What Really Influenced My Kitchen Design

So I wrote a draft for a post on the design of my kitchen. It was "This is the shape. These are the materials . . ." and that's all true and accurate and it was dull, dull, dull.

Everybody who knows me knows I love to cook. I love to feed people, and (unusually) I love to feed myself. Even if it's just me I will still cook a meal from scratch; convenience food has never held a lot of appeal. Frequently if I’m in the kitchen I’m cooking for tonight and something for later (soup/stew/bread/jam) at the same time. Cooking is relaxing for me , so it never feels like a chore. The kitchen was always going to be an important part of my home. 

The kitchen design

The kitchen design

When I first offered on the flat my financial landscape was a lot different from what it was by the time I completed, but I was always absolutely adamant that I was going to do something about the kitchen, even on the tiniest of budgets. The old kitchen had no cooker, only two base units and two wall cupboards and barely enough work surface for a chopping board. As it was I was lucky to have more budget to play with than I first thought and so the plan got a lot more extravagant, pulling down walls and making a big open plan living space.

The choice to have a wall of full height cupboards and a long counter with no cupboards above was always an easy one. I hate wall cupboards. I'm just going to stick that right out there. It might be because I'm tall, but I always find them oppressive. And although they provide extra storage space, I think they make a space seem smaller. Plus a long counter gives plenty of space to lay out all your ingredients before you start. Not necessarily lots of little bowls; there's no need to make more washing up. Just everything to hand when you want it.

kitchen layout

It's a layout that makes a lot of sense in terms of open plan living too. The wall of cupboards looks less kitchen-y than the traditional wall and under counter units so doesn't look so out of place from the living room side; and the counter is a minimal barrier to the sitting/eating parts of the room. I can be cooking in the kitchen while having a conversation with friends who get to sit on a comfortable chair, or can pull a dining chair up to the other side of the counter.

Kitchen materials palette (clockwise from top left): black gloss granite, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle" & "White," Ecos "Plumfled," white matt laminate, laminate faced plywood.

Kitchen materials palette (clockwise from top left): black gloss granite, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle" & "White," Ecos "Plumfled," white matt laminate, laminate faced plywood.

As is the theme through the flat, the fixed parts of the design are neutral in colour. I’ve bought the carcasses from IKEA without door fronts; both the worktops and the door fronts will be made from plywood finished in a white matt laminate with the striped edge exposed.

I am going to keep the plywood on the wall surface exposed, rather than paint it. The plywood is there for structural reasons; it means you can fix to any point on the wall and it will be secure. I was originally going to plaster over the plywood, but the surface is so lovely (no knots, a really nice grain, a complementary colour for the teak furniture I own) that I think it would make a great feature. So I’m going to protect it with a matt varnish (so it’s at least cleanable) and then put a splash-back around the cooker. Possibly tiled, probably glass.

Kitchen under construction, with the plywood wall installed

Kitchen under construction, with the plywood wall installed

So the kitchen will be all white, with touches of timber. With on possible exception. In order to get the cooker to blend in, the extract fan and the surrounding narrow units (larder pull out on the bottom, cupboards on top) will have black gloss doors and the hob will be set into a black gloss countertop. Not completely sure that this is a good idea yet . . . but I’ve got a little time to decide.

Black gloss larder units, IKEA

Black gloss larder units, IKEA

White ceramic sink via Homebase

White ceramic sink via Homebase

I would like to re-use the existing sink, which is designed to be a full width of the worktop only it’s narrower than modern kitchen units, so to make up the depth, there will need to be a deep shelf that will start as the window sill and come out to meet the back of the sink. I've shown this on the 3D designs above, and I'm not completely convinced by it if I'm honest, so I'm seriously considering getting a ceramic sink instead to work in with the all white theme.

The design is pretty fixed, and the vision clear, but honestly I have a hard time getting excited about it. Work surfaces and appliances and sinks are all things a kitchen needs, but my kitchen comes to me in flashes of taste, and smell, and the joy of good company, not steel and cabinets and colour schemes. It’s my Grandmother’s rolling pin, the hand-me-down cast iron casseroles from my parents, and the 1960s china I’ve collected from charity shops, eBay and auction houses. It’s mid week scruffy suppers and dinner parties that run into the small hours. It’s house parties and long weekend brunches. And that prospect makes me very excited indeed.