Tips to get the most important room right

I received a question from a reader asking me to share some pictures and ideas about my kitchen.

She told me she was in the middle of a home revamp herself: “Congratulations on your beautiful home.

“I have been looking for images of your kitchen everywhere. I love it. I am in the middle of a renovation and would greatly appreciate it if you would share some images of your kitchen or even the materials you used?”

Dear reader, thank you for your question and kind words.

As my reply grew in length I realised I have a lot of thoughts to share on kitchen design and so I decided to make it the topic for this week’s column.

The kitchen was the most important area for me to get right. Everything else in this space — the living room, dining room, and garden — was designed after the kitchen had been finalised. I really believe the kitchen is the heart of the home.

I love baking and cooking and so I spend a lot of time in it. I also put a lot of thought into the layout and design, and so I hope you find the following helpful.

LAYOUT

I was adamant that my kitchen would not have overhead cabinets. In this small area (my kitchen is approximately 6.5 square metres) I feel they would have made the space claustrophobic.

It was important to me to have a sense of openness at eye level so that the room felt larger and spacious.

This required carefully planning storage in the remaining space available, which I will cover later.

I also chose a down-draught extractor hob (Bora Pure — love it) so that I wouldn’t have to install an overhead extractor fan.

The temptation would have been to put in a traditional U-shaped kitchen against the three walls here, which many kitchen suppliers proposed as I was shopping around, however that layout felt tight and cramped to me.

It also would have forced me to lose one of the sliding doors, which bring so much light and openness into this space, and which I love to throw wide open in summertime to bring the outside in.

So after many iterations the ideal layout was finally made possible, thanks to Dawn Guidera in Savvy Kitchens.

I have no overhead cabinets or extractors.

I have the peninsula which offers excellent countertop space and creates a separation from the dining area.

And that means I can have my lovely second sliding door to bring in all the lovely sunshine we get here in Ireland. The small space feels open and airy without having lost functionality or storage.

STORAGE

Eschewing overhead cabinets meant being extra clever with the remaining space, and so here are my top tips for creating storage in the kitchen:

Go floor to ceiling

Assuming you don’t have extra high ceilings, it makes absolute sense to fill the gap traditionally left above kitchen cabinets. 

There is plenty of available space left over above full-sized kitchen appliances such as fridge freezers. This is the place to store your lesser-used bulky items — just remember to buy a stepladder.

Use the corners

Corner units offer plenty of space, and pull-out Le Mans units are excellent for giving easy access to that awkward area.

Try pocket doors

Pocket doors slide back into themselves allowing you easy access to shelves and additional countertop space. I cannot recommend these highly enough.

Don’t ignore narrow spaces

Most kitchen units are standard sizes, and so that can mean you end up with some gaps as these units are fitted into your space.

Typically these are panelled over but this is a waste.

I have a 10cm space beside my fridge which has instead been turned into a broom cupboard, and I cannot tell you how much stuff I am able to squeeze in here.

Use open shelves

Rather than being behind closed cabinet doors, I have open shelving for glassware and books. I also have a peg rail above the hob which provides hanging storage for items such as pots and pans, without taking up space.

MATERIALS

The style of my kitchen was the last thing I considered. I wanted a bold colour, and I wanted a cottage feel balanced with a modern style.

Had I the budget I would have chosen real wood panelling, but I didn’t, so I have instead mimicked the look using MDF doors with a V-groove carved in. I also would have splashed out on solid wood cabinet interiors with dovetail joints, but again this was out of budget so I have more MDF which does the job adequately.

My cabinets are painted with Railings by Farrow and Ball, and I also had the interiors of my pantry shelves painted India Yellow (also by F&B) which adds an extra splash of colour when opened. The paint is finished with a matte top coat, which adds a sophisticated finish and makes the panelling appear more realistic (I think anyway).

My countertop is Delecatta Carrara Quartz (from Full House in Limerick via Savvy Kitchens).

Some say you can’t use Cif or bleach on quartz but I’ve been using both with abandon and so far so good. It is a sturdy and easy to clean countertop and I’m very happy with it.

Other options that I considered (out of my budget at the time) were an engineered stone like Neolith — virtually indestructible — or a polished terrazzo countertop.

Finally my kitchen backsplash is Zellige tiles from the Mosaic Factory.

At first glance these may appear hard to clean as the surface is uneven, but in fact they are ideal as there is barely any grout between them and they have a smooth surface. I adore them!

My final tip on materials is the sink — I have a standard stainless steel sink in gunmetal grey, and it is a dream to keep clean. I was talked out of getting a beautiful Belfast sink for this very reason, for which I am now thankful.

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