How to buy a kitchen: everything you need to know

Take it from someone who as A) done her own kitchen renovation and B) spoke to copious homeowners for the homes section in Kitchens Bedrooms & Bathrooms magazine, buying a kitchen can be a minefield of confusion. So, I thought I would break down each part of the room in bite-size chunks to help you create your dream space…

Buying units

With many different styles and options available, cabinetry should be one of the first considerations you make. Most schemes feature carcasses, base and wall units with cupboards and drawers, as well as tall housings for appliances, such as a bank of ovens and integrated refrigeration. First off, research which style you like – be it a traditional Shaker (my favourite) or a more contemporary handleless look. Decide if you want to buy bespoke – which simply means your kitchen is customised to your exact requirements down to the very last detail – made to measure, or off the shelf. It might sound like a cliché, but you really do get what you pay for with cabinetry – being some of the most-used furniture in the house. Buying off the shelf could mean the potential for maintenance after a few years, whereas bespoke designs, which are often at the top end of the price range, are built to last. Visit different showrooms, from the high street to independent stores, and choose the type of kitchen that suits your lifestyle and taste. Once you have an idea of what you’re after, book an appointment to start on your scheme. Don’t be afraid to shop around and get multiple designs and quotes until you’re happy – that’s important!

An island with sink

Moon white granite was chosen for this Martin Moore kitchen. Prices for Martin Moore kitchens start from £35,000.

Buying worktops

From white Carrara marble to jet-black quartz or solid wood – this is a key element of a kitchen as its shape, material, colour, finish and thickness can affect the feel of the space as a whole. However, beware, they can vary wildly in price – from laminates and stainless-steel options to premium natural stone and hard-wearing composite materials – so take the time and care to ensure you are selecting the right one for you and your budget. It very much helps to consider your lifestyle here, for example, the frequency of cooking, entertaining, dining, and food preparation should all contribute to your decision. If you’re a keen chef, stainless steel is the go-to material, and if you’re after something with longevity, solid wood is for you – as long as you regularly oil and sand it, as it can be highly porous and needs constant care to keep it in top shape. If yours is a busy household with young kids, a laminate or quartz which require minimal maintenance would probably be best – (likewise if you’re prone to being a bit messy, like me). See your chosen worktop in the flesh before making your final decision – either from kitchen studios, showrooms, or by visiting stone yards. If this is not possible, ensure you order samples – it would be a disaster if you order something and hate it when it comes, trust me!

Shaker kitchen cabinets

Mark Lewis Interior Design chose Hand Grade Neston engineered oak wood flooring, from £272.34 per sq m, by Havwoods for this kitchen

Buying flooring

From wood-effect tiles for a rustic look and large-format porcelain designs that are easy to maintain when compared to luxurious natural stone options, choosing the right covering for you is important both in terms of the style you want to achieve and any practical concerns. If you’re not sure where to start, look at the type of kitchen cabinetry you are having, and search out floors that will complement them. Get advice from your designer, or do research of similar kitchens and see what they have done. Porcelain or ceramic tiles are a pretty safe bet, seeing as there are hundreds of colours patterns, sizes and textures available – while also being durable. If you prefer the industrial look, think reclaimed wood or concrete, or for something a bit more family-friendly consider vinyl, which can easily withstand spills and heavy foot traffic. However, be sure to look for flooring that can cope with the demands of kitchen life. To get a better idea of what is available, ensure you visit high street showrooms or independent retailers. And just like with worktops, bring some samples home to see how they work in the space – especially important when purchasing online.

A contemporary kitchen-diner

This Roundhouse Urbo matt lacquer kitchen was designed for a project by Simon Whitehead Architects. Bespoke kitchens start at £35,000.

Buying appliances

From height, depth, and width to functionality, aesthetics, and smart features, spend time researching to get the right models for you – as they can be a very personal purchase. For example, I love to host dinner parties, so I knew I wanted two ovens and a large induction hob. However, I’m no gourmet chef – so I didn’t need models with all the bells and whistles. Consider the space you have, and how you’ll be using it. For a larger family, there are extra-capacity appliances from fridges to range cookers. If you prefer speedy recipes, a quick-heating hob would work well in your home – or, if you’re a pro-baker in the making, a steam oven. Before investing, do your research as to what will suit your needs. Look at reviews, talk to friends and family who have had a kitchen refit, and visit showrooms – plus look out for events where manufacturers demonstrate appliances you are interested in.

A green kitchen

This Neptune Suffolk kitchen, hand-painted in the brand’s Cactus shade. A similar design would cost £12,000.

Buying sinks

I know what you’re thinking – surely a sink is a sink? But, with so many available, you can pick anything – from a small stainless-steel option paired with a boiling-water tap on a kitchen island – that’s ideal for food preparation – to a large white ceramic sink, perfect for family life. However, in terms of basics, most homes are fitted with a bowl and a half option, which means a second smaller bowl offers that little bit of extra space. Double-bowl sinks are ideal for bigger families as well as larger kitchens or those in constant use. Before shopping around, look at what will work in your space both practically and in terms of style. What will be its main use, and will it work for the future? And who says it has to be white or stainless steel? Popular at the moment are black, grey, metallic, and satin finishes. Before you commit to buying a new sink, make sure the bowl is deep enough to wash up large pots and pans if you regularly cook, but that it also fits in the cupboard below. Look out for models that offer unique features or have been paired with a particular tap. If the new sink is going into your current scheme, ensure you get the correct dimensions for your cabinetry.

A kitchen with extraction

Prices for Falmec’s Vetra start at £1600 for the wall-mounted model and £2000 for an island design

Buying extraction

As the kitchen is no longer reserved for only cooking but has become a multi-purpose space to dine, socialise, and entertain, the need for efficient extraction is more important than ever. When choosing this type of appliance, the essential features to consider are design and extraction rate. Equally as important is the installation of the correct-sized duct, if one is needed. Ducted-out models work by removing smells, steam, and grease through an external wall to the outside – so installing these should be planned in early in the project. The alternative is a recirculating extractor, which filters the air before pushing it back into the room. When positioning the hood and hob, also consider the sight line – which is exactly what I did when doing up my kitchen. The hob is positioned to look out towards the dining area and garden, so didn’t want that to be interrupted by an unsightly extractor, so we went for a flush ceiling design. The position of your hob, as well as its design and whether it is gas or induction, will dictate where your extractor will go and what model to get. Remember, the bigger the room, the more powerful your chosen design will need to be. Also speak to your kitchen fitter or electrician to see what is required for installation.

a hot boiling water tap

The Insinkerator 4N1 Touch tao is perfect for those looking to remove the kettle from the worktop. Available from around £1249.

Buying taps

Kitchen taps are getting ever sophisticated – in addition to the core on and off water functions, a variety of other features are also available, from pull-out hoses to flexi sprays. Tech features are also being integrated into the latest designs, including built-in sensors to automatically switch water on or off for hands-free operation with a single swipe motion. This is great for maintaining hygiene while you cut meat and produce while also offering a solution for when your hands are full. Or go one-step further still ­– the thing that seems to be on every renovators’ wishlist: an instant steaming-hot water tap. These can declutter the worktops and can be used to quickly brew up tea and coffee, blanch vegetables, and run jars underneath to loosen the lids. Although, you should know they need space under the sink for the tank, along with a small filtration unit. When buying a kitchen tap, take into consideration how you’ll be using it everyday and what sink you will be pairing it with, as well as your scheme’s overall look.

A kitchen with a concrete worktop

A strip of pendant lighting runs the length of this island, designed by Uncommon Projects. This kitchen design cost around £87,000 for the appliances, kitchen and worktop.

Buying lighting

This is something that needs to be planned in the early stages of your project. Ask yourself, do any lights need to be grouped together and come on and off at the same time? Do you want them dimmable or controlled by remote or sensor? It’s best to approach lighting in zones, starting with task lighting, which is for everyday food preparation and eating. Under-wall cabinet lights that shine directly on the worktop are a popular choice, or consider pendants over the worktop or eating area. Then, get into the party or relaxing mood by, including ambient illumination. This can feature along plinths, over wall units, on the underside of a worktop, or inside glass-fronted cabinets.

This kitchen features a long radiator

A Bisque radiator has been used to heat this large open-plan kitchen. Priced from £412.80.

Buying heating

Although I manage to get extremely hot all by myself while cooking in my kitchen, you do need to think about how it actually warms up. This could be from radiators, heat-generating range cookers, and underfloor heating to woodburners. A heat loss calculator, which can easily be found online on various radiator manufacturers’ websites, will be able to tell you what you need based on the floor area of your space. Hygiene is an important factor too. Opt for a radiator that is easy to clean and has a smooth finish, as opposed to a textured style which may be preferable in a living room or bedroom. If wall space is limited, underfloor heating is an efficient way of adding a discreet source of warmth to your home. There are two types – electric cables or mats and warm water running in pipes laid beneath the floor.

I hope this has been useful – and good luck with your project! And be sure to get in touch with the team if you have any questions.

Feature image: The cabinets in this Pluck kitchen have been mixed and matched with different colours and textures. Prices start from £10,000.

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  • Avatar
    Karen Wallace
    27th November 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Lovely article ! Fantastic photos too – very inspirational !!
    There is always the option of designing with a freelance concept planner or independent kitchen designer , if you want to shop around with One Plan too . That way you can also compare like for like with companies.
    Saves you time, saves them time so should save you money AND you get a specific design to safely suit you and your space.
    Worth thinking about !
    Keep up the wonderful work !
    Kind regards
    Karen. ( at OnePlan )

  • Avatar
    Matthew Parnum
    28th November 2019 at 10:11 am

    A great article with lots of helpful tips for starting out on your kitchen buying journey!
    At first it can all seem a little daunting but as a kitchen designer and business owner, I would say that a professional designer and kitchen retailer should assist you with making all of these decisions, and it’s never a case of one size fits all. There has never been more information available to the consumer in print and on line, so do your research and be honest at the outset with your wish-list and budget. The best kitchens are a result of a smooth collaboration between the designer and the customer working together. Investing in the best possible products will generally pay dividends in the long term, and not all kitchens are not all created equal.
    A new kitchen is not cheap and it could be your second or third largest purchase after buying property, and possibly your car. So find a company with a great reputation, and in my opinion the independent retailers will generally go the extra mile in delivering your dream kitchen, and they will treat you and your home with respect throughout the process.
    Good luck and the results are worth all of the effort!
    Matthew Parnum – ICE Interior, Lymington.

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