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How to choose the right kitchen style

Melanie Whitehouse / 09 January 2017 ( 13 May 2022 )

With a wide range of kitchen styles to choose from, how do you find the right one for your needs?

Modern kitchen
A modern kitchen style with chrome appliances and smooth units

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 kitchen style?

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

Modern kitchens are usually simple and sleek and fit in well in a contemporary home, so it's no wonder they're the most popular new kitchen style in the UK. 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

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. Shaker kitchens, which feature a small amount of detailing on the doors, are one of the most popular traditional kitchen styles thanks to their mix of simplicity and functionality. 

Rustic kitchens

Rustic kitchens have some similarities to traditional kitchens but can have a rougher, more handmade feel. Rough wood, exposed brickwork and beams, mismatched furniture and traditional patterned fabrics all feel at home in a rustic kitchen.

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Industrial kitchens

Where rustic kitchens use materials to appear warm and comforting, industrial kitchens are reminiscent of factories or busy commercial kitchens, and are particularly popular in converted industrial buildings which typically have high ceilings. Exposed bricks, pipes and metal beams, contrasting materials such as brass and wood, and exposed shelving units are all popular choices in an industrial kitchen.

Transitional kitchens

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 for designing your kitchen

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.

Kitchen 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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Modern kitchen

A light, bright and airy kitchen with a combination of modern and traditional elements 

Considerations for choosing your kitchen style

If you want to update your kitchen's look, consider your lifestyle. Ask yourself the following questions:

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.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.