10 expert tips for designing your kitchen

For more kitchen design inspiration, read our guide to the best kitchen wall art for foodies and our favourite home coffee bar ideas.


10 top tips for designing your kitchen

1. Think about your lifestyle

“I would say to anyone who is planning their kitchen to firstly think about what kind of lifestyle they imagine for themselves in the space,” says chef Jun Tunaka. When you’re at the start of a kitchen redesign, considerations of how you’ll use the space will affect the plans you make. Do you want to entertain a crowd? Maybe you’ll need space for a big table, or an island so you can chat as you cook. Are you a passionate baker? Maybe you’ll want space for a proving drawer by your oven.

Jun Tanaka - A Kitchen to Covet

Jun Tanaka’s kitchen


2. Examine the flow

Chef Abby Mambow says, “I was thinking first and foremost about how I cook and the flow I require”. The resulting kitchen is colourful and open-plan, with a central island, large oven and plenty of storage. Restaurateur Kwoklyn Wan encourages “taking time to think about how you move around your kitchen” – things like the journey between the fridge, oven and sink as you cook, to eliminate wasted steps. Also, consider where the natural light will be at different times of day and how this will affect where you want to be.

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Abby Mambow’s kitchen


3. Do your research, then make a decision

The world of kitchen design can be overwhelming, so take your time to research before you start. Find styles, shapes, colours and materials that you like. If you can make decisions before you begin rather than as you go, it can save you a lot of time. Author Chetna Makan warns about over-researching, though: “Once you’ve found it, stop! You can keep looking forever, making decisions more difficult, so it’s best to stop when you’re happy.”

Chetna Makan kitchen

Chetna Makan’s kitchen


4. Consider size

Food writer and photographer Alistair Hendy has simple advice for anyone designing a kitchen: think outsized. He follows the principle of having fewer things and making sure that what you do have is big enough to easily serve its purpose: “a big sink, a big drainer, a big cooker, a big fridge. Have one big storage area for a pantry, with narrow shelves so you can see and get to everything”. This saves on clutter and doesn’t mean you need a big kitchen. For example, if your kitchen is small, your prep table can double as your dining table.

Alistair Hendy's large kitchen island

Alistair Hendy’s large kitchen island and cupboard storage


5. Be practical

A kitchen should be a living space, not a museum. After the effort of building and designing, you don’t want to be too scared to use it. Alistair Hendy suggests using “materials that improve with age – things get scratched, scarred and knocked. There’s nothing more ridiculous than a worktop too precious to use”.

Alistair Hendy's practical stone sink

Alistair Hendy’s practical stone sink


6. Don’t forget lighting

When designing a kitchen, you can be so busy planning cabinets and counters that you forget to look up. Interior designer Abigail Ahern says lighting is “one of the least considered components but makes the biggest difference”. Get inspired by doing as much research up front as you can. From subtle recessed lighting to statement pendants there’s a lot of choice – here Ahern has mixed forms with two statement chandeliers alongside scattered table lamps.

Abigail Ahern's Kitchen

Abigail Ahern’s kitchen


7. Short on space? Go vertical

In a small kitchen, you have to get creative with storage. For chef Harriet Mansell, this meant “as much shelving as would fit without overwhelming the space”. Taking inspiration from the practicalities of tight professional kitchens, this approach provides easily accessible storage for ingredients and kit. Likewise, baker Edd Kimber added custom shelving to store baking ingredients, while food writer Shivi Ramoutar has tall cupboards full of storage jars.

Harriet Mansell

Harriet Mansell’s shelving


8. Don’t be afraid of colour

It’s easy to stick to neutral patterns of white, wood or metallics when designing a kitchen – but don’t be afraid of a splash of colour. This can add personality and warmth to your kitchen. Colour can come in any form – painted cabinets, a statement backsplash, colourful appliances, tableware or even a colour-coded cookery book collection. For food writer Claire Thomson, a bright yellow Everhot oven is a “bonkers pop of sunshine”. Writer Stevie Parle says “colour is super-important to me” in the kitchen, and has an equally bright pop of yellow from a painted double doorframe opening out into the garden.

Stevie Parle's kitchen - the yellow door is a focal point for the eye

Stevie Parle’s kitchen – the yellow door is a focal point for the eye


9. Storage, storage, storage

Charlie and Chloe Luxton, owners of the Beckford Restaurant Group, have one clear top tip: “our advice would be to think about storage, storage, storage – and keep things you use a lot at a decent height, so you are not bending over too often”. If you’re a keen cook, make sure your kitchen plans give you enough counter space to prepare meals and enough storage – cupboards, above or below counters, shelves, hooks, a pantry or kitchen island – for equipment, ingredients and kit. We love chef Ben Tish’s clever rail above his sink for easily storing pans and tools.

Ben Tish - A kitchen to Covet

Ben Tish’s kitchen storage


10. Make it coherent

Another top tip from interior designer Abigail Ahern: make your kitchen feel more coherent by subtly linking and tying in finishes. For example, “quartz or marble countertops with some bowls in the same finish, or bar stools upholstered in a similar hue as your backsplash”. Even in a maximalist kitchen, this helps create a unified space and can be the finishing touch that completes your kitchen redesign.

Abigail Ahern - Kitchen

Abigail Ahern’s kitchen

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