Posted February 15, 2017
With the restrained month of January well and truly out the way, we can take the locks off those kitchen cupboards and crack open a packet of biscuits; but upon doing so, we might notice that those cupboards and worktops have seen better days. Kitchens over the past 15 years have seen a real renaissance. Once confined to an unloved area at the rear of a house, the kitchen has become the heart of the home, driven by the demand for open plan living. This has many benefits but must be well planned in order to fully maximise your investment, and create the desired transformation of the space.
Worktops Islands, Splashbacks and Units
Worktops are a real personal choice, but there are a few key questions to ask yourself before making a final decision. Maintenance and upkeep; how relaxed are you about staining and cleaning? Some stone and timber options are known to require regular cleaning to keep them looking clean and fresh. I have chosen such a timber in my own kitchen for its warmth and beauty, its stunning grain characteristics, and because I’m prepared to give it a bit more regular TLC than an engineered stone surface would require. Some softer stones are susceptible to coffee and wine staining, and then it becomes a question as to whether this ‘patina’ is enjoyed or detested!
The material of kitchen cabinets has become a hot topic in the past few years, with the price of solid cabinets falling dramatically whilst large manufacturers have not reduced the cost of ordinary melamine-faced chipboard units. A quick internet search tells me that, like for like, a solid oak cabinet with oak doors could cost as little as £225, whilst a comparable chipboard unit could cost around £125. Arguably, paying twice the price delivers so much more than twice the value. A family kitchen lasts longer than most modern cars, without the aftercare benefit of yearly MOTs and services. On some budget kitchens, the price can turn out too good to be true, and the wear and tear becomes apparent very quickly. However, it is always worth thinking ahead, and considering if you plan to move within the new future, whether you will get a return on your investment. Sometimes it is worth limiting the spend when a prospective buyer may not have the same taste as you!
On the unit style front, full height, pull-out larders have come a long way in the past few years with stronger, sturdier hinge design. They maximise storage space and are great for storing spices, cereals and other dry and tinned foods, that otherwise often clutter kitchen worktops. You can never have too much worktop space for preparation, and the longer the unbroken run between appliances, the more flexibility you have. The old adage of the triangle principle between cooker, sink and fridge is still as true today as when it was first dreamt up in the 1940s at the Illinois School of Architecture.
When thinking about kitchen design with Clients, I never assume that one style of cooking is the same as another. I very much encourage clients to talk me through their set up and we can plan together, right down to the very last detail and teaspoon.
Kitchen Positioning and Extraction
Generally, the extent and location of your kitchen refurbishment project is dictated by the type of property. Over the past 15 years it has been the norm to create relatively large modern extensions that combine kitchen, dining and living spaces at the rear of the property. Over the past few years, it has become quite fashionable in more urban areas to locate the kitchen at the front or middle of the home, creating a buffer from the street, and allowing the rear of the property to become more of a secluded family room. Many families today are opting to retain a small snug / TV / music room and not open the entire ground floor of a property. The mechanical ventilation systems that are common place in kitchens also mean careful route planning is required to comply with manufacturer distance recommendations. Over stretching the distance of the cooker from the outside wall can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the extract unit. We would recommend that where possible rigid, sealed ductwork is used and that the extract unit has a high litres-per-second extract rate. This will help to ensure particularly strong smells are removed as quickly as possible, and aren’t given the chance to linger on soft furnishings such as sofas, rugs and curtains.
Natural Light, Task Lighting, Ambient Lighting, Accent Lighting
I love natural light, and those who know me, know I love accent lighting even more. Natural light is that which enters the home either directly (sunlight) or indirectly (diffused sunlight, or north light). The alternative, or supplementary lighting, is artificial light; that which comes from the lightbulb! Task lighting is bright, normally white light, which is positioned close to the task at hand – think over counter lighting. Ambient light is the general background light, normally warmer on the colour spectrum – think spotlights, hanging pendants. Accent lighting, usually in the form of LED strips, come in many different colours and varieties, and is often used to highlight features, providing depth and dimension. So why is the correct light so important? As far back a 1957, scientists such as R.S. Fixot, discovered that the brain uses 60% of its power to process vision combined with other stimuli, so it comes as no surprise that lighting can affect our mood, perception of temperature, and the ability to perform tasks. Kitchen lighting has become quite sophisticated and it’s now even possible to integrate lighting into drawer handles, which can look very sleek if done well. Good lighting is hard to retrofit afterwards and all 4 types should be considered at the earliest of design stages.
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