Designing your dream kitchen

Designing a kitchen from scratch is a daunting task – especially when you’re working on a budget. If you’re not sure where to start follow the guidelines below, they’re packed with great expert advice

Getting started

“The best way to get going is to familiarise yourself with as many ideas as possible, from magazines, websites and showrooms to the kitchens of family and friends,” says Pieter Mathews of Mathews & Associates Architects.“Take a critical look at your current kitchen and try to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Analyse your lifestyle and family needs, and then draw up the space to scale using graph paper. You can cut out the appliances and move them around until you’re ready for some professional input. Not only will this give you a better feel for the existing space, but you’ll ultimately save a lot of time when approaching a designer or installer.”

Meeting your budget

“It’s important to remember that the interior of your kitchen is only part of the total spend,” says Claire Clarke of By Dezign Interiors.

“If you’re renovating and altering the layout, there’re bound to be bricks and mortar costs, as well as add-ons like electricians, plumbers and project managers.”

“As long as you’re not over-capitalising on your home, a good kitchen is probably the best investment you can make,” says Brian Slavin of Slavin & Company.“When working out your budget, choose your key appliances carefully – it’s worth paying for quality items that are used often. Where budget is limited, don’t forget that the more cupboards you include, the more it costs. Rather aim for necessary, practical cupboards and don’t use these for non-kitchen storage.”

“Choose an aesthetic that fits your budget,” advises Pieter Mathews. “Sleek kitchens and perfect joinery cost more. Lived-in kitchens with some free-standing pieces have more personality, and you can get away with less expensive finishes.”

Style counsel


“Adapting to the architecture of the house is a general rule of thumb, but you could consider a more eclectic approach which can be very satisfying if achieved successfully, such as a sleekly contemporary kitchen in a 1930s home,” says Brian Slavin.

“Your budget and storage requirements will also have a bearing on your chosen style,” adds Angie Hudson of Angie Hudson Designs.“For instance, a purely minimalist style won’t suit someone who wants to display masses of pots and crockery. It also helps to think about your appliances – are you drawn to the country-style look of an Aga oven, or to sleek, built-in stainless steel items?”

“Remember, you can fall out of love with a style as quickly as you fell in love with it,” cautions Pieter Mathews. “It’s a good idea to go for an understated look, and then bring in your current preference with accessories such as handles or bold colour accents.”

Optimising your layout

“The first step is to work out how you’re going to use your kitchen,” advises Pieter Mathews, “so think about food preparation, cooking, eat-in space, entertaining and storage. As far as possible, follow the conventional wisdom of having the smallest triangle between stove, sink and fridge. Busy chefs, for instance, will want a quick link between accessing ingredients, preparation/cleaning, and cooking. Remember to allow enough space around the hob to accommodate both the cook and passing traffic.”

Choosing the right finishes

Floors, countertops and taps tend to be the most-used items, so apart from style, consider the durability of each of these. High-quality laminates, whether for worktops or floors, remain an affordable solution.

“Finishes mostly come down to budget,” Pieter Mathews says, “but there are clever ways to incorporate expensive materials. For instance, coloured glass or glass mosaics can be concentrated in a smaller, focal area such as behind the hob.”

“It’s essential to understand how different surfaces function,” counsels Brian Slavin. “For instance, we wouldn’t usually recommend wooden worktops that are exposed to heat and water. And while stainless steel makes an excellent work surface, you need to know that it will scratch and show marks. Painted doors can be vulnerable to chipping, but a quality product should withstand most ordinary wear and tear, and can always be repaired if sourced through a reputable manufacturer.”

“Marble tops are a luxurious option if you’re the only person cooking, but they have a tendency to stain,” advises Claire Clarke. “When choosing flooring, consider whether you’re going to install under floor heating which will have a bearing on material choice and cost. Wood-look vinyl is a fantastic option as it’s waterproof, quiet and comfy underfoot.”