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349 Hagley Road, Edgbaston,
Birmingham, B17 8DL

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The hub of the house . . .

As I wrote about bathrooms last month, I thought I’d better write about kitchens this month. Long gone are the days when the kitchen was merely a place to cook in, a purely functional space separated from the rest of the house. Today’s kitchen is an integral part of the home, and is more often than not a kitchen diner, where the family meet, eat, watch TV and generally live on a day to day basis.

It’s important to know what you want out of any room before you dive in and commit, but this is especially so in a kitchen. Sit down, take a step back (oh, you can’t can you, you’re sitting down), and do some planning. Look at the available space – and I don’t just mean the area that you’ve got at present. Would the overall flow of the room be improved, or the space become more usable if you moved a window, door or even a wall? I know this might sound drastic, but given the scale and expense of what you are about to undertake it’s well worth it.

Next, work out your basic needs – your “must have”s, your “it would be nice to have”s and your “if we can fit it in”s. Prioritise, and make sure your new kitchen will suit you and your way of living rather than simply conform with everyone else’s expectations, or just look like a picture from a kitchen advert. For example if you have two or three children it’s no use having a small under-worktop fridge, or if there’s just you and several of the lads it’s no use not having a drinks fridge !!

Don’t get caught up in ideas that look great in someone else’s kitchen without considering how they’re going to work for you. In the last few years islands have been springing up in the nation’s kitchens with more regularity than a Met Office weather warning, and can often end up being about as effective. An island unit makes great use of a large, open floor area, but will simply not sit harmoniously in the majority of kitchens, creating barriers and spoiling the flow of the room. This, coupled with the additional costs of laying on services such as water, electricity and sometimes gas, make an island unviable in all but the roomiest of situations. Instead, consider a peninsular to break up a straight run and give extra storage and working space.

Now decide on the overall look and feel of the kitchen. Do you like the softness and warmth of a wood kitchen, or the smart crispness of a kitchen with smooth lines and lacquered doors as is the current preference? Or do you mix the two for the best of both worlds? Opaque glass fronted units look great when lit subtly from inside. For the ultimate in wood doors you can opt for book matching. This is where the door on each unit is taken from the same part of the tree, thus ensuring that the grain runs symmetrically across each door. This looks amazing, especially where the wood in question is heavily grained, but can have an amazing price tag to match. Curved doors are not as prevalent as they were a year or two ago, but can still look stunning.

Worktops can make or break a kitchen, in terms of both looks and practicality. Make sure the type you choose compliments your units and is up to the wear and tear you’re going to give it over the years. As well as the perennial woods and laminates, natural stones such as marble and granite are still popular. Be careful of marble though, as it is not as hard and durable as you might think, and is quite porous. I’ve seen many a butter or oil stain on a beautiful looking marble surface. Engineered stone is a fabulous material. It is actually granite powder and resin mixed together, and is available under several different brand names, Corian being probably the best known. Not only can you shape and mould it, but it is stain free, heat resistant and can have built in anti-bacterial qualities. If you do opt for a peninsular or island a combination of stone and wood can work well, blending the softer feel of the wood with the sharp look of the stone.

So, armed with your basic needs and desires, and a pretty good idea of how you would like your kitchen to end up call in the experts. The world of kitchens is an ever changing one. Technology is advancing apace, with new materials such as Parapan, a high gloss solid acrylic that can be moulded or worked like wood, being introduced all the time. There are fabulous new gizmos such as push up plug sockets that appear out of your worksurface on demand, and the latest “must have” – the tap built in to your worksurface that gives instant boiling water. These guys (and girls – no sexism here!!) know what they’re talking about. They plan and install kitchens all the time. They know what’s out there and what will work for you.

Trust the professionals to turn your dreaminto a reality, then simply enjoy!

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - March 2014