Designing a kitchen – 15 expert tips on how to plan and design a kitchen

Designing A Kitchen – The Basic Elements Of Kitchen Design

Designing a kitchen is best done by experienced professionals – but only hand-in-hand with you. That is because how you use your kitchen will affect the design choices you will make deeply. Our step-by-step will help you discover how to design a kitchen like a professional would – but you should always question whether each step suits exactly what you want from the finished room in terms of layout and practicality. That way, you can marry your final list with all the pictures of kitchens and kitchen styling ideas you have gathered to create the perfect space.


1. Create A Wishlist

'Start by mind mapping and scribbling down all the features of your dream kitchen,' says Andy Briggs, resident interior designer and head creative for Optiplan Kitchens. 'This is the place for blue sky thinking. Which design style have you been eager to embrace? What appliances or luxury gadgets do you crave? Write down everything you’ve always longed for. You should also reflect on what isn’t working for you in your current set-up.'

2. Set A Kitchen Design Budget

Kitchen costs need to be clearly defined at the start of your project. 'How far you can go with your wishlist will then depend on your budget,' says Andy Briggs. 'You need to establish how much you can realistically spend on the project. Alongside the kitchen itself, be sure to include allowances for plumbing, wiring, lighting, appliances, flooring, decorating, labor and any finishing design touches. You should also add a further 10% as a contingency for any unforeseen costs.'

3. Consider How You Will Use Your Space

Designing a kitchen isn't just about working out a kitchen layout that fits the space – kitchen planning needs to run around how you use the room, too. 'First, think carefully about how you wish to use the space and your requirements,' advises Damian Wright, senior designer at Smallbone. 'Today’s kitchens are the central hub of the house, so we approach the design by thinking of the layout in terms of moments, with places to cook, to eat, to entertain and sometimes a spot to sit and work. 'However, even in a large room, try to keep the prep, cook and wash areas close together to be as efficient as possible.'

4. Measure Up

With the kitchen coming under increasing pressure to perform a variety of crucial roles such as family dining, relaxing, working and entertaining, a good kitchen layout and adequate storage are more important than ever in planning a kitchen, but ensuring you can fit in everything you want depends on accurate measuring – something you will need to do before you visit a design professional, though if they come to you, you can hand this responsibility over to them.

5. Consider The Perfect Layout

Aesthetic choices aside, kitchen layout ideas are where you should start the practical journey of designing a kitchen. 'Effectively planning an ergonomic kitchen layout, and maximizing the space, can make time spent in the kitchen all the more enjoyable. In your layout try to configure your sink, refrigerator, hob and oven within easy reach of each other and then consider what storage to put in this area.

6. Make The Right Cabinetry Choice

Looking for kitchen cabinet ideas is the fun part of planning a kitchen. 'The starting point is to consider how you want your kitchen to look and feel. Think about how it might relate not just to the living and dining areas, especially if it is part of an open plan space, but how it also fits with your overall plan for the house,' says interior designer Tiffany Duggan of Studio Duggan.

7. Consider Cabinetry Proportion, Scale And Symmetry

Designing a kitchen is a fine balance of practicality and aesthetics – with the impact of the bulk of the cabinetry an important element to consider. Alongside the style of cabinetry, do consider its proportions and aim to create some sense of symmetry by placing key features, such as a chimney breast framing a range cooker, as a central piece. The specifics are going to be determined by the size and height of your room.

8. Think: Kitchen Colors

When our studio first opened in 2011, kitchens all seemed to be neutral in color, whether they were classic or contemporary,' says Tiffany Duggan. 'Now, in line with current trends throughout the house, we are seeing more demand for kitchen color ideas, colorful kitchens with pattern and personality, which is probably another reason why the Shaker style is so popular.

9. Factor In Appliances

While ‘standard’ built-in ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers are 60cm wide, there are also wider appliances which may need to be factored into designing a kitchen, such as 76cm-wide ovens, 90cm-wide fridge-freezers (wider, if you plan to create a cooling wall with side-by-side refrigerator, freezer and wine cabinet) and range cookers at up to 1.5m wide.

10. Include A Boiling Water Tap

All-in-one boiling water taps are now often replacing the standard mixer. Tanks vary in size, but the popular Quooker PRO3 model requires 480mm height and is 150mm diameter, which needs to fit under the sink.

11. Measure Out Sufficient Countertop Space

The amount of countertop space depends on individual requirements, but when you are designing a kitchen it is always important to have countertop space of at least 600mm either side of the sink and hob to wash and prepare food. It is also essential to include a space close to the oven for hot dishes.

12. Plan In A Kitchen Island

If there is enough space, kitchen island ideas can be an ideal addition to any kitchen. They have so many uses, from additional prep surface, a place for the sink, a spot for the hob, somewhere for drinks and a place to cook in front of guests.

13. Work Out What Kitchen Storage You Need

'To enjoy your kitchen to its maximum potential, it is worth thinking, at the outset of the project, about the amount and type of storage that you need. After all, this is the place at home where you will probably spend most of your time, so being able to find what you need quickly and easily is going to make cooking more enjoyable. I really do believe that a well organised space makes you feel calmer and happier.

14. Plan In Kitchen Lighting

'As the layout develops, start thinking about the lighting, not only for wiring purposes, but also so that you can problem solve as the plans unfold. For example, I would usually use LEDs under the wall cupboards to light the worktop. Without them, another lighting solution is required, so instead I might include wall lights on swing arms that can be angled to suit.

15. Choose Kitchen Flooring

'While a kitchen floor needs to be durable and preferably easy to maintain, it can also be a feature that enhances the style and success of your room. The choice of material depends on your budget and attitude towards character, beauty and practicality.'

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