Renovating your kitchen can be a huge task, so follow these essential tips on how to plan your project to get exactly what you want
Houzz contributor, interior design project manager and blogger. I have a passion… More
There’s a reason why the kitchen is referred to as the heart of the home: no matter how big or small, it seems to be the room in which everyone congregates and it serves a multitude of functions. As well as being a space in which to cook, it can also be a family dining area, a place to gossip with friends over coffee, and even a cocktail bar at a swanky home party. And, most importantly, it’s where you keep all your snacks. Plus it also has to look stunning!
When designing a kitchen, every requirement must be taken into account, and with so many elements involved, there’s more potential for things to go wrong. However, with careful preparation, it’s possible to create the kitchen of your dreams. The key is to plan as much as possible in advance. Read on for points to consider.
Start with an initial layout
First, sketch a rough plan of your space and consider your options. Look at any restrictions, such as windows, doors or pillars. If you want an island, check you have enough space – you’ll need 1m area around each side to make it work.
If you’re refurbishing an existing kitchen, consider what you do and don’t like about it, and make a list of its pros and cons. Do you love having the sink under the window so you can look onto the garden? Is it frustrating how far away the fridge is? Write everything down.
Make a list of your stuff
Write down everything you store in your kitchen, including things you intend to buy. This list needs to be comprehensive, from your pots and pans to your collection of spices. Note down if you have any storage preferences for each item, i.e. drawers or shelves, low or high level, on display or hidden.
Include items you plan to have in the future, so that your kitchen design has longevity. Perhaps you’ve moved to a bigger house or knocked down a wall to expand your kitchen? Over time, you’ll fill this extra space, but if you don’t allow for extra items in your plan now, you won’t have storage for them (or it won’t be the right kind of storage). Always wanted a stand mixer but haven’t had the space before? Write it down. Longing to expand your collection of barware? Write it down.
Prioritise your wants and needs
Consider what features your dream kitchen would have. Write down the things that are most important to you in order of priority. Be honest with yourself. Are you longing for more worktop space? Would you prefer a high-level oven so you don’t have to bend down?
Listing these features, even if they’re not actually achievable, will help you decide on your design.
Put it all together
Once you’ve written your lists, go back to your initial layout and slot everything in. Start with the features that are most important to you and work down the list. When you’re near the end and running out of space, that’s when you need to compromise. Can you live with a smaller fridge to allow for the pantry cupboard you really want? Are you willing to give up some worktop space for a high-level oven? Having your list of priorities will speed up your decision making.
When choosing what to put where, think about how you work in the kitchen and the different functions. Some items are easy to place – dishwasher near the sink, pots and pans by the hob. Start with these and the other items should fall into place. There are various guidelines to help you plan a kitchen layout, such as the working triangle. Do your research, but also seek the advice of a professional.
Not a fan of the working triangle? See other ways to zone a kitchen
Consider basic storage
Everything on your list of stuff needs to have a designated home, so your kitchen is organised and uncluttered. With a small kitchen, you may want to find storage space in another room for items you don’t often use.
Alternatively, if you have a large kitchen, consider scaling down the number of units. There’s no need to cram the maximum number of cupboards in just because you can. A little breathing space can break things up, making the space seem lighter and more open.
Display your wares
Open shelving can look fantastic in a kitchen and is a great way to show off your favourite pieces, so include space in your kitchen to display items such as decorative ceramics or stylish glassware.
It’s essential to incorporate these features into your plan now, particularly if you opt for in-built alcove shelves like the ones shown here.
Keen on open shelving? Take a look at these stylish ideas
Include clever storage
Sneaky storage in unexpected places is always welcome. Hidden storage, such as the plinth drawer seen here, is a great addition to a kitchen, so jot down these extras to discuss with your supplier.
Identify your style
This is the fun bit. I’m sure most of you have an ideabook or two on your dream kitchen. Browse the images of the kitchens you lust over the most and try to identify what it is about each image that draws you to it. Even if the look isn’t achievable in your own home, once you know what it is about that kitchen that makes you happy, you can find a way to apply it to your own space.
As well the colour and style of your kitchen, consider the shape and size. For example, if you have room and like a lot of worktop space, consider having deeper base units. Think about whether you want your wall units to go up to the ceiling and if your base units will go straight to the floor or feature a set-back plinth. Don’t forget to consider extra details, such as moulding and hardware, too.
As you consider what type of cupboard doors, taps, hardware and worktops you want, a certain style should start to emerge. If you have no idea what you want, start with what you don’t like and that should help a look to evolve. Discuss it with a professional and they can figure out what works for you.
Establish your design outline
By now you should have a fairly detailed plan of your kitchen’s layout – this is your design outline. You can use this to obtain quotes and discuss ideas with suppliers. If you have a few things you’re still not sure about, don’t worry – discuss these with your designer/supplier, as they’ll be able to provide valuable advice.
Form an electrical plan
Once you have your layout, consider where your electrics will go. Lighting is one of the most important features in a kitchen, so think about where you need it. Ensure the light is in front of you for all working areas and only install lights where you need them. You can then add in accent lighting to highlight certain features, as seen here.
Whatever type of lighting you go for – recessed spotlights, concealed lighting strips, statement pendants or wall sconces – mark up on your plan where each one will go and where the switches will be positioned. In an open-plan space or a large kitchen, you may want more than one switching point. It’s also a good idea to split your lights onto separate circuits, so you can control them independently, giving you more flexibility to create different moods. A dimmer switch always works wonders, too.
Check out this expert advice on how to light your kitchen for maximum impact
Factor in appliances
Don’t forget to include the rest of your electrics on your plan. Having insufficient sockets is frustrating, so allow for enough, especially if you love a kitchen gadget or two. Decide where your small appliances, such as the kettle and toaster, will go and position the sockets so you don’t have unsightly trailing cables.
Large appliances, such as the fridge, dishwasher and oven, also require sockets or isolation switches, so you can switch them off for maintenance. It’s a good idea to position a socket in an adjoining cupboard to a large appliance so it’s easy to access the switch, rather than having to pull the whole appliance out to get to the socket behind it. Isolation switches are reasonably discreet, so can be positioned above your worktop, but mark on your plan where you’d like them installed.
Finalise your electrical plan before you start work, as you’ll need it early on in the project. Once the room has been stripped out, the electrician will run cables and get everything in position, so they’ll need to know where everything is going.
Think about plumbing and gadgets
You also need to plan in your plumbing. The obvious points, such as the sink, dishwasher and washing machine, should be marked up on the plan for your plumber, but don’t forget to include any other gadgets that need a water supply, such as a fridge with a dispenser or a coffee machine.
Arrange your fixtures and fittings
Consider where your fixtures and fittings will go. For example, will the tap for your sink be mounted directly to the basin, on the worktop or on the wall? Decide this early on so your plumber knows where to run the pipes and the worktop supplier knows if and where you need a hole cut out.
Configure your island unit
If you’re having an island unit, speak to your contractor about the plumbing and electrics. Depending on the type of subfloor you have, it may or may not be easy to run pipework or cables to your island. At the very least, you’ll want a socket on the worktop or on the side, but you may also want your island to hold a sink or hob as well.
A hob requires an extractor fan and you may want an in-built downdraft one that rises up from the worktop or one in the ceiling above. It’s usually less complicated installing an appliance in the ceiling, as you’re likely to already have electrics there for the lighting, but again, any island extractor has to be factored in to your specification and budget.
Electric cables, water pipes and gas pipes all need a way in under the floor and a solid floor may make things trickier (and more expensive) than you had planned. Discuss with your contractor in advance to find out what your options are and the cost implications.
Opting for an island? Here’s how to plan the perfect one for your space
Decide on a worktop
There are dozens of different worktop materials to choose from, including natural wood, industrial stainless steel and classic marble. You can also have more than one type of material on separate surfaces: for example, you could have an island in a contrasting material to your base unit worktop, or install an overlapping bar top, as shown here.
Once you’ve chosen your worktop, order it as early as possible, even though it’s one of the last items to be installed. Anything made to order will have a lead time of at least a few weeks and there can be unexpected delays. In some cases, the supplier will need to come to your house to template for the worktop before it’s made, so it’s a good idea to ask your kitchen supplier to install the basic framework first to allow the templating to take place. The supplier can then work on the unit doors and drawers while the worktop is being made, thus reducing waiting times. Speak to your supplier to get a realistic idea of expected lead times.
Unsure which worktop to go for? Check out these expert tips
Contemplate a splashback
Decide on your splashback. Do you even want one? A sleek, modern kitchen can look great with no splashback, but it’s harder to keep the wall clean, even with wipeable paint.
Alternatively, consider having just a small upstand with a full-height splashback behind the hob and/or sink. If you want it to be in the same material as your worktop, order it at the same time. With natural materials such as wood or marble, you want to make sure the upstand is from the same batch as your worktop so it blends well. Also, making a separate order for an upstand at a later date can be more expensive.
If you opt for a full-height splashback, decide on your materials in advance and check lead times. Glass splashbacks in specific colours can take a while to be made and delivery times for tiles vary significantly. Ideally, you want the order to be checked for damage, waiting on site, and ready to be used when the time comes.
Coordinate the floor fitting
There is much debate about when kitchen flooring should be laid and whether or not it should run under the units. There are pros and cons for both options, so look into it in advance based on your choice of flooring and make a decision before the start of your project, so you know how much to order and budget for.
If you choose natural wood flooring, it’s a good idea not to run it under the base units as this prevents the wood from expanding/contracting with heat and humidity. Instead run it up to your units and conceal the edge with a plinth. However, where you have appliances, it’s advisable to run your flooring all the way underneath as this makes it easier to slide the appliance out for repairs. Chat to your supplier to get all the facts before deciding what to do.
Create a decorating schedule
When should you decorate? On the one hand, it’s a good idea to decorate early to avoid paint spray or wallpaper paste getting on your new units or flooring. On the other hand, freshly decorated walls are vulnerable to scuffs and scratches when new joinery or flooring is installed. Similarly, skirting boards often look better when fitted on top of new flooring to avoid the dreaded beading.
Discuss it with your kitchen supplier, but here’s my advice:
- Paint the walls with all but the final coat added and leave the skirting boards off (if necessary).
- Prime and paint the skirting boards, before fixing them, again leaving off from the final coat, then fit the kitchen units and flooring etc.
- Finally, fix the skirting boards and carefully apply the final coats of paint.
- If using wallpaper, prep the walls beforehand then hang the paper after everything else has been fitted. If you decide to wallpaper first, make sure you have some spare paper from the same batch to replace any scuffed areas.
Add a personal touch
You can tell a lot about a homeowner by looking at their kitchen. Even with super-minimalist, contemporary styles, there will be the odd feature here or there to introduce some personality. That’s what makes it look like the effortlessly chic home of a design savvy person as opposed to a showroom.
Find a way to incorporate something you love, so your kitchen is unique. It could be a striking piece of art, a collection of antique vases or a gallery wall of family photographs. Here, a favourite kitchen gadget has pride of place in its own box shelf on the wall. Whatever floats your boat, make sure it gets the attention it deserves. It’s easy to forget your loved items during all the measuring, planning and organising.
Enjoy your kitchen!
The result of all that careful planning? Your perfect kitchen. No regrets, no “if only…”, no “in hindsight I wouldn’t have…” – it’s just as you imagined. Planned to perfection and project managed with aplomb. Considering all these factors in advance and preparing every element with care will allow you to handle your kitchen renovation calmly and efficiently.
Now all you need to do is sit back, relax, and wait for the compliments to flood in.
Would this advice have helped you before your kitchen renovation? Or are you planning one now and breathing a little easier? Share your experiences in the Comments below.