Michael Holmes is one of the UK’s leading property experts. He has been the presenter of Channel 5’s I Own Britain’s Best Home and previously presented ITV1’s Don’t Move Improve and Build, Buy or Restore, for Discovery Realtime. Michael is also Editor in Chief of Real Homes magazine and Period Living. An experienced self-builder and renovator, Michael has recently completed his twenty-seventh project.
I was lucky enough to see Michael this weekend at the National Home Improvement Show speaking about inspirational kitchen and bathroom design. He shared some really valuable insights on how to go about designing the ideal kitchen from start to finish in a way that will give the ideal result for your space and lifestyle!
I was scribbling notes at max speed the whole time, and have tried to put it together in a way that makes sense below.
Kitchen design: Where to start?
Michael recommended that you ignore the tempting starting points such as a fancy cooker, a country style or a funky lighting fixture, and get the space right first.
First points to think about
- each function that will be happening in the space
- the layout that will work best
- natural light, views and access
- how it fits into the context of the house
- whether the layout will be formal or informal
Formal means the kitchen is tucked around a corner where you will cook and then bring the food out to a formal dining room. Informal means something like an open island kitchen, where you can cook and entertain and eat in the same space.
I would say the space in the image above is ‘semi-formal’, as the kitchen is still clearly delineated from the living and dining areas, but everything feels very open and accessible.
Functions in the space:
- living and entertaining
- working, homework and family organization
- laundry and utility
- open plan or sub-divided
- how will the dining area flow from the kitchen
- how to sub-divide the space, ie with a bank of floor to ceiling units, or an island fireplace?
- how much ‘display’ do you want, versus closed storage – depending on how tidy you are!
This kitchen has very little ‘display’ storage, with an open corner shelf and some glass-fronted cabinets, but otherwise everything is hidden away behind closed doors.
Next steps after you’ve figured out the space and layout basics are to a) work out how much you can spend and b) form a scrapbook of design ideas that you like, picking elements from each. A pendant light from there, flooring from another, a countertop layout from somewhere else, mix and match to make your perfect kitchen recipe!
Finding the space for a kitchen
Many old houses have tiny cramped spaces with an old ‘servants kitchen’ that is nothing near what people want for their modern family lifestyles.
Ideally you would be able to find more room than this eensy-weensy kitchen, but if not, you can still have a fabulous little space! Love the sheep skin rug in this one – good motivation not to get crumbs on the floor!
Michael gave a number of tips for maximizing or revising the floor plate of your house to fit in the kitchen space that you are dreaming of.
- converting a garage does not need planning and is sometimes a great option for a kitchen
- extending the house from the rear or side is a common option
- a basement extension or remodel can occasionally work as well
- possible to move a boiler outside or to the attic
- most interior changes don’t need planning permission
- can remove the ceiling to the attic to get a double-height space and perhaps expose some lovely beams
A good way to think about the layout is to look at the floor plan without the room labels on it and see where each room would work best. They don’t need to stay in the spots where they have historically been. Michael recommended considering adding or removing walls and doorways to change the links between the spaces and make everything flow.
Natural light, views and access
When planning the spaces and where walls will go or stay, think about bringing natural light in. Old houses with closed-in spaces often have no light in the middle rooms, so if you can bring light from the front or back, or perhaps add rooflights into a side extension, you can create a much brighter, more modern-feeling space. Ideally you can get natural light from more than one direction to get brightness at different times of day.
Natural light from two directions works well in this dark and rustic kitchen.
Allocate space, views, privacy and garden views accordingly to your priorities. For example, a space with no garden access can become the utility space or the kitchen, whereas the living and dining space benefit more from views and garden access for enjoying the outdoors during mealtimes and family time.
Also think about the key relationships between spaces – to make the functions run smoother. For example (it seems obvious but) the kitchen should always be next to the dining area for easy serving.
Next steps toward a dream kitchen
After the space is planned you should establish a budget, then make a wishlist of units, appliances and fittings. Also decide whether your style will be fitted with built-in appliances or free standing un-fitted pieces. The design style can be traditional or contemporary, high fashion or timeless. A timeless style works well with shaker-style doors – this way you can mix up the decor by just changing paint colours.
Some nice design options in these two images with the rug and the upholstered seating!
- choose a kitchen design that will suit the space and house
- make the design ergonomic so that you can work in it comfortably
- don’t squeeze in too much
- have more than one lighting circuit and treat the ‘zones’ as different rooms when considering lighting so that each space can be lit individually with mood, task and ambient lighting