You can’t opt out of the process altogether, though, because you need to decide what equipment you want in the kitchen, the type of units, fitted or freestanding, the flooring, lighting … the list goes on.
The size and shape of your kitchen will, to some extent, dictate the equipment you have and where you put it. Remember not to overfill small kitchens – these should have a simple, uncluttered look unless you want permanent claustrophobia.
First decide where to site your sink, drainer and dishwasher – remembering to retain the position of existing service points if possible, since re-wiring and re-plumbing can cut a swathe through your budget. Bear in mind, though, that track lighting above the worksurfaces is a real boon – alterations to existing wiring to incorporate this shouldn’t break the bank.
Remember, too, the ‘magic triangle’ of sink, cooker and fridge. Some (male) designers pour scorn on this formula but these three pieces of equipemnt should always be kept close together for maximum efficiency, with your food preparation area nearby.
If your kitchen is large enough to dine in, work out where to site the table or breakfast bar and stools/chairs.
Then decide what other equipment you want and how much space you will need for it. Remember that labour-saving items like food mixers and juicers need to be permanently at the ready – if you have to get them out of a cupboard every time you want to use them, you won’t! Likewise, plan how much storage space you will need for food, cutlery and crockery, cooking utensils, cleaning equipment, etc – a family of five will need much more space than a couple, for instance.
Your choice of units depends on personal taste, budget and lifestyle. Hard-wearing, easy-clean surfaces like wood, veneers or laminates are a boon for busy people and families with young children. Higher-maintenance glass and stainless steel are for those with time to care for them – or a daily help!
Unless you have money to burn you should choose cabinets you’ll be happy to live with for a number of years – you can always ring the changes economically with a coat of paint and/or new handles.
When it comes to decoration, remember to use – or specify, if you’re in the fortunate position of having someone to do the work for you – grout that is resistant to heat, dirt and water. Similarly, choose special ‘kitchen and bathroom’ paint and wallpaper – the ranges are expanding all the time. However, a kitchen is a very ‘busy’ place so it makes sense to keep the walls and furnishings fairly neutral to avoid visual overload.
When your kitchen is installed, think logically about where to put everything. Keep items you use regularly in the most accessible cupboards. Those you use infrequently can go in higher cupboards while heavier items should be tucked away in cupboards underneath the worktops.
Fitting a new kitchen involves quite a bit of upheaval and it’s not something you do very often. It makes sense, therefore, to get it right and careful planning is the key. Your preferences, allied with your supplier’s expert guidance, should result in a room that meets all your needs for a kitchen that is efficient, aesthetically pleasing and a pleasure to use.