Functionality is key when designing a kitchen and should be a priority when making all decisions about how you want the space to look. Invest in areas where you know you’ll get the most use and features that will make working in the kitchen more efficient and enjoyable.
Don’t forget about personality: the kitchen is the heart of the home, so it should represent the people who live there. When thinking of a new look, start with a colour, pattern, texture or style that you really love and build a scheme around it.
Be bold with kitchen tiles
Inject personality into your space using wall or floor tiles in your favourite colour or pattern. If you have gone for a strong pattern on the walls, keep the worktops and units simple. The same applies for shiny and matt: I would always put a high-shine surface next to a matt one to prevent it looking too over the top.
Patterned, tiled floors make a very strong focal point, but if a full wall or floor pattern is too much, a splashback takes up little room and still adds character, plus it’s a more affordable solution.
Remember the dining table
A table is a fantastic starting point for a new kitchen design. If you already have a table you love, factor it into your layout from the start. It is important to ensure your kitchen supplier knows what your table looks like and how big it is.
A good design should work with the style of the table, so try highlighting the material or colour with new cabinetry or worktops. If your furniture is timber, think carefully about other woods used and keep the number of wood finishes to a maximum of two per room.
Think about kitchen lighting
One of the easiest ways to add a design feature is with lighting. As the kitchen is now a multi-functional, family space, it’s important to layer practical task lighting with decorative ambient lighting. Overhead lighting is necessary, but not atmospheric, so add low pendants and wall lights where possible.
Visit high street stores, lighting specialists, antique fairs and reclamation yards to find your perfect style. Remember, pendant lights don’t have to be overly practical, so long as you factor in task lighting elsewhere, so go for something that looks great and makes you smile. Either highlight the colour or material elsewhere in the kitchen design, or choose contrasting finishes for a unique look.
From left: Trumpet (196) absolute matt emulsion, £38 for 2.5L, Little Greene. Revolve rise and fall light in brass and blue, H70-170xDia35cm, £1,050, Bert Frank. Casablanca Mono Décor porcelain floor tiles, W20xL20cm, £40.80 per m² from Mandarin Stone
Work with existing kitchen furniture
You may have a treasured freestanding cabinet or bookcase that you’ve inherited or brought from a previous home. Mixing freestanding, vintage cabinets with fitted units can create a bespoke look and the trick to incorporating old and new units is to keep them on opposite walls.
For a colour accent, try upcycling a salvaged find in a contrasting shade to the fitted furniture: a simple white kitchen would look lovely with a dresser in dark charcoal or vibrant yellow. Keep an eye on local auctions and markets for one-off pieces.
Highlight a favourite pattern or colour
I often use a client’s favourite painting or fabric as a starting point for a new room scheme. Nothing needs to exactly match, but should be able to sit comfortably in the same room.
Keep a small swatch of the fabric or a photo of the artwork with you when you visit showrooms and check it against fixtures, such as worktops or splashbacks, to see if the combination looks good. Even if the fabric is going to be on a small blind or a window seat, it’s important to ensure it will work.
How to add colour to your kitchen
- If it moves paint it! Paint your free standing furniture bright or contrasting colours
- Curate your own art collection, make it a bright and cheerful grouping of your favourite things
- Add a zing of colour with a bold statement light
- Look at the stunning palette of encaustic tiles on the market, richest pigment set in concrete
- Go bold with fabrics, you may only need a little in a kitchen so make it count!
Gabrielle Blackman is an interior designer and presenter of BBC One’s DIY SOS and Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders. With more than 18 years’ professional experience, she has worked with designers such as Mary Fox Linton and Nina Campbell, and is involved in many projects, from designing luxury kitchens, TV sets and yachts, to homes for private clients. Follow her on Twitter @CushionCrisis