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The kitchen is the work horse of the home and these days needs to be so much more than a place for cooking, chilling, freezing and laundry. Of all the rooms in the home it can be the most expensive to design, refit and decorate because it requires appliances as well as furniture - at the very least a cooker, fridge-freezer, oven and hob and washing machine. And because the kitchen is multifunctional, it is also the room that takes the most planning and leg work.  More
To achieve a dream kitchen, one that is not only functional and practical, but beautiful too, requires research, budgeting and oodles of design inspiration...

Decide on your kitchen layout and appliances

Unless you are lucky enough to be building your own house or planning a new kitchen extension, your kitchen layout will be decided for the most part by the dimensions of your room; the smaller the space, the fewer your choices of kitchen layout. Smaller houses and flats with kitchenette-style areas built off single living/dining rooms tend to house galley, L-shaped or U-shaped kitchens. But designing a dream kitchen can be easiest and least expensive in smaller spaces like this. There is no agonising over which appliances will go where as there tends to be little choice. And that is the joy of the small kitchen: it virtually designs itself. Another is that a small kitchen allows you to use quality materials that would be too expensive in a larger space. Once you have decided on the position of your fridge-freezer, sink, washing machine, cooker, hob, dishwasher and microwave you can give the remaining space over to wall and base unit storage. You’ll also need to spend time researching appliances to find the models that work for you – freestanding or built-in oven; electric, gas, induction or domino hob; washing machine or washer-dryer/tumble dryer? In larger spaces you will have the luxury of thinking about a kitchen beyond the basic functions of cooking, chilling, freezing and washing. You may be able to design a fully open-plan space that opens out to the garden and across your ground floor, incorporating dining, lounging, TV watching and entertaining and homeworking or study – in short, a fully multifunctional family space. In larger homes it might even be possible to remove some basic kitchen functions to other rooms by creating a separate larder, laundry or utility room.

Plan your kitchen storage

There is, let’s face it, an awful lot of stuff to store in a kitchen: food, drink, tableware and cutlery, glassware, pots and pans, utensils, cookware, linens, small appliances such as food mixers and blenders, cleaning and laundry products, refuse and recycling bins - all manner of paraphernalia. If you are budgeting for a small space you are likely, therefore, to want to squeeze in as many units as possible. Remember that drawer units offer more storage capacity than cupboards, always fit the insides of doors with wire shelving for storing smaller items such as medicines or herb and spices, and make use of carousel mechanisms in corner units. Free up cupboards by keeping often-used items that won’t gather dust, such as plates and bowls, on open shelving and by using hooks to hang up pans from wall or ceiling racks. Make sure everything you are storing away is organised and easy to access. Regularly spend time sorting through cupboards and drawers – the better organised your bits and bobs are, the less space they will take up. A larger kitchen space allows you to consider additional features such as kitchen islands and peninsula units, butcher’s blocks, glazed wall units, more extensive open shelving, larder units or kitchen dressers. Or the ultimate luxury in kitchen designing – deciding to leave a space empty. As you plan your storage, factor in your lighting too, so you will always have directed, functional lighting over worktops as well as gentler mood lighting elsewhere.

Choose your kitchen style, materials and colours

Our choice of kitchen style, colour and materials can be very personal, but, alongside budget, will be influenced by the type of home we live in (country cottage, Victorian or Georgian townhouse, modern flat, 1930s semi). Think about what would best suit your own home. This isn’t necessarily an interior design style that reflects the period of your house, but can be a conscious decision to do something very different – many owners of period properties choose no-holds-barred modern kitchens. Most people will go for one of three broad styles: traditional, modern or country and most kitchen manufacturers design their ranges of kitchen cabinetry accordingly. Within each of these core styles there are, of course, all sorts of permutations to make decisions around – fitted, freestanding, Shaker, rustic, painted, hi-gloss, retro. However as kitchens are expensive rooms to fit, remember that whatever style you choose needs to last far longer than the looks you might choose for other rooms in the house. Go for a broader look, rather than something that might be considered a narrower, more passing interiors trend. For example, rather than the recent trends for monochrome, black or colourful designs, there may be more kitchen mileage in classic looks such as white, wood finish, and the traditional muted paint shades of blue, green or grey. Whatever style you choose, it will inform the materials you use throughout the kitchen. If you go for a country-style kitchen chances are you will have painted units, a ceramic butler sink, oak worktops, stone or brick flooring, a butcher’s block and range cooker. Essentials for a modern kitchen would probably include handle-less gloss units, stainless-steel sink and appliances, composite worktops and marble flooring. So the style you choose will, to a large extent, determine the choices you make around the colours and materials that will constitute your dream kitchen.