My response to a Telegraph article by an Interior Designer about How To Design The Perfect Kitchen On A Budget 25/4/13
The designer’s points are in italics and my response follows:
- “The critical point is that for a fitted kitchen to look fabulous you need a fabulous fitter. Do your research and take references; you will be rewarded”.
Well ‘fabulous’ isn’t a word I’d base my research on when looking for a ‘quality’ kitchen fitter but as it appears to be the catch-all description of most Interior Designers I work with, then I’ll forgive it’s use and agree that research and references are vital. I would add that another important consideration missing from this first point is the role of a specialist kitchen designer.
- 2. “Keep things simple. The most visually pleasing arrangements of cabinets consist of runs of either wide, deep drawers, or runs of floor-mounted cupboards only. But don’t mix the two in one run – it can look a mess. Likewise, beware of a jumble of full-height and wall- and floor-mounted units. Symmetry is your friend”.
The most visually pleasing arrangements are what you, as the client, convey to your kitchen designer. Of course, those in the business of design will offer their input and maybe you will buy into their visions but we must remember that one mans meat maybe another mans poison. There are no hard, fast rules on the configuration of your cupboards yet I’d prefer to use the word ‘balance’ over ‘symmetry’ and for this read ‘function over aesthetics’. It’s important to consider what cupboards you will make most use of rather than having something useless that’s pretty and that actually turns out to be pretty useless.
- “Never site an extractor fan between wall cabinets: it looks clumsy. Instead replace adjacent cabinets with open shelves. If the thought of all that dust brings out your OCD, conceal a canopy hood inside an adapted wall cabinet that has no bottom, rendering the appliance virtually invisible. By the way, the cheaper extractor fans are often made in the same factories as those that are more expensive, so it may not be worth spending a great deal of money on one”.
Open shelving adjacent an extractor can work well if cupboard space isn’t going to present you with much of an issue and you’re eager to find additional room for your ornamentals but to say that siting an extractor between concealed cupboards is clumsy and to then state that a better alternative is to hide it within a run of concealed cabinetry is a little contradictory. In one fell swoop, this point has reminded most kitchen owners and designers that they got it wrong and have to go back to the drawing board. It’s true that some appliances with different brand names are made in the same factory but being a little more specific on this would have proved more helpful to buyers. The website UK Whitegoods is operated by the guys on the frontline who work on repairing appliances daily. They pull no punches in telling you the best machines out there and who makes what. A visit to the site will give you a better insight and help you save a few bob in the process.
- When selecting your appliances, choose carefully. Forget about expensive brands, just buy basic white goods with an A+++ energy efficiency rating. These can be concealed behind cabinet fronts to match the rest of your kitchen.
Again, being more specific would have helped here. Encouraging buyers to ‘just buy basic’ isn’t helpful. Customer Service, After Sales, Warranties, Reputation and perhaps most important Build Quality are the factors that matter most and if you can find all these at a good price then it will prove cost efficient in the long term.
- “When it comes to slick modern kitchens, the key word is concealment. Undermounting a cheaper stainless-steel sink into your worktop will make it look more stylish and more expensive”.
Non-specific once more. Concealment really isn’t the key word. For those of you contemplating replacing your sink with an undermount in your laminate worktops, stop right there!! It won’t work and your worktops will be reduced to a soggy weetabix state within days. Undermount sinks only work well with non-porous worktops. Sure there are those that would tell you it can work well for laminate surfaces but I’ve yet to see a method that works well and is ‘cheap’. If concealment was the key word for modern kitchens then creative kitchen designers would have a pretty mundane task hiding integrated appliances, (not cheap), behind cupboard doors as opposed to incorporating classy products that can serve to break up the boring uniformity of it all.
- “One design trick is to fit the plinth (the ‘skirting board’ that floor units sit on) as far back as is possible. This will make your joinery appear cantilevered and ‘high-design’ “.
High design? Adapting cabinets not built for this purpose? Well I’m not sure about that but the implications of any alterations to cabinetry are worth looking into first. Most cabinets arrive with the plinth legs set an even distance from both the front and the rear of the cabinets. There’s reason for this, strength. Any further stress put upon the front end of the cabinet by resetting the legs further back will undoubtedly weaken that strength in use. Another consideration is the invalidity of any cabinet warranties that your kitchen comes with if you do.
Cantilevered cabinetry is high end and cabinetry of this ilk is high price and manufactured for the purpose of appearing unsupported.
- Spend your money where it counts most. Buy inexpensive carcasses from big DIY stores, Ikea or kitchen specialists such as Howdens and then have them fitted with bespoke doors and drawer fronts.
Now this is a point that interests me most. Essentially what is being encouraged here is to hang high quality doors onto cheap units. After banging my head against a brick wall after years of fitting cabinets of varying quality, I have to stress that what’s behind the doors matters more. The build quality of your cabinets is conducive to how long your kitchen will last you. Better to locate a kitchen cabinet manufacturer who builds a sturdy, solid carcass of 18/19mm construction and uses protective PVC edging to protect the vulnerable front edges. If you manage to get them at a reasonable cost – job done.
- A worktop is one of the most visible features so it is well worth spending money here. Honed granite (which has a flat low sheen without reflection) is both chic and durable, making it cost-effective too. To keep your top relatively lightweight order a slab that is about 20mm thick but ask for a mitred downstand (edging) of 70mm. This will make it look luxuriously thick. Consider using the same material for a splashback or choose painted glass.
It’s taken me till this point to somewhat agree and the single most important component in a kitchen is the worktop and yes, it is worth spending money here. Honed granite is one of the bespoke options available to buyers but there are many more such as Quartz, Acrylic Solid Surfaces and Stainless Steel.
However, laminates too can provide long term resilience if you bear these factors in mind. Quality – laminate worktops, like bespoke surfaces, can vary in quality. Choose a manufacturer recognised for its high quality and specification. Installation – correct installation is vital and it’s imperative that any areas vulnerable to water ingress are sealed correctly. Maintenance – never place hot pans on any surface without protection, use a chopping board and wipe up spills immediately after they occur are just some of the precautions that will extend the life of a worktop and help keep it looking good.
- Kitchen taps need to be good quality, but don’t go mad. Hansgrohe is ideal.
In short – there are many others.
- Sleek, modern kitchens are often ironmongery-free zones which makes them budget-friendly (beautiful handles and knobs are frequently a ‘hidden’ cost). The company Hafele (hafele.com) makes good-quality fitted closers and push catches. You can also have cupboard doors and drawer fronts constructed with integrated handles.
Handleless designs are becoming a more frequent sight in showrooms up and down the country but to equate them as being budget friendly is incorrect. What you may save on a handle is made up for in the cost of the push catch and its installation or on the fabrication of an integrated handle. Many others too, make quality kitchen fittings for this purpose.