Whether you want a total overhaul or just a mini revamp, the latest design trends will inspire you to transform your kitchen into the hottest spot in your home.
The look of our kitchens is changing. Up until recently, a neutral palette – putty, beige, white and cream – have reigned supreme. While these colours may be the most sensible choices – working well as a backdrop for the busy space that a kitchen is – they can lack imaginative flair. As a consequence, designers are increasingly working with new ‘takes’ on the neutral that can add a little more interest and give a kitchen a bright, modern feel.
Soft grey is one shade that is overtaking white in the popularity stakes. Effective on walls as it is on cabinetry, it is a sharp neutral that gives a contemporary edge to a room.
“We are noticing a shift towards shades of grey that can range from cool through to warmer hues,” agrees Frances Hall, commercial director at Cambridgeshire-based David Hall Kitchen and Furniture Makers (01763 261010; www.davidhallfurniture.co.uk). “Grey is such a subtle colour and varies according to time of day, and even time of year. It is a fantastic neutral backdrop and can be dressed up with colourful accessories, or left clean and simple, to allow the lines and proportions of cabinetry to do the talking.”
Tom Hinton, designer and proprietor of Cambridge-based Tomas Kitchen Living (01223 300858; www.tomas-kitchen-living.co.uk), has also begun to offer a choice of ‘new neutrals’, such as light grey and pale green, across his classic-modern kitchen range:
“Our new colour group ‘Haven’ features neutral greys and some interesting greens and is proving really popular,” he reveals. “These colours come to life with a splash of contrasting colour – barstools in orange, for instance, or a bold statement wall.”
A blue palette is also becoming in vogue, with a mix of azure, teal and cornflower blue used as a step up from a neutral, and splashes of rich Greek or indigo blue used as a bolder statement. Mixed with white, this strong colour can look surprisingly fresh and appealing.
“We have definitely noticed an increase in demand for colour over recent months,” comments John Stephens, director at handmade kitchen specialist Rencraft (01731 762682; www.rencraft.co.uk). “I think people are starting to get bored of the paler, whiter shades and seem to be getting braver. As we hand paint everything ourselves on site, customers can choose whatever colour they wish. Painted elements also give flexibility should you fancy a change of colour scheme in the future, as they can be easily updated to give a whole new look for relatively small cost.”
Emily Evison, designer at luxury kitchen makers Harvey Jones (0800 389 6938; www.harveyjones.com) agrees that there’s a move towards using bolder colours in the kitchen – such as olive greens and oranges – calling to mind a retro 1960s feel.
“The hottest colours within kitchens at present are updated neutrals like charcoal greys and putty-coloured tones teamed with accents of bright zesty colours, such as orange or lime. We are noticing that people are being more daring with the choices they make, such as matching fuschia cabinets with deeper greys. For those who don’t want to make such a statement, the easiest way to introduce colour is by adding a splashback or picking out an element of the kitchen – an island, for instance – in a bold colour.”
Before committing to a brand new colour scheme, it’s worth getting some advice. Cambridge-based Farrow & Ball (01223 367771; www.farrow-ball.com) are the go-to colour experts and can suggest the best shades and finishes that will work well for your kitchen:
“The kitchen is the perfect place to introduce colour, whether it’s a soft accent or a bold statement,” says Sarah Cole, marketing director, Farrow & Ball. “Green hues help to bring some of nature back in to the home, especially if you have a kitchen that looks out to a garden. Mizzle is a beautiful grey-green that could be used on your cupboards to complement a neutral shade on the wall, such as Dimpse. Pigeon is another wonderful, easy-to-live-with colour, though darker than Mizzle but with the same calm, grey properties and ideal for painting a kitchen island.”
While granite will always have its place as one of the most popular materials when it comes to kitchen surfaces, there seems to be a growing trend of homeowners veering away from the more obvious choices in a desire to express individuality.
“Bold, bright colours are enjoying something of an upturn,” says Peter Morrison, owner of Cambridge-based Granite Transformations (01223 843333; www.granitetransformations.co.uk). “These look great particularly for contrasting island units and warehouse-style apartments. Black is still a popular worktop choice but we’ve noticed more people are looking for a little more sparkle and texture in their finishes, to lighten the mood. Our Black Star recycled glass material contains fragments of mirror fleck, which creates an incredible sparkling effect under halogen lighting and is one of our best sellers. White, off-white, brown and beige worktops are worktops are also on trend, particularly for minimalist continental-style layouts. Our latest Hydra White material is a recycled porcelain, extremely hardwearing incorporating mirror fragments for reflective pinpoints.”
Recycled worktop materials are also growing in popularity – appealing to homeowners who have a desire for a new look coupled with a sense of responsibility for the environment.
“Recycled glass and porcelain surfaces, made from post-consumer and post-industrial reject materials, are definitely in vogue,” continues Granite Transformations’ Peter Morrison. “As are composite granite and quartz composite surfaces, rather than natural stone slab. Granite Transformations agglomerate worktops are made from up to 78% recycled content.”
Countertops in engineered stone and concrete, meanwhile, bring a raw, industrial feel to a space while honed marble surfaces give a polished European look that work well against rougher textures, such as brick or raw-stone walls. Quartz is another material also on the rise and is a practical choice for families. Nonporous and resistant to heat, the material is resistant to spills and scratches making it a good all-rounder.
“Irrespective of material and colour choice, low maintenance and practical performance should be top priorities for all kitchen worktops, otherwise you’ll be spending time continuously cleaning or, worse still, having to reseal or eventual replacement,” advises Peter Morrison. “Consumers are getting wise to this and are turning away from materials like timber, slate and marble, toward hardwearing surfaces with recognised technical approvals.”
Jennifer Shaw, design director at contemporary kitchen experts Kitchenology (01284 724 723; www.kitchenologyltd.co.uk) identifies an organic trend which is capturing her clients’ imaginations: “We’ve noticed customers are wanting more organic finishes – such as glass, wood, ceramic or stone effects. They are opting for greys and neutrals, which are brought to life with a splash of subtle colour, such as a metallic textured splashback or a statement central island in contrasting shades and materials.”
Tom Hinton at Tomas (01223 300858; www.tomas-kitchen-living.co.uk) agrees: “We use wood, but tend to avoid sink areas. Mixing wood with grey quartz works really well and is a practical option.”
Meanwhile, at Eadonstone Kitchens, based in Cambridge (01223 811 111; www.eadonstone.co.uk), marble, such as the Arabescato marble fabricated in the company’s own workshop, is proving popular as is Silestone’s range of quartz.
“Eadonstone is able to source the whole Silestone range,” says Dan Taylor, Eadonstone’s showroom manager. “It is the original manufacturer of solid quartz worktop material. It combines the best of natural stone and cutting edge design and gives a kitchen the wow-factor.”
There’s no point having a sleek, fashionable kitchen if it isn’t practical. These days, homeowners want a kitchen that looks the part but also, more importantly, has all the latest tricks up its sleeve for practical living.
From intelligent storage, such as concealed spice drawers and hidden larders, to in-built drinks cabinets and concealed work stations – there’s a growing range of add-on gizmos and clever features you can factor in when planning a kitchen.
One popular trend is the rise in base drawers, instead of standing cupboards. More functional than having to bend down and peer into a cupboard, a large pull out storage drawer allows you to gain access in one simple motion and many can be customized with special storage layers to fit dinner plates and bowls etc. Hydraulic, easy-close doors are also de rigeur – with cabinet doors folding up and out of the way at the touch of a button – ideal for smaller kitchens.
“Storage is important in any room not least the kitchen,” says Hazel Boyd, designer at Eadonstone Kitchens (01223 811 111; www.eadonstone.co.uk) “Drawers in many ways are better for storage than cabinets especially for those who may find access difficult. When the aesthetics are important, hidden drawers provide a great way to maintain the balance of aesthetics with functionality.”
Established luxury kitchen experts, such as Charles York Kitchens (01623 756 080; www.charlesyork.com) have ingenious ideas for those all-important finishing touches. Discreet pull-out shelves are handy for small areas while ‘appliance garages’ hide the unsightly coffee-makers and toasters, thus keeping your surfaces clear. Vegetable drawers, bread drawers, utensil inserts, pop-up power ports and pull out wine shelves are just a few of the other clutter-free ways to keep your kitchen looking show-home perfect.
“There are thousands of clever storage products on the market, ranging from an entire kitchen in a cupboard, through to an enormous choice of bins, corner units and drawer dividers,” adds Frances Hall at David Hall Kitchen and Furniture Makers (01763 261010; www.davidhallfurniture.co.uk). “We have a pull-out shelf system, allowing you to access the food you want without needing to pull out the entire wireworks. Another favourite is the 150mm wide bottle pull-out – ideal for small day to day cooking essentials.”
Appliance technology is also making big leaps with ‘tablet know-how’ being applied to fridges, ovens and washing machines. The introduction of touch screens and wifi connectivity will soon mean that appliances will be able to be controlled remotely by apps on smart phones. While other advances, such as practical hands-free taps (ideal for families with small children), will no doubt be the norm in a few years’ time.
The art of accessorising has come into its own in the kitchen of late. Previously the norm for living areas and bedrooms, design elements – such as choosing the right lighting and furniture for your kitchen – are proving all-important. What’s more, it’s all about being bold and dramatic.
Oversized or statement lighting, for instance, continues to be a trend. For a talking point, choose unusual fittings, such as Fritz Fryer’s Converted Gramophone Trumpet Pendant (£385, 01989 567416; www.fritzfryer.co.uk) or the Stag Horn Chandelier at Des Res Design (£3,815, 01386 793 240; www.desresdesign.co.uk). Group together pendant lights, such as the brass versions at Bert Frank, over a dining table or island (020 8737 0512; www.bertfrank.co.uk).
Jenny Hurran, director of online boutique Out There Interiors (www.outthereinteriors.com), which stocks a range of unique lighting, advises: “It’s easy to become fixated on spots, strips and recessed lighting when it comes to kitchen design, and while these elements shouldn’t be overlooked, glamorous overhead lighting creates an unexpected impact in a kitchen. Try a trio of globe chandeliers over an island, or an outsized starburst pendant above the dining area for dramatic effect.”
When it comes to sinks, forget stainless steel – the brighter the better. Statement sinks in bright hues, such as the orange, green and yellow bowl sinks available at Aston Matthews (from £276, 020 7226 7220; www.astonmatthews.co.uk) are having a moment. And bog-standard extractor fans may also be things of the past. Check out the uber glamourous crystal Celestial Cooker Hood by Elica (www.elica.co.uk) – ramping up the luxe factor and more akin to a chandelier than a practical cooker hood.
For those lucky enough to have a dining area in the kitchen, bring it bang up to date with extra-long dining tables and statement chairs. Roughhewn, rubbed-down tables have become supersized – with 14 seats or more not an unusual request. This raw ‘banquet’ look is juxtaposed with glamourous dining chairs in velvets and suedes, like those available at The Sofa and Chair Company (020 8752 8938; www.thesofaandchair.co.uk).
Tom Hinton, at Tomas (01223 300858; www.tomas-kitchen-living.co.uk), gives his tips for buying furniture that will stand the test of time: “We’ve recently started stocking the iconic Danish brand ‘Republic of Fritz Hansen’ as part of our furniture and lighting collection,” he reveals. “Buying a piece of quality furniture from classic designers such as these, or by a name like Arne Jacobsen, is the perfect way to make a statement. Invest in Jacobsen’s Drop Chair, for instance, which has just been relaunched or his classic Seven chair. Another iconic designer – Carl Hansen – has just launched a beautiful special edition Wishbone chair with Paul Smith fabric – it doesn’t get any better than that!”
With kitchens becoming ever increasingly sleek and luxurious, there’s a danger they can become monotone and, dare we say it, boring. Bring your space to life by adding in a few artisanal touches – think copper taps, arty open shelving and textured tiling.
Rob Whitaker, creative director of Fired Earth (01223 300941; www.firedearth.com) agrees: “Tiles and wood flooring are an ideal way of adding a sense of texture or understated pattern to a kitchen. Herringbone and chevron designs are particularly popular at the moment and they work equally well in contemporary and traditional schemes. For example, solid oak flooring such as Fired Earth’s Parquetry in Herringbone Seashell has a timeless look and a subtle decorative finish that make it a perfect choice for a dining area.
“The naturally textured surfaces and colour variation of stone and slate complement classic kitchens perfectly,” he continues. “For a more modern take on these age-old materials, look for crisp, diamond-sawn slate and marble – using the tiles on walls as well as floors – or use brick format limestone, which can have an almost industrial feel. Moorish tiles such as those in Fired Earth’s Marrakech range can also create a lovely sense of texture throughout the kitchen.”
Open shelving, meanwhile, is one of the easiest ways to introduce personality into your kitchen. Providing a clean and contemporary look, floating shelves can make a space look bigger by drawing the eye along the wall and are a lovely way of showing off interesting pieces of crockery, ceramics and cookware.
As an alternative to streamlined shelves, consider a series of modular box shelves, such as the solid oak Modbox Creations by Tomas, available at Tomas (01223 300858; www.tomas-kitchen-living.co.uk), which can be built in to a fitted kitchen or deployed on their own as free standing furniture.
While displaying kitchen items on shelving has undoubtedly become fashionable, remember that this look only works if the items on display are fashionable too! Clear out the clutter, and arrange plates and bowls in colour-coded piles (all-white is very effective), with the odd quirky piece – a frame or antique glass – added in for interest. Source vintage kitchenware, old signage and one-off pieces from floral tea-sets – but don’t overdo it – you want it to look sophisticated and not cluttered.
Hannah Mallett, kitchen shop buying manager at Sainsbury’s (www.sainsburys.co.uk), gives her insight into how you can easily and affordably accessorise your space:
“You can create a classic, timeless look for the kitchen with our new range of oak and white-tipped kitchenware which brings a natural, elegant look to modern and traditional kitchens alike. The collection features a complete range of quality kitchen staples, including chic white cast iron pieces alongside sturdy oak wooden chopping boards and utensils. Organic brush strokes and origami-style patterns on glassware and ceramics make for stunning, eye-catching pieces. The design encapsulates oriental simplicity, bringing an effortlessly sophisticated look to the rich, jewel-coloured palette in the indigo blue trend.”
Having the last word is Jenny Hurran of Out There Interiors: “I’m all for open shelving. Why buy lovely crockery then hide it in a cupboard? I also advocate using your best stuff every day. Tastes and trends change so quickly so don’t wait for special occasions. Enjoy your favourite things now.”