East your heart out

The Suffolk kitchen in navy. Photo: PA Photo/Handout
The Suffolk kitchen in navy. Photo: PA Photo/Handout
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There’s no doubt kitchens are the centre of our homes, but although they’re the area we choose to spend the most time, either eating or socialising, it seems all too few of us have our ‘dream’ space.

Around 65% of Brits feel their current kitchen is far from ideal - with its inadequacies most exposed during the pressure-cooker stress of Christmas - and around a quarter struggle with a cramped or awkward shaped room, while 25% bemoan a lack of work surfaces, according recent research by Wickes.

Aside from the benefits of enjoying this space more - and potentially being able to cook up a storm - it could be worth reconsidering a refit on financial grounds alone, as it’s the most popular way to add value to a property, estimated by experts at around 15%.

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to choose a kitchen,” says Daniele Brutto of Hub Kitchens, specialists in Italian-inspired design. “ There are so many materials, colours and finishes in the market at the moment, but what’s important is focusing on what will work for you and your space. Pick something you like, which could be a particular wall colour, a floor tile or work surface texture and work outwards from there. Keeping one element at the heart of your design will make the whole process much more straightforward.”

Take comfort from the fact that size isn’t everything, according to Brutto, who says small spaces can still look stylish if a scheme is kept simple and every inch of space is exploited. “Custom-made cabinets can conceal day-to-day appliances when they’re not in use, while it’s also possible to maximise preparation areas by using worktops which cover sinks or extend.

“It’s all about marrying imagination with innovative design and creating a calm, relaxed environment, where it’s a pleasure to work and play.”

See what’s on the menu for kitchens this year, and choose your own individual style recipe...

MODERN MENU

Shades of grey or cool blue will give a kitchen an ultra-modern look and can be enlivened with either a colourful splashback, or add a warming glow with copper metallic accessories.

“The general trend still continues for the kitchen to literally be the heart of the home, and grey is still a massive colour trend, whether it’s used for unit fronts or even grey grouting in between tiles,” says Wickes design consultant, Simon Burton.

“A kitchen has to be a practical, user-friendly space, but is also regarded as an area to socialise, so open-plan designs, incorporating a kitchen and dining/living area, are still a top choice. One great way to enhance a social feel is to have built-in music speakers.”

DECOR TIP: Lighting plinths and under cabinets, as well as zoning islands and peninsulas with pendants, easily allows a mood to adapt from cooking to entertaining or relaxing. Wickes Flexi LED Kitchen Strip Light Set, £100, can be fixed to the underside of units or pelmets. Cloudberry Living has a grey Northern Lighting Acorn Pendant, £285.

STYLE RECIPE: A handsome Tiverton Slate solid oak kitchen, with a deep grey finish, is bang on trend and starts from £3,400 (based on an eight unit example), Wickes. If your taste is more contemporary, Betta Living’s Horizon kitchen, in anthracite, starts from £4,899 and is handle-less, which is increasingly fashionable and conjures a sleek look.

If you want to take a kitchen with you when you move, or need to make the most of a compact space, invest in a sleek standalone Vision kitchen from Rational, which start at £3,000 (excluding appliances). For a finishing flourish, add a Copper White Wall Clock, £55, Rigby & Mac (re-stocked February).

WALK IN THE WOODS

Natural materials rule in decor, and showcasing rich wood grain and stunning stone worktops - marble through to slate - brings personality and ultimate luxury to a room.

“The real trend at the moment for finishes is subtle, textural differences to give real depth, which will break up the monotone nature of surfaces. We’re going to see more use of natural exotic stones such as marble, slate and granite,” says Brutto.

“We’ll see an even greater emphasis on the use of natural timbers, and there are some amazing timber veneers coming onto the market, which give cabinetry a rich, warm feel. The trend for mixing and matching veneers with harsher surrounds, such as concrete, steel and iron, will also feature strongly this year.”

DECOR TIP: A recent survey by property agents Strutt & Parker revealed that nearly 16% of people place an island kitchen, or one with a peninsula, at the top of their wish-list when seeking a new home. As a guide, designers recommend a walkway of at least one metre on all sides of an island, and often more for ease-of-use. A Hub kitchen, incorporating an island, starts from £40,000.

STYLE RECIPE: Curved lines, natural timbers and painted finishes are showcased in a Canterbury solid oak, hand-painted kitchen, with bespoke engraving of drawer categories, from around £35,000, Davonport. If that’s beyond the budget, Betta Living’s Shaker kitchen design, in oak, starts from £5,186.

Free-standing pieces can conjure a more informal atmosphere, and Marks & Spencer’s Padstow range includes a Wine Rack in an oak veneer and painted finish, reduced to £439.20 from £549.

Utility lighting’s all very well but for glamour, you can’t beat a chandelier. The Leila, reduced to £250.75 from £295, is one of the beauties from The Chandelier & Mirror Company. Islands and peninsulas call for casual seating and you can bag a designer bargain at Voga: a Series 7 Barstool, inspired by Arne Jacobsen design, in laminated plywood and beech, £212.

A PERFECT BALANCE

Mixing modern and old-style materials, and using accents of black and charcoal to add definition, achieves a chic look which suits a country ‘kick off your wellies’ setting, just as much as an edgy industrial-style urban loft.

“We believe a successful kitchen should feel like an organic part of a home, not a bolt-on or trend-conscious space. Instead, it should be a zone in harmony with our style and taste, and designed to totally suit our lifestyle. Contrast in colour or texture is particularly effective, for instance, rough brick set against a plaster wall, or a tiled effect below an open raftered ceiling,” says John Sims-Hilditch, managing director at Neptune.

“This timeless look has enduring appeal, never goes out of fashion and looks better as it ages. Breaking up a run of wall cupboards with open shelving or glass-fronted upper cabinets is a useful design option, creating fluidity and an impression of more space.”

DECOR TIP: Door and drawer fronts will make or break a room. The three main factors to consider are style, colour and handles - but don’t overlook practicality in your desire for a particular look. For instance, for high wall cupboards, mechanical flip-up doors might be more suitable and larger handles are easier to grasp. And bear in mind that high-gloss finishes may show marks and fingerprints, plus matt finishes are a trend-savvy choice this year.

STYLE RECIPE: Neptune’s Chichester kitchen, from £8,000, is a simple design which blends classic lines with traditional details and crisp silhouettes, and can be painted in any colour of choice, while the company’s Suffolk kitchen, from £9,000, is based on an East Anglian tradition of furniture-making and its characteristics include generous proportions, carved oak shelves and ample base cabinet units.

Harvey Jones’ bespoke kitchens range includes a Shaker design, which starts from £18,000. It features simple panelling detail and can be painted or designed in an oak or walnut finish.

Bring the outdoors in with collections of plants or herbs, faux or real, to suit this relaxed setting. Ikea’s range of Fejka artificial plants, £6 each, in assorted styles, look great.

KITCHEN CALLS

Betta Living: 0808 163 1524/bettaliving.co.uk

Cloudberry Living: 0330 123 3301/cloudberryliving.co.uk

The Chandelier & Mirror Company: 01892 541 355/chandeliersandmirrors.co.uk

Davonport: 0845 468 0025/davonport.com

Harvey Jones: 0800 389 7365/harveyjones.com

Hub Kitchens: 020 7924 2285/hubkitchens.com

Ikea: ikea.com

Marks & Spencer: 0333 014 8000/marksandspencer.com

Neptune: 01793 427 300/Neptune.com

Rational: 01543 459 459/rational.de/en

Rigby & Mac: 020 8761 1011/rigbyandmac.com

Voga: voga.com

Wickes: 0330 123 4123/wickes.co.uk