Elisa Cook | Kitchen Basics

Kitchen basics

Buying a new kitchen? Where to begin?

When you buy a new kitchen, where do you start? It seems like a minefield out there and we all get a bit scared that we might get it wrong. Gloss or matt? Handles or handleless?  Neutral or bright?  Modern or traditional? Granite, quartz or corian? Tiles or glass?  The list of options seems endless at times. Okay, take a deep breath. It’s not so complicated and I assure you that you won’t get it wrong.

My advice when thinking about a new kitchen is to find something that gets you excited.  For example, rather than striding into a showroom and starting to think about cabinet ranges, flick through a couple of interiors magazines and mooch around a department store and take a look at lights, cushions, fabrics. Is there a colour scheme that makes you feel good? Maybe you have something at home that you really love that inspires your scheme.  This is where your starting point should come from.

One of my clients fell in love with a simple teal glass pendant light shade which was the starting point for her scheme. With this, we matched it to a pale grey handless modern scheme with a white granite flecked with pale grey. The teal pendant became three pendants which hung above her breakfast bar and really stood out beautifully amongst the grey and white modern scheme. Choosing your scheme should be a pleasurable process and finding something you feel an affinity to is a great place to start.  If your kitchen is going to sit in an open plan space, I do often think a really good place to start is to speak to an interior designer who can produce a simple mood board for you.  While that might sound like quite the luxury, there are an increasing number of interior designers out there who can make you a virtual mood board with great suggestions and really bring your overall scheme to life for a relatively small cost.

What constitutes a good quality kitchen?

There are some wonderful kitchen brands that produce exquisite and bespoke, solid wood cabinetry ranges that masters of carpentry are able to provide to the lucky few.  However, for the majority of kitchen brands that you’ll find in the high street showrooms, there are very few differences in quality that generally aren’t significant enough to justify such a wide differentiation in kitchen price tags. The general consensus is that a good, solidly built, long-lasting kitchen should encompass the following:

  • Carcasses that are 18mm thick and made from Egger board
  • A beautiful finish to the doors and panels
  • The option to have doors and carcasses in the same material or colour
  • The best quality hinges – particularly Blum soft close
  • Blum drawer boxes
  • Kessebohmer wirework and storage solutions in le mans, magic corner and pull out larders
  • A good range of cabinet sizes available and the opportunity to have something adjusted or specially made if needed
  • Units that are rigidly constructed, not flat pack

The reality is that many kitchen brands have all of these important components.  So, how do you choose the right brand? It’s all too easy to be dazzled by beautiful showrooms with claims of superiority of quality over other brands. To the untrained eye, this may seem to be the case. With cute but pointless little insignias carved into the hinges, a bunch of internal drawer compartments to play with that you don’t in reality need, more glass shelving options that frankly need dusting every 5 minutes or some lovely internal cabinet lighting options to aid you in the unlikely event that you can’t tell the knives from the forks in the drawer, it certainly would appear that you are getting oh so much more for your money. It is very easy to get carried away and buy into the hype.

I would implore you to think about the practicalities of every day life and what you will and won’t actually use in your kitchen. It could end up saving you a lot of money. I’m not trying to be a party-pooper. If you fall in love with a particular range of all-singing, all-dancing cabinets from a particular showroom, then go ahead and enjoy your kitchen with my blessing. Certainly some brands are just visually more appealing than others and that’s okay. All I would ask is that you consider what constitutes a decent, well-made kitchen and be knowledgeable about what it actually is that you may or may not be getting for the extra expense.

Investing in a new kitchen is a process!

Purchasing a kitchen isn’t just about buying a bunch of nice units and accessories.  It is important to recognise that buying a kitchen is a process. As much as good quality raw materials are important, there are many other important areas to consider.

You need to have a great design as a starting point and it is important to find someone who will work with you collaboratively to create your perfect space. Its not just about getting the measurements and seeing what fits. It is essential that you work with someone who understands what you need, who will make suggestions to best suit your taste and lifestyle and can give you impartial advice about the many types of units, appliances, counters and flooring that would work best for you. It should be a collaborative effort where designs are tweaked and reworked and where the client doesn’t feel rushed to make a final decision.

Equally important is a great kitchen fitter. Make sure you get recommendations from someone who has used your fitter. Ideally, it is helpful if you can also see some of their work too.  If you can’t find anyone you like, “Which Local” is also a great place to start. It’s so worth getting an online subscription to access this type of information.  Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to choosing a kitchen fitter. The most expensive kitchen in the world can look like it came from a car boot sale in the wrong hands while a cheap and cheerful kitchen can look uber expensive in the safe hands of a great kitchen fitter.

Finally, whatever type of kitchen you are buying, make sure you purchase your kitchen from a company with exemplary customer service. You want helpful advice, efficient delivery and if you have any problems, you want to know that whoever you brought it from is going to help you to remedy the problem without issue. Again, get as many personal recommendations as you can.

What are the essential purchases for a beautiful and practical kitchen?

Buy the best counter you can afford. Granite and quartz make the cheapest kitchens look expensive. Virtually indestructible, a solid stone surface should last forever.  To avoid overspending here, you may want to look at alternatives to the kitchen showroom as a good stonemason will doubtless have everything you need including a good templating and fitting service.  Corian is also very popular and provides a seamless look with no visible joins and even moulded sinks.

Research appliances before you buy. Don’t assume the most expensive is the best, but make sure you know the strengths and weaknesses of a product before you buy it. You can find plenty of helpful reviews on the internet. I am a big fan of www.which.co.uk for unbiased reviews. Try to think about what you will actually use in your kitchen.  Some surplus luxury appliances may seem tempting, but do question what use they will be. I have a warming drawer that rarely sees any food. However, my instant hot water tap is definitely a luxury appliance, but it sees more action than any other appliance in my kitchen.  In my opinion, it’s a must have item.

Beautiful flooring is another important feature not to be overlooked. Porcelain tiles are a fantastic conductor for underfloor heating.  I also love the Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) products that are so popular now such as Amtico, Karndean and KwikStep.  Both the porcelain tiles and LVT options come in a plethora of looks including wood planks and marble.

If you have any more questions or would like to make an enquiry to see if I can help you with your project, please do not hesitate to get in touch.