This kitchen was on my moodboard for my own. From via pinterest

At first it might seem overwhelming trying to plan the perfect kitchen, but the chances are you’ve already worked out what’s annoying you about your current one, so you might as well use that as a starting point and begin by thinking how you could put those issues to rights.

Sometimes it’s simply a question of changing those ugly cupboard doors for more contemporary kitchen cabinets, or more commonly, it’s about not having enough storage. If that’s the case then you need to start by having a really good declutter to work out what rubbish you have been hanging on to for years. Then you can see how much extra space you really need. If you’ve got a friend who likes cooking, it’s a good idea to invite them round to use your kitchen and cast a pair of fresh eyes on your set-up. They are more likely to notice if the pans are miles away from the hob and the chopping boards are inaccessible – things that you have become so used to you no longer notice.

Ask a friend to examine the layout for ease of use

Ben Huckerby, the designer behind Channel 5 programme Britain’s Best Home, says: “Planning is key. Before I design a kitchen for anyone I first eat a meal with them so I can see how they use the kitchen and how they move around the space. Most good kitchen companies will offer a free planning and visual service which will leave you with a computer generated image which you should take advantage of. “Start where you want to sit and eat and work round that. The main work area should face the seating area. If you have an island, I would have one side as the breakfast bar with storage underneath and the other with the hob so you can talk to people as you cook.”

Make the island work from falltplace.tumblr
And what of the ever-popular kitchen triangle that kitchen fitters are always recommending? Well, it turns out that 50 years ago, efficiency experts tracked the average woman’s steps in the kitchen and found a natural pathway between the fridge, cooker and sink, hence the triangle. The distance between those three items and how easy it is to reach them is still a measure of the perfect kitchen today. It’s a complex equation to work out the optimum measurements and we won’t be typing it out here, but basically the sides of the triangle don’t have to be equal as long as the distances add up to somewhere between 12ft and 23ft. So, if the cooker and fridge are three feet apart, the sink and fridge could be eight feet apart and the cooker and sink 10ft. So there is room for flexibility. Quite often you will find that you instinctively know how it should be because it feels comfortable. There is one other technical measurement: if you’re having an island there should be at least four feet (122cm) between it and the nearest counter, according to the experts. In my kitchen we have 3ft 7ins (110cm), mainly because there wasn’t enough space for more, but, by a happy accident it turns out that for me (5ft 7ins and I’ve no idea what that is in metres) that is exactly the right distance for me to pivot from worktop to hob and back again without having to take a step. Any wider and I would have to take a small step, not exactly hard work but pivoting is easier. Try it and see. When it comes to your work surfaces, experts are increasingly suggesting using a mix of materials. Marble is great for prepping food but can stain. Corian is perfect for round the sink as you can create an all-in-one sink and worktop that is hygienic, and wood is nice for islands. If you’re only having one make sure it’s as heat and wet resistant as you can afford.

When it comes to the colour, despite the current trend for yellow and turquoise, Huckerby suggesting keeping it neutral. “I always go for black, white or mocha. These colours won’t date and you can make dramatic changes by painting or papering the walls.” The big issue for any kitchen is storage. Open plan shelving is very fashionable but your pots and pans will get dusty. Deep drawers are also popular as you can see everything at a glance rather than losing the turmeric at the back of a high cupboard. You’ll need to leave enough space for the recycling boxes as well. These days one box by the back door simply isn’t enough and you don’t want it all on display.

Build in as much storage as you can possibly fit

Huckerby is a big fan of Siematic, an individual tracking system that can be added to the backs of doors and inside cupboards to create up to 30 per cent more storage space. “You can create exactly what you need and add to it later if you want,” he says. Siematic  (0844 3356595) might not be cheap – a full kitchen starts at around £15,000 – but it offers individual cupboards, worktops and a larder at more affordable prices.

built in storage from siemens

Finally, if you like a gadget then do have a look and see what’s out there. You can ditch the kettle in favour of a hot water tap for example, or one that delivers filtered water all the time. You can have a TV on the fridge door, or a fridge which incorporates a smaller door so you can just reach in and grab the milk. How about an extractor hood that looks like a chandelier? Don’t forget a slimline wine fridge that will slide into an awkward space.

Elica make extractor fans that look like chandeliers
image from

Cook up a new-look kitchen: Dos and don’ts

* Do buy big brand names. Not only do they add a luxurious air to a kitchen but they will help with resale values. But you don’t have to blow the budget, shop around and you will find deals. This is where you should spend the money. Steam ovens are particularly popular at the moment and do everything from vegetables to sponge cakes. * Don’t buy highly decorative features as they will just collect grease and grime and you are likely to go off them quickly. * Do consider granite or marble worktops. They add to the feel of quality of a kitchen and never go out of fashion. * Do your research on storage. You will always need more than you think and you need to leave space for the new things. There are so many options now from pull out larders and spice drawers to tall cupboards for the ironing board. * Don’t blow the budget on a fancy glass splashback that you are likely to tire of. Once you’ve done the planning, spend on the appliances next. Then, if there’s enough left over for a Wow factor then go for it. * Don’t worry if you are on a tight budget. There are some great options in the Cooke And Lewis range at B&Q for example with high-end touches such as soft-close drawers, touch open cupboards and LED lighting. All those details will add to the feel of quality.
Picture by

Above is my kitchen where we have tried to obey some of the rules. The hob is on the island so you can talk to people while you are cooking and the other side doubles up as a breakfast bar. There is a triangle between the fridge, sink and cooker. The colours are neutral and the worktop is stainless which is practical. It is heat resistant and the scratches only add a patina that improves its look with age. We broke the rules with the open shelving but as they are not near the hob they don’t get covered in grease and grime. Finally, the kitchen sink doesn’t look out over the garden in the traditional manner but there is a dishwasher which means no-one spends that much time standing at the sink anyway. Finally, said dishwasher is in the far corner, I can unload it and put almost everything away on the shelves and in the drawers without having to take a step. A small thing, but, when you hate unloading the thing as much as I do, one that helps. The units are from Ikea and the worktop and black leather handles were bought elsewhere. The shelves were made by the builders, as were the cupboards on the left hand side of the picture. Our treat to ourselves was a hot water tap and I love it. The ceiling is covered in tin tiles from





Tags : brand namesbudgetcreatedeep drawersdesignfiltered watergadgetglass splashbackislandkitchen triangleluxuriousmeasurementsopen planperfect kitchenplanningstorage
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi Kate, love your blog! Please can you remind me where you bought the stainless steel worktop? Sure I read this on a post before but can’t find it now! Thanks

  2. Thank you Kate, your article has got to be the best one on kitchen design I’ve ever read. I’m usually asleep by paragraph two. Makes me want to change my kitchen now!

  3. Thanks very much for such a clear article. I’m hoping that we’ll manage to create a classic but fun kitchen. We’re hoping to go for a shaker style one. We’d love Kit Stone / JL of Hungerford but the budget doesn’t stretch, so it’ll have to be Benchmarx/Crown.
    Sadly we can’t do the Triangle or the face-where-you dine due to space and wall constraints but to be honest, anything will be an improvement!

    Out of interest, what are you thoughts/experiences on:
    1.Range Cookes (esp 90mm ones) Is it better to fork out for Rangemaster/Stoves rather than go for Belling or Leisure?

    2. Built in fridges and freezers. How easy are they to replace when they break? Are they worth the money (are they a lot more?)

    1. Hi Gill, I’m glad you found the piece useful. I will reply to these two questions but I would prefer to do a little research on them first so that there is proper information. I will either do here or in a separate post. I’ll let you know when it’s coming up.

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