Let me start by saying – I am not an interior designer, but I am an avid cook. I love, love, LOVE cooking. I have also cooked in many different kitchens and designed three of my own. So while I might not be stylish, I am practical and I actually cook. Which is more than I can say about many of the people who are supposed to help you design your kitchen. What has frustrated me more than anything when designing a kitchen, is that every time I’ve spoken with a kitchen designer (a.k.a. the person supposed to help me), they don’t like cooking. I fail to see how you can be a kitchen designer, if you don’t cook. My husband tries to placate my frustration with reminders that they are there to guide colour choice, etc… but if that’s the case – they shouldn’t question my practical choices.
This blog post won’t focus on all the pretty-pretty you’ll get from interior design blogs. This is for the cooks out there. These are the design considerations that usually aren’t covered in other kitchen design websites.
Be like a Bower Bird and collect
Yup. Simple as that. And this is probably the one piece of advice you’ll find on most design blogs. So be it Pintrest or Magazines, collect inspiration. I also take photos on my phone, when I see odds and ends when I’m out, and store them in a folder on my phone called (no surprises) ‘House’. Colours, textures, lines, layouts and appliances. Collecting pictures of what you like will help you identify your style. Even if you think you don’t have ‘style’, we all have ‘a’ style.
Apparently my preferred colour palette is ‘greige’. It’s a cross-between beige (supposedly favoured by ‘older’ people which I get the feeling from our interior stylist also makes it outdated, although she wouldn’t be quoted as saying such) and grey. Grey is a little closer to being trendy. Trendy seems to be greatly influenced by what the 20 to young 30 year olds like – which, apparently, is all about the black and white at the moment. I keep saying apparently because I don’t really care and it’s all what I’ve been told. However, that didn’t stop me from being flattered when I was told the this ‘greige’ is very Hamptons… which I took to mean that it is luxurious and sophisticated?!? I’m thinking the house from Revenge and Martha Stewart Living (her house is in the Hamptons, right?) I thought we tended more toward the Scandinavian colour palette with loads of white and fairly minimal, but I’m happy to go with Hamptons. Hamptons style (I’ve since googled) seems to have a lot of ‘stuff’ and can be quite nautical in theme. But I get where she was going, and she’s probably right, and I’m taking it as a compliment.
Once you have what your style is worked out, it can then guide your other decisions. Our simple greige colour palette guided us to off-white, stainless steel, grey and light beige. Actually this guided our whole house, not just our kitchen.
What restrictions do you have?
Restrictions can be anything – size, access to facilities, budget…
For us? We were going through, what I call, a ‘build-a-home’ company and were restricted by what they provided. The kitchen was made by Elba. So anything Elba stocked, we could have… but there were various costs attached. And, of course, almost everything I liked was extra. Let me say this – what you see in those display homes is rarely standard. When we were buying our home, we had a great guy who was very upfront and open about what wasn’t standard. We weren’t under any delusions about how much extra things were going to afford. We also nailed down most of those costs before we even proceeded to consider signing up with them. Painful for the company… but if they wanted our money, we wanted realistic quotes to compare. Most companies will give you the total cost for the display home you visit, but you usually have to ask. However, the standard house price will be printed in the brochure. Be prepared to be gobsmacked at the difference between the standard display house price, and the display home house (as it appears) price. If they won’t show you this, run the other way. If they aren’t up front about this, what else are they hiding?
Our other big restriction was affordable gas. To get access to gas in the country is expensive. I came to terms with the fact that I’d be having an induction or electric cooktop before we even bought the property.
Size was another consideration. This just meant expense in my case. That pantry was never going to work. Way too small for my country dreams of canning and preserving my own sauces and jams. So we paid, I don’t want to remember how much, to extend the house a meter. We added that additional meter to the pantry and the bathroom. This (huge) expense allowed me to have a walk in pantry and separate the toilet from the main bathroom.
Not all ‘build-a-home’ companies will give you as much flexibility. Some won’t adjust their designs no matter how much you pay. So before you fall in love with a house, check how much of it you can change. I really wanted to swap out the oven, but as the oven is needed for the council to sign off, I had to have their oven. In my ideal world, we wouldn’t have installed the oven, we would’ve left it wrapped in the garage and sold it, instead installing the oven I really wanted. But they wouldn’t do that. Compromises… so I got the only oven they would provide which was the same size as the ideal oven I wanted. I’m hoping that in a few years we might find the budget to replace it with the oven I really want… Which aptly leads me to my next consideration.
Needs vs Wants
I always start with brainstorming my needs, or my ‘wants list’ gets out of control! This will guide prioritising your needs and wants. What you won’t compromise on, and what you will give up in order to have other things. Understanding that the kitchen wasn’t the only room in this house was something that my husband, quite frequently, needed to remind me of.
Easy to Clean – my highest priority
Our last kitchen had gloss white doors. I know they are supposed to be a little out of date and can be considered ‘clinical’, but I loved their clean look and how they brought light into my kitchen. Everything looks cleaner, in my opinion, when it’s light and bright. But the finger marks that little children left on the doors, killed me. The doors lost their ‘gloss’ in seconds of being cleaned. I wasn’t going to pick that battle with this kitchen.
For this kitchen we chose doors that had a slight pattern. We also chose a smooth finish. This way they are easily wiped down and things won’t get stuck in any grooves. Our need to have an easy to clean kitchen, drove much of the style of our kitchen. Initially I really wanted the ‘modern country’ look. My husband hated it. Him hating this look was not a winning argument for me. In the end the ‘easy to clean’ won me over. My husband asked me the very simple question, “Would you rather be cooking, or cleaning?”
How Do You Use Your Kitchen?
I love baking. If I could, and if my waistline would take it, I would bake all day. Consequently, I need a large space for rolling out cookie dough, or lining up an army of cupcake trays… you get the idea. If you follow my Instagram account you will see pictures of how I use my kitchen.
This gave us a few design implications. Most display homes have the sink in the middle of the bench. I don’t understand this. Much to their dismay, I insisted the sink be moved to the side. I also knew I didn’t want my cooktop on the island bench, even though those overhead exhaust fans look amazing. This was important to know before the build began, as the plumbing needed to be in place before the house was built. We could’ve changed it later, but as we were on a concrete slab, it would’ve been prohibitively expensive – that, or I would’ve lost a lot of cupboard space with pipes.
We also paid more to have the island bench extended. There was a lot of fiddling around with the design to ensure I had the maximum length and width, without blowing our budget or making the walkway too narrow. Our budget was impacted more than you’d think, as we also paid extra to have a thicker (40mm) bench top.
Extending the island bench also meant that it couldn’t be done in one piece of stone. So there needed to be a join. I chose to have the join where the sink was.
Knowing how I used the kitchen also guided where we wanted power points. Let me just say, they never include enough. Seriously, walk through a display home and count the power points. Never enough. A continual
bone of contention cause for discussion between my husband and I, is what appliances live on the bench, and what appliances go in the pantry. Our coffee machine lives on the bench. So when we planned the kitchen, we planned the power point to be hidden behind the coffee machine. As we were having a glass splashback it would be impractical, if not impossible, to install power points at a later time. I also knew that I often used my stick blender for soups and I didn’t want to have to carry a heavy pot, full of hot soup, to blend. So we put a power point near the cook top.
How will other members of your family use your kitchen?
It is a sad reality that you’ll have to share this little slice of domestic bliss. So, reluctantly, their needs must be taken into consideration. Sometimes this is to your benefit. Don’t forget that!
I really want to instill independence in my children as much as I can. I wrote about this when I blogged about instilling a sense of responsibility in children. I spoke about how my children get out and put away their own cups, plates and bowls. So I wanted an easy access cupboard that was out of the way, so they could get their own things, when they needed them. Due to this, we created a narrow cupboard next to the fridge. It only has their stuff. Nothing inside is breakable – read, I don’t have to freak out when they open this cupboard. They are also responsible for that cupboard. My son loves that cupboard and loves to reorganise it (and I have to keep my control freak on a short leash). It really works.
And then sometimes I do think design over practical. This is one of those times. I knew that the wall side of the kitchen would be seen by everyone. So we mirrored that narrow cupboard, on the other side of the kitchen. Actually that whole wall is symmetrical in design. You can see this wall of cupboards in the last picture in this post. We mirrored this narrow cupboard on the other side and use it to store our mugs, which is great as the coffee machine was strategically placed above it.
My husband loves his home brew. I love that’s it’s cheaper than normal beer and that we can totally customise it to our taste (yup, control freak). This meant that I needed to allow for this in the pantry – read, we needed a pantry with a lot of space. It also meant that we wanted a pantry that didn’t have any external walls, so it would keep a constant temperature. To a certain extent, this drove much of our house design. Yes, we designed our house around our home brew! Well, in the least is was a big consideration.
What sort of appliances/kitchen items do you already have?
This is another practical implication and one that the kitchen designers generally won’t ask you. If you love to cook, like me, instead of accumulating countless pairs of shoes or other things that normal people buy, you probably have a lot of appliances. Not only can these appliances be big and bulky, but they can also be really heavy. They aren’t the kinds of things that can be stored in above cupboards – which is where you usually store things you don’t use all the time. Lucky for me, I have a walk in pantry, so I knew I was always going to have space. However, their weight meant that I had to buy shelving that wouldn’t collapse or bow over time. As I wanted white shelves, that meant fixed shelving as it was the only option in white. Fixed shelving meant I had to know the heights of my taller items, such as my Magimix and even my stock pot. I know from my previous kitchens (where I wasn’t blessed with a huge pantry) that many of these items don’t actually fit in standard cupboards. Factor this in.
If, like me, you have a 90cm oven – your oven trays may not fit inside your cupboards. You need to factor this in when designing your layout. In previous kitchens, I’ve taken out the middle shelf in my cupboard and stored them standing on end, using a drying rack to keep them upright. Similar to the way I’ve stored my chopping boards in the picture.
What do you use regularly?
Many items in a kitchen only get used for certain meals, while some items are used for almost every meal. Items that are used frequently should have priority in your planning. For example, we use plates or bowls for every meal. In our old kitchen it was all cupboard doors. This meant I had to bend down and pull out the plates. This sounds small, but it is also something that can easily be made more convenient. I chose to pay extra and have drawers for commonly used items. So our plate and bowls are in a huge pull out draw, next to the right of the oven. This means that I don’t even have to move when I want to plate up dinner. I can simply turn from the pot on the stove and pull out the plates. Way too easy. I actually underestimated how awesome it was not to have to bend down to get things out. A hundred times worth the expense. Below the plates is my Tupperware for leftovers and school lunches. On the left side of the oven, mirroring the drawers are my pots and frypans.
I also had a long narrow drawer put above the large ones, and they are the first drawers under the bench on either side. On the left side of the oven is everything I need for cooking and a few extras.
On the right side is everything I tend to use for baking (I have told you how much I love baking). Again, easy access.
The reason why it is so important to think about this before you plan your kitchen, is so you can plan for it. By thinking about how often I used things, I knew I wanted drawers, not cupboards. I measured my pots and frypans to work out how tall and wide each drawer needed to be so it would all fit. I didn’t want any nasty surprises about pots not fitting in the drawer with their lids (I learnt this valuable lesson from making a mistake with my last kitchen). Not being able to store your pots with their lids on may seem like little inconvenience, but when you are fussing about, trying to get them out for every meal, not having these little inconveniences makes a huge difference. Maybe that’s why I understand why some successful people choose to have a uniform of sorts. Cuts out the small amounts of unnecessary time.
What do you want to make a feature of?
Some people have beautiful ceilings, or lovely windows. For us, our view is when you look out from the kitchen. But I didn’t want to be stuck at the cooktop missing out on that wonderful view. This confirmed my resolve for a glass splashback. The view is reflected in the splashback… and the glass isn’t as annoying to clean as I thought it would be. Oh, and glass is so much easier to clean than tiles!
Butler’s Pantry – my want
I really wanted a Butler’s Pantry. You know, the ones with another sink, more bench space… ahhhh, dreams. We chose not to have the company building our home install anything in our pantry. Partly because pricing a pantry through them, to fit my dreams, was out of our budget. When the house was finished, and I saw how much bench space I had, I started to realise I didn’t need a Butler’s Pantry. But never the one to be convinced easily, I priced up both my dream pantry, and another option. The butler’s pantry was going to set us back approximately $4500, if we wanted it to the same standard as the kitchen (To save space we chose not to have a door to the pantry. So, as the pantry would be open to view from everywhere, I thought it would have to be the same standard as the kitchen, or it would look odd). Now, anyone who knows me, knows I have a love affair with Tupperware. I longed for the pantry my mum had when I was growing up, where all her containers were coordinated. It really spoke to the control freak in me. So I priced up an option with Ikea shelves and Tupperware. After all, if it was going to be on view, it had to look good. This did not win my husband over… but the $3000 we would save, did. So that was my compromise. Not a bad compromise, is it!
One one side I have all the lighter items (the brackets on the shelves didn’t always line up with the wall studs) and the other side has my heavy items and cans. We placed the shelves for the cans where the brackets could be screwed into the wall studs. So it isn’t placed ideally as there is a gap between them and the stand lone shelving that has all my heavy appliances, but it means I don’t have to worry about weight.
(all other photos are my own)