As cliche as it may sound, the kitchen is still the heart of many a home, the place where the day ahead is chatted about over tea and toast, the place where long, languid suppers with close friends turn into boozily impassioned conversations that run into the early hours, the place where Sunday lunch is still a sacrosanct family tradition in a modern world, the place where you dance in your underwear with your partner after getting home from a party, the place where you sit alone at the end of a long day and cook a meal to unwind with a cold beer.
If one's stomach is the way to one's heart, then it makes perfect sense that the kitchen is the heart of the home.
Which brings us to the question of how to create a warm, inviting and practical kitchen that fulfils its purpose.
I've listed below the 8 most important questions I ask when helping clients redesign their kitchen;
What works for you at the moment?
The best way to start is to look at what you like about the space as it stands. Is it the current layout? Is it a general feeling of airiness and openness that lends itself to sociability?
What doesn't work for you at the moment?
Perhaps the functionality of the white goods. Perhaps you'd rather cook on gas. Perhaps the cold stone flooring.
What would make it your dream kitchen?
Adding an island or knocking through to create a large open plan living space are popular choices that suit modern living. For other people, the inclusion of a wine fridge or cooler drawer are smaller, easily integrated additions that can made life that little bit more pleasurable.
How do you envisage using your new kitchen?
This may sound self explanatory but how an individual uses their kitchen is just as individual and it may not even involve much cooking! For example, the city worker who eats out most nights and uses his fridge to chill wine and the odd avocado for breakfast smoothies but would like to have a low lit sexy seating area for cosy dinners and entertaining clients.
Do you want to make structural changes?
This is an important question for a number of reasons. If making structural changes e.g. removing a chimney breast, it may be necessary to obtain freeholder consent and a party wall agreement which will involve liaising with a number of other parties. It will also be necessary to hire a structural engineer, and possibly an architect, making the process somewhat longer and more complex. Where structural changes are involved it will also likely be necessary to liaise with building control to ensure that all changes are building regulation complaint.
What kind of style would you like?
This is probably the aspect the majority of people spend the most time thinking about. Hours can be spent pouring over interior magazines and Pinterest which may seem superficial but whilst looks come second to utility in the pecking order without a space being aesthetically welcoming and inviting it will probably remain underused.
There are endless options available and whilst some prefer to pick one style and stick with the theme e.g. classic shaker, white gloss minimal etc. a lot of clients I speak to are keen to merge styles to create a unique look e.g. white gloss minimal with moroccan tiles and industrial touches. Creating a vision board and identifying your key preferences and editing them to create a cohesive look is key here.
What is your budget?
This will have a big impact on the art of the possible. It's crucial to identify exactly how much is in the pot for the refurbishment and put 10% away for unforeseen costs which will almost always occur, even on the best prepared projects. Once budget is confirmed I would then recommend getting in 2-3 recommended builders to estimate for the work. This way you will have a fair idea of what proportion of the budget will need to be allocated to the practical concerns and what is left for the cabinetry, flooring, work surfaces, countertops, tiles, lighting etc.
What are your timescales?
Depending on the nature of the work, the installation itself could take anything from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It's also important to factor in the other aspects of process and how long they will take e.g. the technical design, planning consent, party wall consent, lead times.