Collating your favorite kitchen ideas is a priority – and always the fun bit – when rethinking your new-look kitchen. These ideas – whether kitchen looks you like, surface materials or cabinetry styles – can then be worked into your ideal layout, the practical key to getting your kitchen right. A kitchen can, after all, look fantastic but if it fails to function as a workspace, it can be hugely disappointing.
These kitchen ideas are our very favorites – you can save the images you love, then start the hard work: looking at everything, from where to put your recycling to how close your oven is to your food store (after all, you don’t want to end up walking the length of the kitchen every time you need an extra ingredient).
If you’re using a kitchen designer, they will be able to advise on kitchen decor ideas that look good and work perfectly, too. But, it always helps to go to them with your own kitchen ideas. Every one of our kitchen pictures is different but most suit one of the five basic layouts.
From cabinets and lighting schemes to backsplashes and flooring, these kitchen ideas cover everything you need to think about. You can use them, too, to inspire your kitchen layout ideas.
1. Create a kitchen decor scheme with character
If there's one thing the pandemic has taught us, it's that kitchen ideas that promote a feeling of homeliness make us happy. 'Homeliness' means different things to all of us – some like minimalism, others a more decorative feel.
For interior designer Cortney Bishop, it's about layering with, for example, rugs, choosing characterful cabinet fronts, and keeping countertops clear, to give cherished personal belongings space to be displayed: 'Showcase your personal style – whether it’s displaying pottery, a vase of beautiful florals, or a unique basket or tray,' she says when sharing her kitchen styling tips. 'I always recommend to design with intent and function. Less is sometimes more, but not always.'
2. Reinvent rustic kitchens with moody shades
In tune with general kitchen trends towards creating homely spaces, rustic kitchen ideas are more popular than ever. And while white or cream color schemes are still predominant, with blue and green following close behind, deeper, moodier, earthier cabinet colors are gaining popularity – especially when combined with warm wooden tones and freestanding pieces.
'The best way to tie together older pieces with new elegant cabinetry is to use vintage inspired hardware and taps,' says Jen & Mar, co-founders of design agency Interior Fox (opens in new tab).
3. Add pattern to a kitchen with wallpaper
Companies such as Little Greene (opens in new tab) and Morris & Co (opens in new tab) are championing the return of wallpaper to the kitchen. Kitchen wallpaper ideas include modern designs, of course, but those with the most impact have a heritage appeal – playing to that desire to make kitchens feel just as decorated as living rooms.
'Kitchen wall decor ideas are admittedly tricky – it's vital to ensure that the design you choose is moisture-resistant – or that your decorator has come up with a solution for giving the wallpaper you have set your heart on some moisture-resistance,' says Lucy Searle, Editor in Chief of Homes & Gardens. 'That said, there are many beautiful kitchen – and bathroom – ready designs that will elevate your space from plain to personalized.'
4. Rethink fabrics for a kitchen, too
If the kitchen ideas you are putting in your scrapbook – virtual or otherwise – are bursting with pattern and color, then your next option might be kitchen curtain ideas. Just as with wallpaper, the fabrics you choose must be able to withstand moisture from cooking, and splashes and sticky fingers, too, if you have young children.
And it may be that you want to limit to curtain fabrics to a doorway, as in the kitchen above, choosing blinds for more practical window treatment ideas. 'One simple curtain treatment can make a kitchen feel cozier, more welcoming and colorful,' says Jennifer Ebert, Homes & Gardens' Digital Editor. 'Fabrics can also help with acoustics, which is often a problem in kitchens.'
5. Design a chef's kitchen
If you truly love cooking it makes sense that your kitchen ideas should be centered around functionality first. The growing interest in home cooking during the pandemic – and entertaining as we begin to emerge from it – has lead to the rise in interest in chef's kitchens – how they are laid out, the appliances they include and their practicality-first design approach.
‘To make the cooking process seamless, every item should have a purpose and a place – you should be able to reach whatever you need almost without thinking about it so that you can focus on guests as well as cooking,’ says chef Galton Blackiston, brand ambassador for kitchen designer Tom Howley (opens in new tab).
6. Color scheme and combine materials with restraint
When designing a kitchen, use a combination of colors, materials and finishes to create a characterful look – but just as you would in a living room, limit your palette to one main color and two accents. In this kitchen, interior designer Brenna Morgan (opens in new tab) used grey as the predominant shade in the marble-look island, with black painted cabinets as an accent next to warmer, stained wood cabinetry and bright turquoise bar stools in this lakeside retreat.
7. Embrace Shaker style
'Classic simplicity' is a phrase that sums up Shaker kitchen ideas. What we love about this look is that it is quietly characterful, will complement both modern and traditional homes, and can be as rustic or streamlined and elegant as you'd like.
'White, cream, grey – or neutral-colored – Shaker kitchens are so easy to redecorate around, and if you are installing a kitchen to please future home buyers, you really can't go wrong with this most recognizable of American kitchen styles,' says Lucy Searle. 'For the more adventurous, Shaker kitchens in darker shades, such as black, blue and green can also look incredibly smart.'
8. Make a kitchen feel homely with casual seating
Interior designer Jessica Buckley (opens in new tab) has created this kitchen – in a Georgian property in Edinburgh, Scotland – to be a sociable, homely space. The kitchen styling ideas are testament to this, with open shelving displaying pretty pieces, and art on the walls. But our favorite detail is the window seat idea, which makes a functional space look stylish.
9. Love contemporary? Black is back
Black kitchen ideas are back on trend – and while they do really suit traditional homes, they are most striking in contemporary settings.
Unlike green or blue, black is a neutral shade, which mean you can use other colors paired with it with ease – but we think black as a backdrop is best complemented by textures found in natural materials, such as wood and brick, which will add contrast to matte cabinetry, but warmth, too.
10. Work your layout around your windows
'The layout of the room is what makes a kitchen design successful,' says Tom Howley, design director at the eponymous kitchen company.
'The most important thing to consider is how you use your space. If your kitchen is near your garden, or has a nice view, make sure the furniture layout makes the best of this by orienting towards the view. Your sink doesn’t always have to be positioned looking out to the garden; consider locating your dining area with the best view in the kitchen. Creating an indoor outdoor living space will mean that dinner parties can extend outside into the garden, with all the essentials to hand in the kitchen.'
11. Pick intriguing backsplash materials
There are many backsplash ideas for kitchens that can make your kitchen stand out from the crowd. Unexpected materials, such as timber, can be incredibly practical if properly sealed. Here, the backsplash material has been used to line the open shelving above, creating a warm, cohesive look that's perfect for making a sleek, contemporary design feel more inviting.
12. Play with scale
Kitchen interior design should never be overlooked – and can be easily introduced into a space with pattern. In this scheme by interior designer Anna Spiro (opens in new tab), the same paisley print is used on the walls and the chairs to link the areas.
‘When color and pattern are used well, they give an air of individuality and help create rooms that are full of energy,’ says Anna Spiro.
By opting for a slightly larger scale on the upholstery, the repeat creates extra impact as the shape takes up the majority of the chair backs. With a larger surface area available on the walls, a smaller repeat allows the pattern to be seen in its entirety.
13. Keep walls clear for a relaxed, spacious kitchen
Small or dark kitchens – and those you want to feel laid-back – are best furnished with floor-level cabinetry anyway. This will mean that you might have to consider pantry ideas to ensure there is enough storage available, but you will be more than repaid by the finish, which will feel much more like a living space than a functional room.
14. Know where to spend and where to save
Knowing how much a new kitchen costs can help you know where to spend and save right from the beginning of the process.
'For us, the cabinetry is really the star of the show, so we would suggest investing in bespoke, made-to-measure options. Saving money on countertops, appliances and flooring is the best way to approach kitchen design to give the 'bones' of the space the maximum longevity,' explains Tom Howley.
'Glass is an excellent finish for kitchens. Not only do glazed cabinets break up the monotony of repetitive, solid fronted doors – especially in large spaces – they maximize the flow of light into darker corners. Having glass-fronted doors is as good as open shelving when it comes to displaying your prized pieces. They’re also fantastic when accessing everyday essentials allowing you to see what you have and where you’ve put things.'
15. Use every opportunity to boost storage
However large and well-equipped your kitchen, excellent storage will only make it function better and look neater – so during the design process, consider whether there might be elements of architecture within your home that can be exploited for extra storage.
16. Include freestanding elements to move beyond 'fitted'
Fitted kitchens are wonderful in that they allow you to use every inch of spare space. But they can feel soulless – so if it's character you want, it is absolutely worthwhile incorporating at least one piece of freestanding furniture into your room's layout. That may be a dresser, a sideboard or even a kitchen island – and you can choose designs that suit your kitchen's style, they needn't be traditional.
17. Warm an all-white scheme with natural textures
You can’t go far wrong with white. As well as lightening up smaller spaces, white kitchens feel clean and stylish - but you do need to balance it with a warming material like natural wood.
Will Thompson, Head of Marketing at Valspar advises: ‘When you’re choosing a color scheme, the perfect combination is integral to our positive experience and enjoyment of the room. If you’re a fan of a classic finish, an all white kitchen works beautifully for spaces of all sizes.
Small kitchens will benefit from the reflective nature of a white color scheme, paired with natural wood finishes such as countertops, wood flooring and door handles to break up the white and enhance the earthy feel.
Valspar’s The Perfect White (opens in new tab) is ideal for keeping high traffic areas in their fresh white state, for easy scuff removal and stain resistance.’
18. Mix patterns with plains to create a balanced scheme
‘The graphical and playful impact that the backsplash has on this space is a real conversation-starter,’ says Irene Gunter, Co-Founder of Gunter & Co (opens in new tab).
‘When designing a kitchen there always needs to be that one eye catching feature. In this case the tiles were chosen before anything else and the metal trims and cabinet door finish came after, the blue was chosen as a neutral which in the case of this colourful project made total sense
'Given the cost of the luxe marble tiles with satin brass inlay, we knew that we needed to use the tiles sparingly. That’s why this single-wall kitchen configuration turned out to be the perfect fit.’
We love the detailing of these kitchen tile ideas and how they work against the sleek blue units. The result is an exciting color scheme that incorporates both pattern and plain elements that’s both bold and contemporary.
19. Love grey? Create more impact with deep tones
‘It’s important that when it comes to making a bold design choice that it fits within your home and with your tastes,’ says Tom Howley, Design Director at Tom Howley (opens in new tab).
‘Rather than persuade a client to step away from a more traditional paint color to follow a trend, it’s all about deciding how much of a statement they want to make.
'Neutral color palettes in the kitchen will never disappear, but for those that want to add a stronger injection of color, black, navy and grey kitchens still remain very popular and can be contrasted with light color work surfaces and flooring.’
20. Add personality with eclectic decor
For color lovers, a kitchen is a great place to go a little wild and introduce a theme using your favorite shades, prints and patterns – particularly when planning kitchen wall decor ideas.
We asked sought-after interior designer Michelle Nussbaumer (opens in new tab), known for her stunning global style, for her advice on how to incorporate these elements in your kitchen:
‘For a good colorful kitchen, it is important to intersperse bright shades of blues, reds and pinks within a neutral space, but there has to be some consistency in color when combining different patterns like flooring.
'I like to include tribal patterns mixed with an English Chintz, French Paisley or Indian block print to achieve my worldly look. Think 19th Century English traveller goes to India via Morocco.’
21. Glam up a green kitchen with gold fittings
Green kitchens are on trend – and unlikely to fall out of favor in the near future. Easy to coordinate with natural materials, such as wood and stone, they can also be given a glamorous edge with brass or antique gold fittings – from bar stools to handles.
This kitchen has cleverly married both gold fittings with country style furnishings on the window seat – which usefully hides lots of storage space beneath – to create a space that feels both elegant and relaxed.
22. Start with a well-planned lighting scheme
A great lighting scheme has the power to transform ordinary kitchen ideas into something truly spectacular. Now that our kitchens are increasingly performing on a multifunctional level, so our kitchen lighting ideas must evolve to cater for dining, relaxing, office or homework and entertaining.
Cleverly positioned lighting can also hide a multitude of sins – making a small kitchen appear larger, disguising awkward architecture or compensating for poor natural light. ‘Planning the lighting at the same time as the kitchen is essential. It is always obvious when lighting is an afterthought,’ says Mark Holloway from Holloways of Ludlow (opens in new tab).
Boost the impact of statement pendants by arranging in a row along the length of an island unit, table or peninsula. Odd numbers work best; try three or five depending on the area and your budget.
23. Add in feature wall lights
As the layout develops, start thinking about the lighting, not only for wiring purposes, but also so that you can problem-solve as the plans unfold, says Jamie Blake, creative director of Blakes London (opens in new tab).
'For example, I would usually use LEDs under the wall cupboards to light the worktop. Without them, another lighting solution is required, so instead I might include kitchen wall lights on swing arms that can be angled to suit.'
24. Paint your kitchen
This beautiful kitchen from Neptune has a painted look that we heartily approve of – and it's one that should inspire your painted kitchen design.
One of the most appealing and varied finishes for kitchen cabinetry, paint lends itself to both the classic looks of the traditional kitchen and to modern linear designs.
The advantage is in its almost limitless choice of colors, allowing you free rein to express yourself, whether your home is period or contemporary, country or urban. And you can always re-paint if you want a change or update in the future.
When planning your color palette, start by considering the room’s size, design and choice of flooring. Soft neutral shades are easy to live with in even the smallest spaces, while on-trend grey can look coolly architectural in a modern room, or warm and inviting when teamed with wood.
Large rooms with lots of natural light can support a bolder paint color choice. ‘Consider painting one element – an island unit or tall cupboard, perhaps – in a strong color, and then pick that up in your choice of pendant lights, cushions or chairs,’ says Scott Nicholson, MD of Chamber Furniture (opens in new tab).
25. Make shelving practical and beautiful
Good kitchen ideas always combine practicality and aesthetics – which is where kitchen shelving ideas can come in useful. Think about how you might make a 250mm-deep wall shelf beautiful, as well as functional, with some stacked up cookery books, in colors chosen to tie in with the curtains perhaps, and some attractive accessories.
26. Free yourself from the restraints of a fully-fitted kitchen
For those seeking a more relaxed approach to kitchen design, the option of buying freestanding, rather than fitted, cabinets is proving increasingly attractive. Often initiated by the desire to protect original architectural features from the permanent attachment of modern fitted units, freestanding kitchens are becoming a particularly popular choice in period properties.
‘Not everyone aspires to the sleek banks of units associated with a contemporary fitted kitchen,’ agrees Debbie Bowden of Barnes of Ashburton (opens in new tab).
The ability to try out various layouts to find out what truly works reduces the pressure to get your kitchen right first time. There’s also a great deal of reassurance to be found in the knowledge that a freestanding kitchen can be configured in different ways to meet your family’s changing needs.
27. Add character with pattern
It's incredibly sensible to choose classic kitchen cabinet ideas, as this way the design, finish and color will not date within the life of the kitchen. Shaker cabinetry or flat-fronted doors are both safe choices, while white, grey or blue kitchens are enduringly popular.
So, how to add your own stamp to these spaces? The easiest way to do so is with pattern – in backsplash tiles, fabrics on upholstery and curtains. These elements can be swapped out with the season or when you want – but don't yet need – to start remodeling a kitchen.
28. Make use of vertical space – beautifully
Mixed materials or finishes create a kitchen that's full of character, but what has really caught our eye in this room is the clever use of vertical space on a wall that demands narrow cabinetry.
It's a perfect kitchen idea for a galley layout – solid fronted units would have made the space feel narrower, but open shelving has the opposite effect, adding depth and – because you can usefully store your best pieces on it – a ton of character.
29. Seek a straight and narrow design
Single or double, a classic galley layout makes the most of modern kitchen zones and works like a dream for keen cooks.
A one-wall galley is best suited to the lone chef, as it requires linear movement from one activity to the next.
For ease of use, separate the cooking and wet zones by a reasonable length of worktop but resist the temptation to put the sink and cooker at opposite ends of the room. ‘You’ll gain wide work surfaces but may feel very cramped when cooking or washing up,’ explains Graeme Smith, Conceptual Designer at Second Nature Kitchens (opens in new tab).
A double galley allows the traditional work triangle, with a cooker and fridge on one side and the sink opposite, and provides more room for a pair of cooks to work together.
30. Add color and vibrancy with a mural
Hardworking and high functioning, kitchens have generally focused on easy to clean surfaces but there is nothing to say these have to be plain. Approached with care, kitchens can prove surprisingly receptive to some decorative interest.
‘The kitchen is very much the heart of the home and somewhere we all spend a good deal of time. Introducing pattern in your style will help it feel more personal and relaxing,’ says designer Susie Watson (opens in new tab).
Perhaps the easiest way to add pattern, and one that is simple to update, is to use interesting wallpaper ideas and fabric. The trend for kitchens to be larger, to be an open space that incorporates some form of living zone, encourages décor with curtains or blinds and perhaps even a sofa and cushions.
31. Choose a practical U-shape design
U-shaped kitchen layouts are installed in smaller kitchens, and used to shoehorn maximum storage and work surface into a compact footprint. ‘The U-shape kitchen really takes advantage of the ‘working triangle’ model, making working in your kitchen as effortless as possible,’ says Mark Jones of Halco Showroom (opens in new tab).
The best arrangement is to position your sink, cooker and fridge on three sides of the U. This layout creates a perfectly balanced work triangle with everything within easy reach as well as plenty of worktop space in between the areas.
32. Be sympathetic to the original design
Take inspiration from your room’s architecture to search for kitchen ideas that feel right at home.
You may have always dreamed of a painted traditional kitchen or, indeed, something more sleek and modern, but there is no getting away from the fact that the most successful kitchens work in harmony with the architecture of the room.
‘Done well, taking design cues from the existing structure will result in a relaxed, harmonious cooking space. It’s also a great way to add character and individuality,’ says Richard Davonport, Managing Director of Davonport (opens in new tab).
It’s worth noting that using the key features of the room is just as important as starting with date and style – after all you’re not looking to create a slavishly accurate historical replica. And where possible, use authentic materials to create a characterful look. This works particularly when you are looking for kitchen flooring ideas – the brick-look of this herringbone flooring is spot on.
33. Introduce a splash of color
Pick a shade that will give your kitchen a vibrant lift and create a welcoming space for cooking and entertaining. With the kitchen now a multi-purpose room designed as much for living as it is for cooking, it is important to decorate to suit.
Neutrals aren’t for everyone and the sizeable cost of a new kitchen shouldn’t dictate that you play it safe. It’s more a case of choosing how and where to introduce color, picking spots that can be easily updated, and introducing shades that mirror the color palette in the rest of your home.
‘It’s amazing how a change of paint color or some new tiles can give a kitchen a completely fresh look, picking up on different accents within the home,’ adds Rob Whitaker, Creative Director, Fired Earth (opens in new tab).
34. Ensure your kitchen is fitted with the best appliances
While the kitchen has become the hub of the home, let’s not forget its true purpose – and one not duplicated by any other room in the home. This is the place where you come to cook. Of course skill level and indeed levels of interest vary dramatically from home to home, but all of us cook at some point – even if it is just to heat a ready meal or boil water for pasta. Some are altogether more demanding, giving Michelin-starred chefs a run for their money.
Technology in the kitchen has really come into its own in this field and now there is a vast range of appliances to suit all types of cooks, from ultra-accurate pro-style ovens, to programmable versions that take away all of the guesswork to cook a meal for you – it’s a dizzying array.
Even iconic brands such as AGA, which pride themselves on traditional quality, are embracing new technology with all electric designs and even a touch screen range cooker. But in the modern kitchen, aesthetics are almost as important as gadgets and gimmicks.
‘Appliances naturally provide the backbone for any successful kitchen,’ explains Robert Laurie, Director at Poggenpohl Kitchens (opens in new tab).
‘But thanks to great improvements in design, consumers can now enjoy exceptionally practical ovens and hobs and integrate them seamlessly into their surroundings. Banked appliances, stunning range cookers and integrated hobs not only create a visually impressive focal point but are quicker and more efficient than ever before.’
35. Factor in space for ample storage
Precision planning is the key to turning a chaotic kitchen into a neat and tidy work space. With the kitchen coming under increasing pressure to perform a variety of crucial roles such as family dining, relaxing, working and entertaining, a good layout and choosing the best kitchen storage ideas is more important than ever.
‘High capacity, well sited storage is essential to keep everything neat and tidy, providing a clutter-free space that’s a pleasure to use,’ says Danny Lay, Sales Director, Caple (opens in new tab).
In a multi-use, open-plan space, try to allocate dedicated storage in each area, not just kitchen cupboard storage. For example, window seats with deep pull-out drawers are perfect for stashing away toys and ensure that there’s at least one drawer or shelving unit near the TV for tidying away remote controls and games consoles.
‘Installing an island with cabinets on both sides helps maximise storage in the dining area for formal crockery and glassware,’ adds Tony McCarthy, Commercial Director at Crown Imperial (opens in new tab).
36. Maximize a small kitchen
Don’t let a lack of space restrict your style. Taking an ambitious approach to the design and fittings can result in striking small kitchens that punch way above their weight.
While the long established preference for going ‘light and bright’ when decorating small spaces does apply, it’s important not to let your kitchen slip into neutral obscurity.
‘Don’t be afraid to use color – even really bright colors in high gloss finishes, such as lime green, blue, lilac or pink. It’s a great way to give your kitchen a boost if you haven’t got a great deal of space to play with,’ advises Adrian Stoneham of Stoneham Kitchens (opens in new tab).
37. Invest in high-quality stone
Beautiful, hardwearing and timeless, it’s no surprise natural stone has enduring appeal in the kitchen. Stone adds a drama and natural beauty to your room that simply can’t be matched by other materials.
From limestone and marble, granite and slate, this versatile material is available in a wide range of shades and patterns, and it can suit modern, country and classic schemes. Popular when designing a kitchen island but also for floors, walls, worktops and backsplashes, it’s the variety of stone and the way that it is finished that delivers so many strong looks.
There’s an element of care involved in the maintenance of all kinds of stone as it is a naturally porous material. The level of upkeep will depend on the stone, so ask the retailer’s advice and make your choice based on lifestyle compatibility as well as aesthetics.
38. Enhance a classic kitchen
Kitchen trends might be ever-changing but more often than not, it’s a blend of styles that hits the right note – elegant proportions combined with modern practicality.
Classic kitchen ideas, with their timeless lines and broad appeal, can tick all these boxes, narrowing the gap between traditional furniture and contemporary design to suit your home.
‘While the architecture of the cabinetry may pay homage to a particular era, the equipment can be state of the art and tailored to your lifestyle,’ explains Jane Stewart, Design Director at Mowlem & Co (opens in new tab).
‘For example, you can house banks of refrigeration and wine storage in a corniced, fully framed run of furniture. Materials should be of the finest quality but the look can be updated by details, be it stains, color, reflective finishes, distinctive handles, lighting, pop up sockets, boiling water taps or unusual bespoke elements.’
39. Pick warm-toned finishes to create a welcoming space
During and since the coronavirus pandemic, we have all spent much more time in our kitchens – they have once again become the heart of the home. With this in mind, the trend for minimal, streamlined kitchens has shifted somewhat. Yes, we still want them to be sleek, smart and functional, but it's just as important for them to feel welcoming.
This can be achieved simply with paint colors and finishes on lighting or even cabinet furniture – swap them to something warm-toned, such as wood, and witness the kitchen's transformation.
40. Link your kitchen to the garden to encourage easy living
Not all climates offer year-round sunshine, but there are certainly enough good days to want to make the most of any outdoor space. Linking a kitchen to the garden lets the entertaining zone spill outdoors. Combine your kitchen with your garden ideas by ensuring there is a table close to the threshold.
41. Blur the boundaries
The trend towards open-plan living has soared in recent years. Whilst the kitchen has always been dubbed the heart of the home, this space is no longer just for cooking. Within a modern set-up, an open plan kitchen can also be used as a dining area, work space and somewhere to gather as a family or socialise with friends.
‘The area immediately outside the kitchen is increasingly becoming kitchen territory, ideally with a terrace for alfresco dining,’ says designer Johnny Grey.
‘The easiest way to make good use of outdoor space year round is to have one wall of the kitchen completely glass or with large doors that fold or slide back,’ advises Steven de Munnich, design director of Smallbone of Devizes (opens in new tab). ‘Glass structures allow light to flood into the room and help make the garden feel like part of the kitchen-living space,’ he adds.
42. Make just one change to transform a kitchen
Looking for kitchen ideas to upscale an existing space? If you have a painted or freestanding kitchen you are in luck: their looks can be switched up really quickly. Here, a dresser is painted in a contrasting color to the rest of the room to create a splash of warmth, a focal point and a modern new look all in one.
43. Pay attention to details
If your kitchen extension features an expanse of glass, then it is imperative to pay extra attention to the material choice inside your kitchen.
Select durable cabinetry and flooring that are not likely to be bleached by sunlight. Natural timber finishes will fade gracefully over time. Make sure cooking appliances are well ventilated, preferably with an externally ventilated extractor which will help prevent windows from steaming up.
44. Maximize space in a galley kitchen
So much has changed in the way in which we design and use our kitchens over the last decade or so, but there is something reassuring in how galley kitchen ideas have adapted to the new-found sense of space, and have thrived.
Named after a ship’s kitchen, it was originally associated with simplicity and tight spaces – there’s not much room for superfluous detail on the average ship. But the reason that a galley kitchen works is that it is ergonomically sound, and it’s easy to place everything so it is to hand.
Galley kitchens were originally designed to be both compact and ultra-efficient, maximising every inch of space for both storage and preparation.
Professional kitchens also follow a similar linear plan with lines of ranges or hobs divided into specific stations for the preparation of different types of dishes.
Where there is room for a parallel run of units – a double galley – you can introduce the classic work triangle, arranging the key task zones of fridge, cooker and sink in this pattern to cut down on the footwork between them. This is not only successful in narrow rooms that have enough width to take two rows of units, it's exactly the format that is so popular in open plan spaces, with a long island providing the second leg, often creating a sociable casual seating area and a natural boundary for the kitchen space at the same time.
‘Galleys can be really stylish. Long lines of worktop create strong horizontal planes that look incredibly sleek,’ adds Hugo Tugman, Architectural Designer, Architect Your Home (opens in new tab).
45. Make a U-shaped kitchen practical
Kitchen trends come and go, but planning a layout essentially remains the same. The classic layouts of galley, L- and U-shapes are designed to be the most ergonomically sound, helping to create the ‘work triangle’ of hob, sink and fridge within easy distance of each other and allowing for adequate work space in between. And while we have swapped compact kitchens for open plan living, it is interesting to see how these shapes have found new relevance in a larger space.
U-shaped kitchens have traditionally had units running along three walls of the room with one free wall as the access point. Modern variants include the U-shape plus island combo, which sees an island bridging the middle of a large U-shape, as well as standalone U-shape islands that sit in the middle of an open-plan room.
Alongside a tight workspace, the main attraction of an U-shape layout is its abundance of worksurface. ‘Capitalize on this by investing in the best worktop you can afford, such as a striking granite or chunky timber, to create a stunning design feature,’ suggests Hayley Shaw of Magnet (opens in new tab).
46. Make an L-shaped kitchen feel cohesive
A classic layout that works in any size space, L-shaped kitchen ideas are practical, concise and look great.
When deciding on a layout for your kitchen your choices are to a great extent dictated by the shape and size of your room, but that doesn’t mean you have to be restricted when it comes to design.
Whether the space is small, medium or large an L-shape layout works with both contemporary and traditional cabinetry, and the form is flexible enough to adapt to structural needs, such as sloping ceilings or large windows.
In a small kitchen an L shape is ideal as it concentrates all storage and appliances into two sides of the room, leaving the others free and open, so making the overall space seem bigger.
For larger kitchens or open-plan designs an L-shaped layout can serve as a divider between cooking and living zones or as an informal dining area with the bottom of the L becoming a useful breakfast bar idea.
47. Embrace an island kitchen
‘A striking island design will naturally draw your eye into the space and the furniture can provide a perfect cooking platform where friends and family are able to gather round as you prepare food and cook,’ says Andrew Hall of Woodstock Furniture.
Kitchen island ideas can prove to be pivotal additions to galley, L and U- shaped layouts, allowing the rooms themselves to grow while maintaining a comfortable work area where everything is in reach.
‘Islands are increasingly popular and act as central distribution points for incoming shopping, food preparation, and outgoing dishes, thereby breaking the traditional ergonomic triangle,’ says designer Tim Jaspar (opens in new tab).
48. Go open plan for a sociable space
When designing a modern kitchen, the big appeal is for the kitchen and cook to be part of the action when entertaining and, on a day to day basis, for the whole family to be together – in this time-pressed age, it’s a real boon to be able to offer help with homework while preparing the evening meal; and to be able to keep one eye on tots and teens while managing other tasks.
‘People have become generally less formal and so are more willing to share cooking, dining and relaxing areas,’ says Tim Higham of Higham Furniture (opens in new tab). ‘When throwing a party or entertaining friends, it is seen as sociable to cook and entertain at the same time.
Families also want to share the space so that they can multitask while preparing food.’ And in summer, an open plan space really comes into its own. The majority of open plan kitchens include large amounts of glass to let in the light and have easy access to the garden, which vastly expands living and entertaining space.
49. Introduce textiles to create an inviting space
'Where once kitchens were purely practical and designed to be functional, now we are looking to create lived-in looks for them that are more a reflection of the decor in the rest of our homes, particularly our living spaces,' says Homes & Gardens Editor in Chief Lucy Searle.
'The easiest way to transform an existing kitchen is with textiles – rugs or runners that can withstand or disguise the odd splash or stain along a run of cabinetry or under a dining table, and pretty cushion pads on seats are a good place to start. Another way to introduce color and texture is by showing off decorative china and pottery on open shelving.'
50. Pick a cabinetry color based on your room's light levels
'A kitchen needs to feel light and bright – all day long and during the evening, too,' says Homes & Gardens Editor in Chief Lucy Searle. 'This is obviously for practical reasons – you need good light to cook by, even if you dim the lights when you sit down to eat – but also because the kitchen is now the hub of the home and likely to host everything from home working to social events.
'So, when you are researching kitchen color ideas, by all means go for deep-toned kitchen cabinet colors, but only if the room receives really good natural daylight, like in the room above, or if you have created an excellent artificial lighting scheme.
51. Add bags of texture for warmth and interest
When you're creating a kitchen scheme, ensure there's at least one area of the room – whether the flooring, the countertops, the backsplash or the cabinetry itself – that has an element of natural texture or pattern to add interest, warmth and character to the room.
This is particularly important in a kitchen that is very streamlined and contemporary with flat-fronted cabinets. Spaces like these need natural texture to stop them looking too clinical. Unless, of course, clinical is the look you love.
52. Go with the grain in a modern kitchen
In contemporary settings, fluted patterns can be used to provide 3D interest – just enough to add character, while retaining the simplicity required to work in modern designs.
‘Fluted surfaces catch the light, creating deep shadows and texture within a room, and are particularly effective when set against a simple white space,’ agrees Stuart Piercy, founding director, Piercy&Company.
‘In natural solid materials, like the American black walnut and Calacatta Crema marble splashbacks used in this kitchen for the BBC Television Centre residential redevelopment in west London, fluting reveals the beautiful grain pattern and vein running through the core. It is an intriguing detail with wonderful depth.’
What are the best kitchen ideas for 2022?
The best kitchen ideas for 2022 have come about as a direct result of the pandemic.
No longer simply a place to cook, our demands on our kitchens to be exceptional living spaces have pushed boundaries to create all kinds of exciting possibilities.
Now firmly established as a flexible living space, cooking is just one of many activities that happens in the kitchen, and the latest approach to this essential space reflects a growing need and desire for flexibility.
Once, design was all about function and ergonomics, then came the entertaining kitchen, and now the ‘living kitchen’ which can encompass a home office, media centre and relaxed lounge-style seating as well as semi-professional cooking arena.
Moving away from sleek white, boxy cabinetry, there is a return to more classic styles with painted finishes offering a softer finish and the option to choose from a larger palette of shades and, indeed, to use two or three in one kitchen. But it is texture that is really bringing the space to life. Grain, concrete, heavy relief patterned doors, textured stone – these tactile surfaces have a presence, they interact well with light, and offer all kinds of exciting design possibilities.
The kitchen now looks like a living space. Cabinetry is sleeker, handless, in subtle finishes that wouldn’t look out of place in the living room. Freestanding pieces are mixed in with fitted units, and modern-day islands stand on tall legs looking like elegant tables as opposed to functional work benches.
There is a definite move towards being more creative with décor. Statement lighting – notably large pendants draw the eye and help define the zones, while wall art adds character and expresses personality.
Appliances have become super smart but also know when to disappear. The new finishes of matt black, white glass and soft grey for ovens are designed to blend with new cabinet finishes. Integrated extraction set into the ceiling or down draught options that slide demurely into the work surface when not in use allow for uninterrupted views. Even sinks now have covers to make the use of every inch of work surface and to help them blend, or are formed from the same composite material as the worktop such as Corian and Silestone to give a seamless finish.
Which kitchen ideas should be avoided?
The kitchen ideas to avoid are those which quickly date the room. Ideally, a kitchen might only be replaced once every 10 years, so any design fads that may appeal to you now should be carefully assessed to see whether you might still love them in five years' time – and, if you might sell your home any time within that first five years, you might like to consider whether those kitchen ideas are likely to be off-putting to future homebuyers.
Other kitchen ideas to avoid are those that don't match up to your property – a very contemporary kitchen in an otherwise traditional home can be a glaring mistake, while one that is constructed in low-budget materials in an expensive or well-curated home will stick out like a sore thumb.
What is a good theme for a kitchen?
So, you've got your color sorted, but what is a good theme for a kitchen?
Here's a breakdown of some of the most popular choices, including modern, classic, country and modern rustic...
The mainstay of modern kitchen design is simple flat-fronted cabinets – it’s a sleek look and one that is ageing incredibly well. In fact, much of what we consider to be modern design dates back to the 1930s. Even the sleek, handleless cabinets so typical of modern kitchen design right now have been around since the 1960s when SieMatic launched the first finger-pull kitchen cabinet, and the notion of open-plan kitchen-living is almost as old.
‘The modern style of kitchen developed out of the 1980s trend for loft or warehouse living, and that has extended into the open-plan living that is now so popular,’ says Keith Atkins, Director of Design at Design Space London.
For a while, modern kitchens seemed to take stark to a whole new level. Cabinetry was pared down and invariably white gloss, but it’s a look that can be too clinical for many. Thankfully, the current trend for modern is a far warmer affair. The clean lines and a fuss-free finish are still there but with texture, surface finish and soft color that bring character and are easy to live with.
Bernard Otulakowski, Managing Director, of SieMatic (opens in new tab) UK points out the design potential in the new modern. ‘The key is to use sleek handleless cabinets and a rich and authentic combination of materials and textures to create a really interesting and elegant scheme. Hidden storage will keep the kitchen clutter free, but include enough open areas to put special items on display,’ he advises.
‘Modern style has become more eclectic, more professional, sometimes more glamorous,’ says Graham Barnard, MD Matrix Kitchens (opens in new tab). ‘There’s a trend away from sterile minimalism and a distinct move towards warmth, often with a hint of steel.’
Kitchen trends might be ever-changing but more often than not, it’s a blend of styles that hits the right note – elegant proportions combined with modern practicality. The classic kitchen, with its timeless lines and broad appeal, can tick all these boxes, narrowing the gap between traditional furniture and contemporary design to suit your home.
‘While the architecture of the cabinetry may pay homage to a particular era, the equipment can be state of the art and tailored to your lifestyle,’ explains Jane Stewart, Design Director at Mowlem & Co.
‘For example, you can house banks of refrigeration and wine storage in a corniced, fully framed run of furniture. Materials should be of the finest quality but the look can be updated by details, be it stains, color, reflective finishes, distinctive handles, lighting, pop up sockets, boiling water taps or unusual bespoke elements.’
Part of the classic kitchen’s popularity lies in its useful features. Dressers, full- height larder cupboards, deep ceramic sinks, hanging rails and island units aren’t just decorative elements – they’re also hugely practical, while simple cornicing and mantles are a natural home for LED lighting and hidden storage respectively.
Warm and inviting, the country kitchen has always been known as a comfortable and friendly space, without the formality or urban edginess of the city. The goal, says Mark Wilkinson, Founder of Mark Wilkinson Furniture (opens in new tab), is to create a room ‘that puts its arms around you, allows you to dump your muddy wellies, and not sulk that you are spoiling its ‘look’.’
And the latest designs revel in the relaxed mood of the country, without being in any way twee. ‘The look has become simpler and cleaner,’ says Graham Jones, designer at John Lewis of Hungerford. ‘Not as fussy as of old, the new country kitchen has clean lines without being stark, providing traditional warmth with a mix of modern materials and touches.’
Classic framed, Shaker-style cabinetry with a painted finish remains a popular choice because it tends to create a softer, warmer look than glossy, sharp-edged designs.
Details, such as overmantels and cornices, feature less embellishment, while the paint palette is cool and simple: modern neutrals, particularly grey, are used to create a gentle look, or stronger shades, such as deep navy or charcoal, can be used to add modern punch.
And we are also seeing more flat-fronted cabinets in lighter timbers being used to add the warmth and natural beauty of wood to clean- lined design.
Pretty, decorative, and often space-challenged, cottage kitchens are all about clever spaces solutions and attention to pattern, texture and layering.
Traditional cottage kitchens in period homes are prized for their original features – whether stone floors or ceiling beams – it’s these details that give cottage kitchens their unique charm and homely feel.
However, you can recreate a cottage kitchen in a contemporary home – although this style looks best if kept to small homes with low ceilings.
Modern rustic kitchens
After decades of being counselled on the benefits of sticking to safe, neutral design when renovating, today’s modern rustic kitchen trend is a breath of fresh air.
The look sits somewhere between classic country and urban contemporary, uniquely blending the best of both, with the nod to industrial design providing a sharp edge.
The modern rustic look involves a careful balancing act of materials, design styles and colors. Achieving a clean but eclectic look that appears effortless, not contrived, requires skill but there are a few simple design tricks that will help.
First, keep control of the number of different finishes and materials – too many may result in chaos; too few will prove bland. No more than three core materials, with perhaps one or two accent finishes, should suffice. Think plain painted cabinets, with concrete or wooden worktops and stone floors, plus smaller doses of stainless steel, copper or brass.
Next, introduce interest and shape using standalone pieces – a vintage lamp, heirloom chair or well-worn butcher’s block, for example.
Finally, consider texture. Tactile finishes, such as upholstered bench seats, rough-sawn timber doors or worktops, and encaustic tiles will all help soften the hard surfaces in a modern kitchen.
Additional words / Linda Clayton
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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