Planning a new kitchen can be extremely challenging, but it can also be rewarding. The question is that if you have never done this before, where do you start?

Before you do anything, sit down and work out exactly what you need from your kitchen. For example, some people only use a kitchen for cooking, while others need it to double up as a laundry. If this is the case, ask yourself whether you can configure the kitchen so that a separate, smaller area leads from it where you can accommodate a washing machine and other laundry appliances and items like an ironing board. If you are one of those people – or families – who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, eating or even socializing here, your approach will be quite different. You will need space for a freestanding table or, at very least, a built-in counter with bar stools where you can eat.

Once you have decided on function, you can decide on the approach you are going to take. This involves fundamental issues that range from the basic layout of the kitchen, to any style you may want to follow. From here you can start costing items and deciding whether you are going to employ a professional kitchen company to do the work for you, or whether you are going to do the hard work yourself. A compromise would be to get a professional company (or manufacturing outlet) to make up custom units and for you to install them yourself. This can work well, provided you have the necessary skills. If you are going to employ the services of a company, or individual, specializing in kitchen installations, it is still a good idea to know what you want before you get quotations.

If you’re stuck for ideas and really don’t know where to start, have a look at Internet sites (like this one) that show photographs of different kitchens, and look for magazines and books that are well illustrated, with up-to-date ideas. You will probably find that you instinctively like some ideas and not others. Another good idea is to visit show houses and showrooms where you can see and touch what is available. Try to gauge prices so you know what you can expect to pay, and whether you are going to realistically be able to afford what you think you want. It is essential to have a clear idea of budget from the start so that you can ensure your new kitchen fits into the budget, and if it doesn’t, whether you are able to increase it or whether you need to find ways to cut costs.

Once you have established what your personal priorities are, and you have a fairly clear picture in your mind of what you want, you will need to work out costs. This is a vital part of planning a new kitchen. To be able to do this, you will need to decide which appliances you need to buy and exactly how you are going to fit the kitchen out. This means establishing the type of fittings – for example cupboards, cabinets or open shelves – and their finish, as well as how many of each you need.

So, at this point it’s back to the drawing board. If you are using a professional company for the kitchen, or even just getting quotations, they should give you a preliminary plan of what the kitchen will look like, based on your requirements. If you are going to fit your own kitchen, either from scratch or with knock-down units, you will have to draw your own plan. If you use common sense and follow basic design principles, you shouldn’t find this difficult.

The size of the kitchen and its shape will determine, to a large degree how you will lay it out. Typical configurations include galley kitchens, which are long and narrow and where units are positioned on opposite walls; U-shaped kitchens where three walls are used; and L-shaped kitchens where two walls that meet at right-angles are fitted with units of some sort. The open plan approach, where the kitchen becomes part of the general living space, can work with both U-shaped and L-shaped kitchens. Or the entire kitchen can become a living room of sorts.

Most efficiently designed kitchens incorporate a work triangle which entails a logical inter-relationship between the cook’s three main aids, the:

  1. stove,
  2. refrigerator, and
  3. sink

All this really means is that whoever is working in the kitchen needs to be able to move between these three “aids” easily. They won’t always form a perfect triangle by any means. For example a sink and refrigerator may be positioned along the same wall and the stove on the other. In the case of a kitchen established along one single wall, all three would be in a line, but not right next to one another. If your kitchen is going to include an island unit, it might be best to incorporate either the sink or a hob for the triangle to be effective.

Just remember that the stove and refrigerator should never be positioned right next to one another. This is largely because the one is made for heating and the other for cooling, and if placed alongside one another, they will not operate to maximum efficiently. Also, it is best to have some sort of working surface on either side of both the stove and the sink.

Corners can be a particular challenge, especially where two cabinets meet at the corner, because it is often difficult to get right into the corner. Investigate what space-saving fittings are available, for example those that rotate.

Other factors to bear in mind when planning a new kitchen include:

  • making sure there is enough space for people to walk through the kitchen easily (even if there is a central island),
  • positioning tall units at the ends of ordinary counters,
  • checking the direction in which cupboard and cabinet doors open, so that they don’t get in the way of one another and they open easily,
  • making use of all possible wall space, either by hanging cupboards or some sort of open shelving, or by incorporating taller units or freestanding furniture like dressers,
  • planning your work surfaces carefully so that you have sufficient space for every possible task and
  • making sure that essential services that relate to both plumbing, electrics and gas are correctly installed and in the right place.
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