1. Brainstorm likes, dislikes, needs and wants
Allow yourself several weeks to think about how you’d like to use your new kitchen - Ben says it’s often helpful to think in terms of what activities you want to perform.
You’ll obviously be cooking, for example, but do you envisage working alongside someone else - baking with a child perhaps or preparing a meal with your partner - which might entail multiple work stations at different heights? Are you keen to be able to interact with guests whilst cooking or to supervise younger children’s homework at a kitchen table? Is it important for you to have somewhere to display greenery, ambient foods and your favourite pieces of tableware?
Ben says that noting down the negatives about your current kitchen can be equally helpful, such as those hard to reach cupboards or the fact that you’re staring at a blank wall when using the sink.
Above all, Ben says this is the time for creating your wish list so gather together images, themes, materials, information on appliances, colour charts, styles – anything that appeals.
Don’t worry too much about budget at this stage as the unique - and affordable - look and feel of your kitchen will be refined over time with your designer.
2. Invest time in choosing the right designer
Depending on the complexity of the project, you could be working with your designer for up to 6 months so they need to be someone you can communicate easily and openly with - Ben advises interviewing several.
You should expect them to be able to answer questions relating to design, project management and finances. Ben suggests asking about their inspiration and thoughts on current design trends, whether they work with a limited portfolio of off-the-shelf designs or have the freedom to offer bespoke solutions and how many design concepts they would typically present.
It is important to understand how they will approach your project and what resources they will allocate to it along with lead times and overall timescales. Finally, they should confirm that they can work within your budget and have a robust supply chain.
3. Involve your designer at the earliest possible stage
Over 70% of Ben’s live projects involve knocking down walls to open-up kitchen spaces and talking this through with your architect, builder and kitchen designer at the planning stage will help enormously with major decisions such as how you want to deal with extraction and waste.
Ben, for example, is installing increasing numbers of hidden downdraft extractors which suction cooking vapours and odours away precisely where they arise – directly from the hob – but these normally involve work to the floor structure whilst the more traditional ducted-out extractors can require invasive work to ceilings – not something you want to be attempting to incorporate half way through a project.
Whist the trend towards open-plan living shows no sign of abating, Ben advises talking through the implications of knocking down walls with your team of professionals to establish how you want to use the space day to day. Undoubtedly, opening things up can create flowing, light filled spaces but they can also be noisy, expensive to heat and very active so require careful consideration to get right. The demand for separate utility/sculleries, walk in larders and boot rooms remains high, particularly in larger properties and Ben notes that the term ‘broken-living’ has come to describe the sort of compromise where elements such as counter tops, smart shelving or split levels are used to break-up larger spaces into smaller areas with a designated purpose.
4. Prioritise choosing your appliances
Ben explains that the choice of appliance will drive the entire project because their nature and placement will dictate the overarching style for the space.
It’s worth spending time thinking about whether you want freestanding or integrated appliances, what style appeals, the capacity required, and if you want to add in additional items such as a wine cooler, specialist water tap or under counter freezer drawers.
Increasingly, Ben’s team are being asked to include multiples of pretty much everything – dishwashers, freezers, ovens, even two islands with inbuilt appliances in the largest kitchens – so if you have the budget and space it’s worth considering how additional appliances might help achieve the lifestyle improvements you’re looking for.
5. Understand what you want to store
Prior to making any decisions about storage, Ben recommends making an inventory of all the items you have in your kitchen.
Whilst some of them may not feature in your plans such as the freestanding bin which you always intended to replace with a pull-out recycling station under the sink, most will need to be stored in such a way that your kitchen functions smoothly and looks good.
If you find that your list is chock-full of pots and pans then it would probably be a good idea to install some deep pot drawers which have dividers or fixings to separate pans and, crucially, stop you having to root around in the recesses of cupboards to find what you’re looking for. Or perhaps you like to grow and use fresh herbs in your cooking and would appreciate accessible, open shelving with natural light on which to display these plants and other greenery.
Whist there are an increasing number of clever storage solutions available to you, Ben cautions that the main purpose of your storage should be to simplify life, ensuring that the items you use most are readily accessible as and when you need them.
Ben Gane is the owner of Charter Walk Kitchen Living, specialists in German and bespoke kitchens with showrooms in Eashing and Haslemere, Surrey.
He has over 15 years kitchen design experience, working for companies such as Smallbone of Devizes and Artichoke, before setting up his own company in 2007. He lives in Grayshott with his wife May and three young children. If you would like to talk to Ben or one of his design team about your kitchen plans please telephone: 01428 644600 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org