The one area of the home I am asked about most frequently is the kitchen. This makes sense because it is probably one of the most significant costs in any home improvement, and it’s the place where people spend most time. Here are my answers to the three most frequently asked questions.
What colour and finish should I choose?
Because many kitchens are now part of an open-plan living space the choice of colour will set the tone for the entire room.
Gathering inspiration from social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest is a great place to start but not necessarily the best way to make your final decision. My advice is to visit as many showrooms as you can.
The images you see on Instagram and Pinterest have been carefully styled and cropped to look great. It can all be a bit misleading as in many cases the reality – especially when it comes to bolder colour choices – is completely different. The fabulous kitchen scheme you saw in the picture may not be so easy to live with.
Seeing finishes in-situ and being able to compare them next to each other is the only way to really experience a kitchen and gauge how you feel about it. I meet so many people who have gathered pictures of kitchens, convinced of their choice, only to change their mind once they start visiting showrooms.
When it comes to colour I would advise keeping it neutral. This doesn’t mean limiting yourself to white. Very dark shades such as navy and some greys are neutral too. A neutral shade will recede rather than dominate a space. This is really important in future-proofing your home as you’ll be able to easily update the look in years to come without having to change your kitchen.
Tiled, timber or laminate floors?
Flooring is another big consideration. The layout of your space will have a bearing here. For example, if your kitchen is part of an open-plan you might want to break up the floor finish by choosing tiles in the kitchen and utility areas, and timber in the living space. This is easy to do where there is a clear line separating one space from the other but if there is no natural break, selecting a finish can be more difficult.
My preference for kitchens is tiling, for a couple of practical reasons. Firstly, you don’t need to worry about spills or leaks. Tiles are also a great choice if your living space opens onto the garden. Other floor finishes such as timber can get quite worn and sun-damaged next to the doorways, but tiles are much more durable.
Secondly, tiles are the perfect partner for underfloor heating – the ideal heating solution in an open-plan space. Some people worry that tiles will be cold underfoot, especially where the finish runs into a living space, however, underfloor heating is the perfect solution.
But if you prefer the look and feel of timber I would recommend an engineered floor. This is different from a solid wood floor as it is made up of lengths of wood veneer on top of a layer of birch ply. Its composition makes it more stable than the solid wood variety which will tend to expand in an environment with lots of moisture. However, you do need to be prepared to look after it, especially around the sink area. Laminate is a very economic choice and there are some excellent products on the market now. There are also versions that are 100 per cent waterproof.
What countertop should I choose?
Your choice of countertop will come down to how durable you need your worktop to be, how much you’re prepared to look after it, and the amount you have to spend.
There are some fantastic laminates on the market now that realistically mimic other materials, including wood and granite, and are also available in any shape or colour, making them a fantastic alternative to stone or quartz at a fraction of the cost.
Quartz is an extremely robust and hygienic material. It’s easy to keep and comes in a huge range of colours. It is, however, the most expensive finish available.
Stone is a little less costly than the man-made alternatives and granite is probably the most popular choice because it is so hard-wearing and naturally heat-resistant. Marble is another popular choice but it is more porous than granite so will need to be looked after. Marble is also a very practical choice for anyone who does a lot of cooking. It is naturally heat-absorbing, so feels cool to the touch and is the perfect surface for making pastry as it prevents the dough from sticking.
If you are choosing stone or quartz and your budget allows, I would recommend running the stone or quartz up the wall as your splashback, this will avoid the need to introduce another finish and will give the kitchen a really high-end look.