An independent source of kitchen design advice & ideas
Opinions vary about how difficult it is to design a kitchen. Many people seem to think it's very easy and that anyone can do it. Others, who have received unimaginative designs for their own kitchen, realise that there can be rather more to it than just deciding where to put the sink, the cooker and the fridge, and that the huge amount of choice available in kitchens today doesn't necessarily make life easier.
Many kitchen design guides talk about the work triangle - which refers to the relative positions of the aforementioned sink, cooker (or, more accurately, the hob) and fridge. For small, and especially galley, kitchens, the concept is a bit irrelevant, since you'd be hard pushed to come up with a practical design, for such a kitchen, that was anything other than a triangle.
For larger kitchens, the work triangle is a bit out of date. Modern kitchens are about more than working just at the sink and hob. Try thinking instead, about how you use the kitchen ... and design workstations which are useful for each function. Food preparation, for instance ... cooking at the hob, cleaning and storing china and pots, making and drinking coffee ... or feeding and housing pets ... the kids doing homework ... or you catching up with your accounts. Some of the areas may be unique to you and your family, some will overlap, but the ideal is to have a flexible arrangement where you can comfortably sit alone with a coffee and the newspaper but, later, hold a coffee morning, a party for twelve kids under five, or prepare a sophisticated meal for ten. Your kitchen should be designed for whatever you are likely to want to do in it. I've come across people who want to frame pictures, wash dogs, even do keep fit in their kitchens.
You will also see lists of different kitchen plan shapes, when you look at some kitchen design guides. You'll find the galley kitchen, the L-shape and the U-shape. I'm not sure how these are supposed to help you design your kitchen, since you will be constrained by the actual shape of your room. I've even known some professional kitchen designers (due to inexperience, one hopes) to insist on basing their layouts on these shapes - even when something more complicated would work better.
Forget about categorising the shape of your kitchen and concentrate instead on how much space you have, where you could put units, allowing enough space between them, and where the thoroughfares are within the room. Try to avoid main working areas coinciding with main thoroughfares. Always concentrate on your own circumstances and your own actual space.
Have a look at this unusual kitchen design ... it doesn't have a defined shape or an uninterrupted work triangle ... but it does use the space well
There is, of course, one set of kitchen design guides which doesn't reiterate all that tired old stuff about work triangles, L-shaped kitchens and the like. I may be biased (well ok, yes ... I am biased) but Majjie's Kitchen Design Guides are much more practical and will help you to design your own kitchen, whatever it's shape (they are currently being re-written but should be available again soon)..
If you don't feel up to designing your own kitchen, then you will need to find a kitchen designer to do it for you. The obvious option is to go to one of the many kitchen suppliers that offer free designs, or even better two or three of them, and see what they come up with. That's the way the vast majority of kitchens are bought in this country.
Did you notice the slight discrepancy there? You want to consider designs for your kitchen, so that you can mull them over, decide how the layouts would fit your various requirements, organise the storage in your mind's eye and think about finishes and colour schemes. Your designers, on the other hand, all want you to buy their particular kitchen. The worst ones don't care whether or not it fits your needs ... they just want you to buy it. Designing, to them, is just a way to get you to buy and they will try to disguise any drawbacks to their plans. Even the best ones, who do care about the design, are likely to be reluctant to let you have a copy of the plan (and any visuals) to take away and study.
There's a very good reason why the kitchen designers, or their employers, don't want you to have their free plans to keep. It is, of course, because they're not free at all. Someone has to spend time preparing the plans and time is money. If a designer, or supplier, needs to prepare an average of three plans to secure one sale, then the cost of preparing those three plans needs to be included in the cost of that one kitchen. A kitchen designer working on a commission-only basis gets paid roughly 10% of the net value of the kitchen units, when a sale is made.
No problem ... for the suppliers ... as long as everyone does the same. The cost of about three designs is included in the price of every kitchen sold and you the customers are told that they are free. You can happily get your three "free" plans (it's not easy to say that!) and ... all things being equal ... the suppliers can make a living and pay themselves (or a designer) for preparing those plans.
But ... all things aren't equal ... there are kitchen suppliers who use cheap, inexperienced designers, or who have no designers at all. That reduces their overheads. And what do you savvy customers do? You have your free design from a company that has a good designer and you take it to one of those cheaper suppliers to get your kitchen. That's why you don't always get to keep a copy of your "free" plan.
Most upmarket showrooms will have good kitchen designers; lower down the market it's much more of a lottery. They may be good, they may not. Try to find one who listens to your ideas, as well as coming up with plenty of their own ... one that produces a plan tailored specifically for your needs ... rather than telling you what you should have, or coming up with something very formulaic and not specific to you.
If you do go down the route of getting several kitchen plans, you need to compare not only the actual plans produced and the price of the units, but also the quality of the units and other factors, like the level of customer service provided. Have a look at the Buying Your Kitchen section here and also download the first of Majjie's Kitchen Design Guides ... to see what you get for your money, when you're buying a kitchen ... it's absolutely free.
A better way to get the right design for your kitchen, especially if you have an awkward room, or if you want to study the plan before making any decisions, might be to use an independent designer. You'll have to pay a fee ... but that fee will be upfront and fully transparent. Once again ... I am, of course, biased ... but if you think it might be the right idea for you, then have a look at our Kitchen Design Services pages, where the reasons for using an independent designer are listed.
In the meantime here are some of Majjie's previous blogs and articles on kitchen design, which might be useful. Apologies to those of you who have visited before and found lots more articles - but those that were written for Yell.com have now been removed from their site. We'll gradually add them to Majjie's Blog here, so that you can still access them, but it could take a while.