Elisa Cook | Woodside Park Kitchen Design

How do I choose my kitchen style?

I’m often asked about where to even begin when starting to think about a new kitchen.  The first question most people ask is whether to go traditional or modern.

Traditional kitchens usually refer to a Shaker style of door.  Shaker kitchens can have a plant on door where the door is placed directly on the carcase or be in-frame where the door sits within an actual frame.  Both options are lovely, although the in-frame option usually allows for you to also have some further traditional accents such as butt hinges and a moulded plinth.  Budget can often be a consideration here as an in-frame kitchen will likely be more expensive than a shaker kitchen with a plant on door.

A modern kitchen usually is referring to a slab door style which can come in a variety of finishes – painted, laminate, gloss, veneer, concrete, glass – to name a few.  Again, within this category, there are two main options.  The first would refer to a simple plant on door which allows you to select your own handles or the German style handleless kitchen where a metallic rail is built into the carcase and replaces the need for handles.  Budget wise, there is usually little difference between the two.  It’s a personal preference that would be the reason for choosing one over the other.

There are so many wonderful options in both styles.  Putting together a new kitchen can be a very daunting prospect.  However, I want to assure you that it doesn’t have to be stressful and you can be confident that you will put together a beautiful scheme that you will be happy with for many years to come.  Here are a few tips to help you to get started and to make the right style choice for your space.


  1. Let the space dictate your scheme. For instance, I installed a Georgian basement kitchen with very low ceilings and little natural light.  An unfussy, white, high gloss, handleless scheme worked beautifully here as it allowed light to bounce around the room and made the room feel more spacious overall.  Conversely, I’m currently working on the darkest green traditional shaker painted kitchen with black worktops and tiles and even a black carcase.  This is going in a Victorian home with huge windows and extra high ceilings and this scheme is working brilliantly in this space.  There are lots of other ways to let your space dictate your scheme.  For example, if you are having a kitchen extension with big glass sliding or bi-folding doors with the goal of bringing the outdoors in, then a scheme in fresh muted natural colours and textures can work really well here as can including open shelving to display little plants and flowers to follow through that concept.


  1. Think about whether there is something in your existing space that you are very keen to include in your new kitchen. My client is having an open plan kitchen extension.  She has an existing fireplace with a black marble surround she wants to keep.  She also has a white modern oval dining table with multi-coloured plastic moulded dining chairs which will be staying in the new kitchen.  This absolutely dictates the scheme beautifully.  We’ve matched her fireplace surround to an exquisite black granite that will serve as the worktop.  In turn, we are making the island cabinetry jet black to make the worktop pop.  The rest of the kitchen will have white cabinetry to produce a beautiful monochrome scheme.  The very modern dining table has again led us to a modern handleless kitchen.  We have the multi-coloured chairs around the dining table to influence all of the colourful accents and accessories throughout the rest of the room.


  1. While focussing on a piece of furniture that you already have can be a good place to start, this leads nicely to my next point which is to proceed with caution when doing so. It only really works when you love that piece of furniture and you absolutely want to keep it.  If you really don’t care for it but feel that you ought to keep it usually because it is new-ish and was expensive to buy in the first place, proceed with caution.  It’s unlikely it owes you anything and it’s a great shame to let your entire new kitchen that you’ll have for many years to come be dictated by something you don’t even like that much.  Besides, isn’t that what eBay is for?


  1. If you love a colour, but feel nervous about having your cabinetry in that colour, then think about accents such as tiles in a bold colour, a glass backsplash etc.


  1. Let your scheme evolve organically. I’m not talking about taking a walk in the countryside, although that is a nice way to rid yourself of some renovation stress.  Instead, browse magazines and look at lights, soft furnishings, accessories, handles, tiles.  Make a note or take photos of things you like.  All of these things can help to influence your scheme.  For example, if you find a pendant light you absolutely love, you’ll be able to see quickly enough what colour cabinets might work best with that.  Similarly, if the same light is very modern in style, you’ll then likely want to place that within a modern cabinetry scheme etc.  It’s amazing what a couple of field trips to a good department store and somewhere like Goodge Street can do to help you develop your ideas for your room.


  1. The accessories are what people will notice when they come into your kitchen. Before you decide on traditional or modern, it can be worth first choosing your worktop, a beautiful floor, handles etc.  These are all what will make your kitchen pop and could ultimately lead you to the perfect traditional or modern kitchen scheme.


  1. Make a mood board on Houzz and Pinterest. You’ll probably end up saving 100 plus photos, but you’ll come back time and again to one or two images that you love the most and these will be instrumental in helping you choose your kitchen style.


  1. Lastly, get comfortable with the decisions you make. Whether you ultimately decide to go traditional or modern, it will be the right choice.  I promise you won’t go wrong, so relax and enjoy the ride of designing your kitchen!



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