Planning a kitchen renovation? 5 things to do before you hit the showrooms.

Updated: Jul 16

Last week we looked at bathroom planning – now let’s put a spotlight on kitchen planning.


Kitchens are complex spaces, I did the counting thing again and got up to 100+ decisions before you even get to colours and cabinet finishes. A kitchen plan takes me 20+ hours (depending on the size and complexity of the space), so that’s a minimum of 3 days for a professional interior designer to get everything absolutely perfect.


You can, of course, go to a kitchen showroom and get them to plan out your kitchen but remember this will be rushed through in an hour or two and not be able to take all your personal needs into consideration. So, here are my 6 top tips to prepare if you do go down the kitchen showroom route, that way you’ll go with a clear idea of what you want and are much more likely to get a good outcome.


My top tips for getting a kitchen plan right:


1. Draw out your space

Graph paper is good for this, but any paper will do. - You need minimum 1m between work surfaces and around tables (this is for the chairs, ~40cm if using a bench against a wall). - An overhang of ~25cm to fit a bar stool under an island and ~70cm for each stool. - Draw out walls, doors and windows and then start filling in the rough worktop shape (60cm wide standard, 90cm extra deep or island). Now you have a plan of your kitchen space you can work out if you really can fit in that island…


2. The two work triangles These are the two really important considerations when planning a kitchen. The main work triangle (hob, sink, fridge) was worked out by the brilliant engineer and ergonomics nerd Lillian Moller Gilbreth who, along with her husband Frank, dedicated much of her professional life to studying the ‘art of living’. She is to thank for foot-pedal bins, shelves in fridge doors and electric food mixers among other things, but I digress... We reap the rewards of her years of focused work detailing how humans move around spaces most comfortably and efficiently by applying this simple rule to kitchen design. The triangle is very straightforward, each item is at one of the points of the triangle (it can be at any angle), and each point should be between 1.2 m and 2.7m apart. There is also a calculation for the total length but that starts to get complicated and we can do without it.

Right is a diagram, for those visual learners among us ✋.

The secondary kitchen work triangle is between sink, dishwasher and bin, this one is smaller than the main one and there are no specific distances, but for comfort they shouldn’t be more than a pace away from each other. This triangle can also work as a close line without disrupting it too much.


3. Layer your lighting

You need different levels of lighting for different activities and points in the evening, this is especially true if you have dining or living integrated but is still valid even in a separate space.

Bright task lighting is needed for when you’re cooking or washing up, softer lighting for dining and later in the evening when you just need to top up your wine glass or make a cup of chamomile before bed. I like under cabinet/shelf task lighting combined with pendants on dimmers. If you must have spotlights choose actual spotlights rather than recessed spots so these can be angled to create the best light, you still need lighting at another level, and preferably some soft lower light, even a little table lamp in a quiet corner can be a nice evening addition.


4. Look and feel Is your kitchen a separate space or part of your main living area? If the latter, it is imperative that your kitchen is sympathetic to the rest of the room. Make a link with one of the kitchen colours or materials - pick out the navy in the sofa cushions or the oak worktop on your bookshelves. You can even use a similar door to the kitchen units in your media unit, perhaps in another colour.

Pinterest or Houzz are good places to start, look through lots of images and pin/save anything you like without thinking too much about each one, then go back and look at similarities, chances are there will be one look that you go back to again and again - that is your ideal kitchen. My clients often pin the same room from a different angle without realising, it gives me a great head start on what they are envisaging! Now look carefully at the elements that make it up, that will give you a head start on choosing your cabinet style, colour, worktop, handle and lighting styles.

5. Top cabinets Don’t overload your kitchen with top cabinets, you’ll get a wonderful feeling of space if you can forgo them altogether in favour of an open shelf. Where this isn’t possible, or desirable, break up wall cupboards with the occasional open shelf or glass front. If you are worried about showing the contents swap the plain glass for reeded glass which looks a-m-a-z-i-n-g and will lower the visibility. Work out what will go in each cupboard, think about swapping out some cupboards for drawers which work excellently for pans etc. then you’ll know how many you actually need.

6. Do you need an upstand?

This is a short vertical addition to your worktop (usually about 10cm) It’s a small detail but one that counts. Upstands can often finish a kitchen nicely, not always necessary but worth considering – especially if you aren’t using tiles or have wobbly walls.


And finally… Add in a plant – yes I know I always say it but it really will bring the space to life.


So hopefully these tips will help you with your kitchen planning, but if the task feels onerous then you only have to give me a call to find out how I can help take away the pain and save you money as well as anguish.


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