Mad About . . .

The Three Key Questions You Need to Answer: The Kitchen

30th May 2018

Some of you will remember that I began this series earlier this year with a post on the three most important questions you need to answer when it comes to decorating any room in your house. Those questions are Who, What and When and if you ask those – and crucially answer them with honesty – you can avoid many costly mistakes.

In short: WHO is using the room? Is it a family? Or a couple? A family with young children might want to factor in low storage that kids can reach so they can make their own breakfast at the weekend. Is it someone who is always in the kitchen at parties or a person who likes to experiment? You get the drift. Answer the question of who the room is for as the first priority.

green kitchen by naked kitchens

The Who then plays into the WHAT. It is someone who likes to cook? Or someone who likes to eat? To microwave or entertain? To bake or to fry? Yes I imagine it’s probably a mix of all of those things but you need to think about it if you want to get it right. For example a cook might want a fancy oven. An eater a breakfast bar and wine fridge. But the person who heats up a quick ready meal and stores their shoes in the oven will have different requirements. The baker might need space for mixers and blenders while the steak lover will need to think about good extractor fans. Do you see?

cley kitchen by naked kitchens

cley kitchen by naked kitchens

Finally, once you have established who is doing what you need to think about WHEN. Because this is about paint colours and lighting and the flow of traffic through the space. The kitchen is one of the rooms where the answer is probably – all day. So you need to choose colours that work in both electric and natural light. You need spot lights on dimmers and, if the room is big enough pendants or table lights for ambience. You need to consider if you have to factor in four people shouting and shoving at 7am or two people silkily ignoring each other at 8. Ask these questions, write down the answers and then, and only then. you are ready to plan your kitchen.

To help you further, I have partnered with Naked Kitchens this year and their co-founder, Jayne Everett, has offered her top five tips to help you plan the perfect kitchen below.

I would add one other point to this. This kitchen is for you and how you live. Don’t be afraid to disagree with an architect or a designer because they won’t be living there. You don’t have to be conventional if that’s not how you live – see Jayne’s point on orientation for example.


blue kitchen with copper splashback by naked kitchens

blue kitchen with copper splashback by naked kitchens

Start here, says Jayne. There are so many places to look now  – Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz and blogs of course. Start here and gather a list of pictures and ideas that you would like to use in your own home. But don’t stop there – you should look outside too. We find some of our best colour combinations come from nature. Our workshop is based on the north Norfolk coast and we see so much beauty there that we know we can translate into kitchen design.


wooden kitchen by naked kitchens

wooden kitchen by naked kitchens

You need to make sure, above all, that the space you are working with is practical for yourself and others. You need to make sure the work area is large enough to be safe. If you have a large family or you like to eat in the kitchen you need to consider how much space you will need, and if you have enough, to be able to do that without being cramped. One way to do this is to imagine yourself in the space thinking about what jobs you need to do in there. It’s also crucial that you don’t just design a kitchen for now but think about the future and how your needs might change. A kitchen is a big investment and you need to make sure it will last for years to come.


quartz worktop via naked kitchens

quartz worktop via naked kitchens

You need to think about the flow of your room when you’re designing a kitchen to make sure that all your key appliances are in the appropriate places with sufficient room around them. This makes it a good time to think about updating. There is so much amazing technology out there now that it’s worth taking the time to research what you might want and factor it into your budget. One example is the BORA downdraft extractor and hob. * This is an incredibly clever pice of technology and means you don’t have to compromise the look of your kitchen with an overhead extractor fan, which means you can balance form and function.


brixon kitchen by naked kitchens and NKLiving

brixon kitchen by naked kitchens and NKLiving

Not much you can do about this one but it’s crucially important. If you’re starting from scratch you need to think about window placement and walkways and which parts of the room you want to work in and which to relax in. If, for example, you only sit down to eat at night then think about putting the working part of the kitchen in the lightest part of the room rather than putting the table near the garden when you rarely sit there. Instead put the dining part further back in a darker part of the room and think about adding a breakfast/lunch bar at the lighter, kitchen end.


pink kitchen by naked kitchens

pink kitchen by naked kitchens

If you know there are colours or materials that you want to use then don’t compromise on them. This is an important part of the design process and one that you need to get right. You may be able to compromise on a different part if you can’t afford to have everything you want.


*I  can’t find a price for the BORA product and as I’m writing on a bank holiday there’s no-one to ring up and ask. Having said that I imagine the usual rules apply – if you have to ask you can’t afford it. Having said that I did a little research and found a similar product made by Caple which costs £2,879. It’s an interesting idea and one I would definitely investigate but remember the extraction working have to go underneath which means you might lose storage or oven space. But you will win on form as you won’t have the overhead extractor cluttering up your sightlines.

**This is part of my paid collaboration with Naked Kitchens. I had included them in a couple of posts as it’s a brand I admire and they approached me about a formal partnership. They offered me some kitchen cabinets from their 80/20 range in return. The work is now done and I will be showing you soon. They gave me ten cupboards, including a dishwasher front and two oven housings. I paid for the installation.

Naked Kitchens offer three levels of product – fully bespoke (Naked) buy online (80/20) and doors only to fit to existing carcasses (Naked Doors). Prices don’t include installation.

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  • Lucy 30th May 2018 at 10:52 pm

    Great blog post, Kate – thanks. Read you for years at the Indy – so great to read your blog now. Congrats.

    I am mid kitchen layout design as I type. Really wish I could upload a photo – would LOVE everyone’s help…

    New kitchen (extended) will be 3.5m wide x 6.7 long, so big but not huge. Thinking of going L-shaped base units, narrow island in middle (not sure there will be enough space…), then opposite wall will have floor to ceiling 40cm deep x 2.5m length of cupboards to put All The Crap in… maybe cork flooring, maybe Paint & Paper Library Plum Brandy on units, maybe white corian/quartz. Probably with some shots of intense colour (my bathroom has a wall of Cole & Son Miami Geometric II….) and something coppery, lots of plants. At that stage now where I’m wondering whether I should rip it up and start again (particularly ref Jayne’s comment on orientation….).

    Much of the roof will be pitched – any advice on best spots from anyone?
    Also – is going for engineered oak floor (extra wide board) a disaster waiting to happen? My builder says yes…

    How can I share more….?

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 31st May 2018 at 10:08 am

      The key to an island – or any piece of furniture like a table – is that it needs at least 1m clearance all round. Less feels pinched. Having said that we have 90cm at one end of ours and it’s fine but you want to have 100cm round the other sides if poss. The island can be narrow – standard is 60cm – that would be enough for the hob but you might want it longer to make space at the ends for spoons and stuff. Colours sound great and I love the floor – friends of mine have that – it’s fine. Builders are often v traditional in their approach. I think it sounds great.

      • Lucy 7th June 2018 at 10:29 pm

        Thanks Kate…. in the meantime I also spent a great couple of hours at Naked Kitchens – so helpful to see designs in the space. We did lots of measuring.

        The island has become a breakfast bar as it fits better. Colours still plum brandy and Temple from Paint & Paper Library, with some burnt orange. Great to hear re engineered oak. And…. I’ve ditched the builder.

  • emma aldous fountain 30th May 2018 at 1:41 pm

    I have just had my kitchen finished, open plan kitchen, dining and then tv snug. Island housing small sink and hot water tap (fabuuulus) then back wall with range cooker. no wall cupboards and only drawers. I’m very happy, took months of deliberation particularly on size of island, as keen for it not to dominate the room too much. Everything is handle less, graphite island and light grey back part of the kitchen and my hero piece is the beautiful modern handblown glass by the very lovely Curiousa and Curiousa. This is the only real bit of colour in the kitchen. Last deliberation is the tiles for the back wall. Its good to share!!! One last comment, we have a small sink on the island because we have a utility next to our kitchen so do all the messy boring stuff in there!

    • Kate 30th May 2018 at 4:43 pm

      It sounds lovely. My OH wants a hot water tap so good to know you like it. I’m leaning towards hob rather than sink on the island but that changes daily!

  • Mart Bandee 30th May 2018 at 10:21 am

    The three angles before deciding on what to do are really important. Really assists in planning, even if its a small makeover, I guess much thought should go there in order to have timely and cost effective end product. Very insightful article

  • Elaine Fraser 30th May 2018 at 8:14 am

    Im having a new kitchen installed this month. Work is already underway. However , having fallen in love with antiqued mirrored splash back ( I blame you Kate!) I can’t find any company in Scotland who can do this ( toughened). A London firm have given me an eye watering quote ( not including delivery). Struggling to think of alternative as had really set my heart on this and had basically designed style of kitchen with this mirrored glass as main feature. What to do? Any suggestions?

    • Kate 30th May 2018 at 2:00 pm

      What about distressed copper?

      • Elaine Fraser 31st May 2018 at 12:15 pm

        Wanted mirrored splash back as kitchen dark esp in summer when trees very close to house are in leaf. But also thought reflection of leaves and light would be very pretty. I also like distressed copper but had planned don pewter handles on units. Not having any walk units or even an extraction hood. Keeping it simple as possible – Im having a small pantry instead ( another roof your inspiring ideas!). Enjoying your blog very much always helpful and inspiring.

  • Susan 30th May 2018 at 7:35 am

    I know you didn’t ask me Kate, but I have a large island and it look lovely (very occasionally) when it is completely clear and can house a plant or flowers. You would never be able to do that if you had a sink. Plus you could never have stools next to a sink island? But I will defer to our expert now, -sorry!


  • Susan 30th May 2018 at 7:33 am

    who, what and when – what a fantastic idea-I have a lot of rooms to decorate and I never thought to ask myself these questions. I will now. Loved these ideas too, gorgeous, unfussy kitchens

    Thanks Kate

    • Kate 30th May 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Thank you Susan, I’m beginning to realise a sink wouldn’t work, unless I had some sort of hidden drainer! I’m untidy st the best of times!

  • Kate McCauley 30th May 2018 at 7:33 am

    What a timely subject, I’m just starting to plan the kitchen for our new open-plan kitchen, living, dining room. Do you think sink or hob on the island? I was thinking sink but as we’re not a family who does drying up I’m thinking that’d look too messy!

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 30th May 2018 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Kate, We have our hob on the island for exactly that reason. Ours is quite flush fit and looks great there and much tidier than a sink would.

      • Kate 30th May 2018 at 11:38 pm

        That’s sealed it, thank you!

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