Kitchens are the highest spend room in the house and therefore take some research and planning to make sure you get them right. There are many ways to go about buying and installing a kitchen, but however you choose to go about the process there are a few areas to consider:
Cabinets are the hardest-working part of the kitchen, so always spend as much as possible on them.
- If possible then use rigidly manufactured units, soft closing hinges and robust steel drawer runners.
- Think practically as well as aesthetically when it comes to the finish. Highly polished dark colours show fingerprints easily. Lighter colours will work better in small spaces. You can apply brighter colours to the walls or splash-backs using paint, tiles or glass.
- Larger handles work better or you can go handle-less.
- If you're on a budget, it's far better to buy quality units with laminate worktops than cheap units and put expensive worktops in.
- Avoid wood near sinks as it will need re oiling regularly, and glass worktops quickly look tired and scratched. Instead, consider twin-edged worktops that look like glass, but are laminate.
- Formica and similar have reinvented themselves with some great look-alike exotic woods and metals at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. The only downside is resistance to heat.
- Corian is good for the seamless look that can be used to create sinks of the same material, coved upstands and so on. Granite is a higher end worktop choice and Quartz is a good alternative that doesn't stain and is antibacterial.
- For sinks, stainless steel is best, but if you want a less utilitarian look, matt black and high-gloss ceramic sinks can work.
- For taps, duel flow taps work very well, but make sure it suits the water pressure you have. Tri-flow systems will provide filtered water or boiling water taps can be fitted.
The main choice is between built in and free standing appliances. Built in appliances can make the room feel bigger, whereas free standing ones can be used to add colour. There is also more than just a washing machine and dishwasher to consider. You can now get wine coolers, coffee machines, steamers, microwaves, dryers and American fridges. It is worth checking customer reviews and reports as prices and delivery costs vary enormously.
Cooking in your kitchen
Gas hobs are the norm but with the prices of induction hobs coming down they are becoming popular. They offer the same instant heat as gas but without the danger of heat and a naked flame. They are also far more energy efficient.
As well as conventional fan ovens there are now steam ovens on the market. These use steam in conjunction with heat to cook and defrost food.
Your kitchen layout
You first priority should be "the working triangle". If you space your fridge, cooker and sink too far apart, you'll clock up miles. However if they're too close, you'll feel cramped. No obstructions – islands, breakfast bar, peninsula etc – should block the triangle, but that's not to say you shouldn't consider them generally -just always leave a metre around an island.
Use a kitchen designer but make sure he/she is not just a salesman with a computer program. It is worth playing with different concepts, recreating them in your room to get a feel for the space.
Whatever you choose for your kitchen, getting the right installer is essential. Find an installer with access to all the trades needed including: carpenters, plumbers, tilers, electricians and plasterers.