Step-by-step guide to designing a kitchen

This step-by-step guide to creating a kitchen reveals how to choose a kitchen designer, plan a kitchen layout, and select kitchen appliances, floorings, worksurfaces and storage solutions

kitchen with white flooring and wooden drawers
(Image credit: TBC)

Buying a new kitchen can be a daunting process. There are so many things to consider that it's easy to lose your way. However tempted you are to rush into a showroom and choose your design, it's vital that you take plenty of time to consider what it is you really want.

The new room will only turn into your dream kitchen if it works well, which means planning. In order to make the process as easy as possible, we've come up with three simple steps that we believe will lead you down the road to your very own beautiful kitchen.

Step 1: plan what you want from your kitchen

Before you decide anything it's best to make a list of what you like and dislike about your present kitchen. Look closely at the room to see what works and what doesn't. Then ask yourself the following questions to help you visualise how you intend to use the space:

Who is going to be using the kitchen on a daily basis?

Do you cook every day?

Do you want a dining table/area or breakfast bar?

Do you entertain often?

What other tasks will be undertaken in the room? Will it be used for entertaining, laundry, homework or relaxing?

Once you've established what you want, for example, a room with an eating area for the children and plenty of workspace, then you can look at how you might achieve that perfect space. Now think about any restrictions you might have to put on the design, including existing features such as chimney breasts, beams or supporting pillars.

When it comes to details, if you're using a kitchen designer, expect them to ask questions such as how many dried goods you keep, how many pots and pans you own, and whether you want items on display or everything behind closed doors.Step two: plan your kitchen layout

Step 2: Plan your layout

Now you have decided exactly what you want from your kitchen, you can use that information to get down to the nitty-gritty of where you'll put everything.

A kitchen planner with grid and cabinetry cut-outs will help you to plan your layout. Of course, the way you plan yours will be influenced by the shape of your room, but don't be afraid to experiment with a variety of arrangements until you find the one that works best for you.

An important element of the kitchen layout is to ensure it works ergonomically. BLUM's (01908 285700) Dynamic Space concept, an extension of the working triangle idea, looks at how we use kitchens and suggests schemes that place items we use most in areas close to where they are needed. If thought about at this early stage, it can save you lots of time when you come to use your kitchen.

Remember to check whether you have appliances that need to be sited on an outside wall. Some tumble dryers, extractors and range cookers need to be vented externally and if you don't have them against an outside wall, you could end up with ugly ducting.

Step 3: choose your style

Clever planning and an ergonomic layout are essential to how a kitchen works, but it's how it looks that will produce the 'wow' factor.

Shaker designs in natural wood will never date. If you want a painted Shaker style opt for soft cream or pale pastel shades that can act as an anchor to your finishing touches. Complement with plain handles, wooden or plain granite worktops, timber flooring and simple furnishings.

Hi-gloss modern cabinetry in anything from cool white to hot red is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, particularly when teamed with sleek stainless-steel appliances and accessories. Contemporary favourites also include unfussy handleless designs in unusual woods such as walnut and zebrano.

Perfectly suited to period properties, traditional kitchens range from simple Georgian painted designs to grand Victorian schemes with pilasters and corbels. Open plate racks, an old-fashioned range cooker, ceramic butler sinks and brass bridge mixer taps are the perfect finishing touches.

How to choose a kitchen designer

The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialist Association (KBSA) suggest you take the time to visit showrooms to check out the quality of designs by yourself.

Don't agree to a quote for the design and installation of a kitchen until a designer has looked at the space. A good kitchen designer will always ask questions about the way you use the room: for example, do you prefer pots and pans on open shelves?

Once the design has been completed, make sure you have a full quotation for the cabinetry and installation.

Check what is included ? will the company oversee the project from start to finish? Will lighting be part of the job?

Some retailers will be able to undertake structural work if any is needed, otherwise you will have to employ a separate builder.

Never pay a deposit of more than 25% of the total contract value and ensure you have a written schedule for further payments. Don't pay in full until you have received delivery of your goods. Companies that ask for full payment before delivery have your money ? but you don't have your furniture.

Debunk the kitchen jargon

Bust the kitchen jargon with our glossary:

BUILT-IN Appliances that are built into a cupboard carcase, generally at eye level.

BUILT-UNDER Appliances that are built into a cupboard carcase below the worktop.

CAD Computer-aided design. Many kitchen companies will show you 3-D CAD drawings of your kitchen layout, including where particular appliances will be placed.

CARCASE The frame and walls of the cupboard. These come in a variety of materials from MDF for budget designs to a combination of solid wood and wood-veneered plywood with specialist inserts for bespoke models.

CUT-OUTS Your worktop may require cut-outs for sinks, hobs or other worktop appliances. Granite, stone and composite cut-outs should be templated by an expert, while some wood and laminate cut-outs can be done by a competent DIYer.

FITTED Kitchen units that are fixed in place.

FREESTANDING Units that appear to be single pieces of furniture, often standing on visible legs rather than having kickplates.

INTEGRATED Appliances that are hidden by a cupboard door attached to their frame that matches the rest of the kitchen units and when opened also opens the appliance door.

KICKPLATES The panel of wood, MDF or other material that hides the cabinets' leg supports and gives a clean, streamlined finish to the kitchen. It can often contain storage systems and heating.

UNDERCOUNTER Applies to appliances such as dishwashers that sit below a worksurface but are not built into a carcase. These can be freestanding or integrated.

Kitchen essentials

Kitchen storage solutions
Plan a place for everything. Site pan drawers within reach of the hob and crockery cupboards or plate racks near the dishwasher. Place spice stores close to where you'll be cooking, sinks and pull-out bins near to where you prepare food, and keep your food storage to one area of the kitchen to make unpacking the shopping easy. Magic corners, drawer systems within cupboards and pull-out larders are ingenious solutions to ensure no space is wasted and entire cupboard contents can be seen and accessed.

Kitchen flooring
Consider the 'traffic' passing through your kitchen when choosing the flooring. The more it is used the tougher it needs to be. Wood or wood lookalikes add warmth to a scheme and are hardwearing. Stone looks great, although limestone should be avoided in high-traffic areas, and all stone floors need to be sealed to protect them. Porcelain tiles are a cheaper option than natural stone, while Marmoleum, rubber or linoleum are all great for modern styles.

Kitchen worksurfaces
There are many materials to choose from. Laminate is good if the budget is tight. Wood can look lovely in a traditional kitchen. Granite is a timeless classic and comes in endless natural variations. Corian can be moulded to any shape for seamless contours and comes in innumerable colours. Glass can look great as a feature, while stainless steel has a professional quality. You could also try using two contrasting worktops, such as black granite and maple, or composite stone and stainless steel.

Kitchen heating
Radiators take up a lot of wall space, so before you lay the floor, it's a good idea to think about whether or not you want underfloor heating. It's particularly useful if you're having a stone floor laid as it will help keep it toasty warm underfoot on cold winter mornings.

Kitchen plumbing, heating and lighting

Once you have a rough idea of your ideal floor layout, you then need to think about kitchen plumbing, electrics, heating and lighting.

Something to consider before you lay the kitchen floor is underfloor heating. Radiators take up valuable space and the heat they generate can be quite localised. The underfloor variety is more evenly diffused.

Also, if you're planning a sink or appliance in an island, you need to ensure plumbing and electricity supplies are in place before flooring is laid.

Will you be using existing plumbing for other sinks and appliances or will you require additional pipe work?

Work out where appliances, both big and small, are going to ensure you have plug points where you need them. A socket in the back of a tambour unit will mean you can plug in toasters and kettles ready for use.

When planning lighting it's a good idea to make the system quite flexible so you can regulate areas independently. Secondary lighting, such as spots above cooking and preparation areas, is also useful. Finally, do you want display shelves lit up with LEDs to display your favourite china?

Energy ratings explained

An appliance with the Energy Efficiency Recommended logo has met or exceeded government-backed energy efficiency requirements.

The European Union energy label must also be displayed on all new domestic fridges, freezers, electric ovens, washing machines, tumble dryers, washer dryers and dishwashers.

The energy labelling scale runs from A to G with A the most and G the least efficient. Manufacturers whose appliances exceed the recommendations also label their appliances AA or AAA or A+. A-rated appliances may cost more initially but are likely to be cheaper to run.

Kitchen planning checklist

Useful contacts
Council for Registered Gas Installers (Corgi)
Tel: 0870 401 2300

Federation of Master Builders
Tel: 020 7242 7583

Institute of Electrical Engineers
Tel: 020 7240 1871

Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (IPHE)
Tel: 01708 472791

Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialist Association Tel: 01905 726066

National Federation of Builders
Tel: 0870 898 9091

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
Tel: 020 7580 5533

Useful reading
The Kitchen Design Planner by Fay Sweet, published by Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99

Appliance checklist>
Use the list below to make a note of the appliances you would like, along with model number and price.



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Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.