The kitchen is the hub of any home, a place where you cook and eat, entertain, gather to chat, and even to work. But whether it’s large or small, getting the style right is all-important - a new kitchen is a big investment and involves a lot of disruption, so it has to stand the test of time.
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Which style where?
It used to be that you matched your kitchen to the style of your house – rustic, country styles for cottages, for instance, and shiny, modern designs for new builds – but cherry-picking the best from both modern and traditional can give you a kitchen that is timeless yet practical.
Modern kitchens are usually simple and sleek. Think frameless cabinets, no mouldings on doors or twiddly bits on cupboard ends, and an emphasis on the materials used for construction: granite or concrete worktops, say, cupboard doors without handles, stainless steel appliances, glass splashbacks and finishes ranging from matt to shiny.
Traditional kitchens are defined by their detail and are usually – not always – made of wood. Think of cut-in grooves or raised lines on cabinets, decorative mouldings and corbels on wooden doors, ‘antique’ finishes, wooden work surfaces, decorative wall tiles and Belfast sinks.
Transitional kitchens take the best of both worlds and combine features from more than one style to suit your needs and personal taste. Think sleek wooden wall cabinets with foldaway glass fronts mixed with a contrasting colour on units below; country-style grooved units with a cutting-edge cooker hood; tailor-made Corian work surfaces with a stripped pine plate rack. A Shaker-style, with minimal lines, is a prime example of a mix of classic and contemporary.
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Sleek modern units with a patterned glass splashback
A few rules
The layout of your kitchen will, to some extent, dictate your style.
If you want to bring light into a small galley kitchen, choose something pale and reflective. If you have a big, south-facing space, then a matt finish is better than shiny or the reflections will be annoying - and hot.
Islands work in big spaces but not in small, where streamlined is best.
Glass-fronted cupboards and clear acrylic shelves look less bulky on walls than chunky cupboards with solid doors.
Lighting under units can be as simple as a stick-on-the-wall, battery-operated strip but it makes all the difference to the final effect.
Mirrored glass – shelves, splashbacks and even kickboards – will give the illusion of space.
White or sparkly work surfaces come in laminate and stone and will make rooms seem bigger.
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A light, bright and airy kitchen with a combination of modern and traditional elements
Questions to think about
If you want to update your kitchen, consider your lifestyle. Ask yourself:
Do my grandchildren visit often, and do they have small, sticky fingers? If so, a high gloss kitchen and shiny steel surfaces may mean you’re constantly wiping them clean.
Do I do lots of cooking? Then you’ll need as much worktop space as possible for all that chopping and preparation. Is there room for a central island, or even a butcher’s block?
Is space at a premium and can I go upwards? Is there currently unused space above the top cupboards? Add more cupboards or shelves right up to the ceiling, to store items you only use occasionally, such as jam pans, big casserole dishes and Christmas serving platters.
What is my budget? There are great kitchen deals to be had out there, so keep an eye out in magazines and newspapers and online. The cheapest is not necessarily inferior quality but do visit a showroom and examine the finish before committing.
Is my space tricky to measure - do I need help? As a rule, the more expensive, the kitchen the more bespoke the service but it’s always worth asking – Ikea charge £40 to measure up. If your chosen kitchen company won’t measure for you, ask a local kitchen fitter.