They are there to give you their professional advice and design expertise to help you have an enjoyable experience when designing your kitchen.

There are so many aspects to consider when designing a kitchen. If you're looking for the help of an interior designer to create your dream space, I would love to be of service. Feel free to get in touch and let's start planning and sharing ideas!




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