The kitchen is the hardest working room in the home and must be designed to be highly practical and have a multi- functional layout. In a lot of modern open-plan kitchens, dining and social parts leading into the rest of the house are now included. Maximising the use of the space here is essential in these new living areas.
Therefore when planning a new kitchen it is important to create the right balance between practical working and entertaining spaces and to decide if the style will be classic, country or contemporary. Choosing the material for the flooring should also take into account the possibility of under-floor heating. It means that the kitchen and surrounding areas will always be warm and welcoming when needed and also allows for more wall space.
By far the most important decision to make next is the function and the position of the island unit. It will act as an informal divider to separate the cooking, dining and social zones. These are important considerations as all the required services like gas, electrics, water and plumbing will need to reach and be contained in the island. In larger kitchens the natural choice is to set it in the centre. In smaller rooms it could be set against a wall. Enough space to create walkways around the units and to be able to open doors and drawers should also be calculated.
A central island unit can also provide additional organised storage. If the kitchen is large enough it can incorporate appliances like ovens and dishwashers as well as seating. It might serve as the main food preparation area with prep sink and running water. Often deep drawers are designed to give storage for pots, pans and baking trays, as well as vertical slots for serving trays.
A more sophisticated use could also be a stunning cocktail bar marking where entertainment begins. In this case a granite, or quartz work surface is often the best and most practical solution. The island bar could also have a built in wine fridge and a drop down ice bucket, with cupboards for glasses and plates to make a natural serving counter for the entertainment zone just beyond the kitchen.
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Zoning in these large floor plans is important and the island units which are designed now really help in defining where the kitchen begins and ends and where the social area starts. For a seamless finish and uncluttered look, built in storage is truly the best option. Bespoke cabinets and shelving are provided in all kitchens but now extra drawers and cupboards are needed to hold hidden charging stations for keeping cables and leads or handy tablets and will keep high-tech gadgets or equipment tidied away ready for anytime use.
Integrated appliances like the popular large fridge-freezer can have a less intrusive presence and be softened by building open shelving around it or closing it in cupboard units. Unusual splash backs including mirrors or marble will make the kitchen look bigger and the reflections of the dining area with lanterns and striking kitchenware will make the area look more sociable.
The colour or tones chosen for the kitchen cabinetry, and the selection of contrasting flooring can be used to zone the various parts of larger open plan areas. Lighter choices will inject light and space, while darker shades work well with kitchens with lots of natural light. But this is not a fixed rule as dramatic dark tones can be teamed with pale walls and contrasting tops to give fresh and dynamic aspects.
Carrara marble is the classical choice and gives a well-established style and reflects light. Granite or composites are more practical than wood as easier to care for. To achieve a harmonious look throughout the open plan the work surfaces and tables should have a unified or coordinated presence.
The last touch must include carefully planned illumination.
Overhead spots are useful for all the tasks necessary in the preparation of the meal. Or an alternative can be pendant lights. Concealed lighting in the cabinets means that favourite china and glass can be displayed to full effect. Then ambient lighting must be chosen to create relaxed and easy settings. When the working lights are turned off or dimmed, the open space will be transformed. Carefully placed lamps on the bar will set the mood for cosy evenings and island living.