As a kitchen designer I get asked all the time, how do I start planning for my new kitchen? To answer this, I’ve broken the process down into six steps: research, budget, design, ordering, building work, and kitchen installation.
Thinking about and taking action on each step will help guide you through the process of planning a new kitchen.
Whether you are updating your existing kitchen or having a whole new extension and creating a lovely big open plan kitchen living area, there are a lot of moving parts, and trying to think about everything all at once when planning a new kitchen can be a little overwhelming.
In this post, I’m going to talk about the steps to take when tackling a project like this and give some tips, tricks, and factors to consider when planning a new kitchen. Hopefully making the process a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable for you.
So you want a new kitchen, that’s great, but what exactly do you want?
There’s so much choice these days in style and colours – you need to start thinking about what it is that you like or will be most appropriate for the property or lifestyle you have.
The first thing I ask my clients is if they want a contemporary/modern kitchen or a more traditional looking kitchen. So, gloss/matt slab doors, maybe handle-less with clean lines for the modern kitchen.
Or, wooden / painted timber shaker style door, a more classic look and accent it with some lovely handles for your more traditional looking kitchen. This instantly cuts things in half and helps to begin to focus on finding what you love.
Great tools for this are things like Pinterest or Instagram as they are very visual platforms and can be great for inspiration and figuring out what you do and don’t like the look of.
In addition to what you like the look of, it’s also worth considering what your property type is and what look may lend itself best. For instance, if you have a Victorian terrace house with a lot of original features, you may want to keep that style and opt for a more traditional painted shaker style kitchen, something that has a more timeless look to it.
You can add personality with the colours you pick for not just the cabinets but splash-back or small kitchen appliances if you want to. On the other hand, if for instance you have a more modern flat or are having a new extension built, a more contemporary kitchen could be the way to go, especially if you want to keep things clean, simple and light.
If you are thinking of a modern kitchen, remember there are more options than just glossy white. Soft matt cabinet doors are becoming more popular, as is mixing colours and textures within the same space.
Lastly, consider your lifestyle. If you are a busy family with small children, you might not want that clean modern kitchen, as it will be a nightmare to maintain. Glossy doors are notorious for showing fingerprints and, although easy to wipe down, you may end up doing a lot of wiping.
A timber door, on the other hand, doesn’t show marks as much and if it does get chipped at all most manufacturers supply a touch-up pen to simply paint in the chip.
Please don’t think I’m saying families can’t have a modern kitchen, not at all. I just think it’s important to consider your lifestyle as one of the factors, you know yourself the best.
How do you intend to use this space? If you want it to be a more social environment think about trying to incorporate some seating. This could be a breakfast bar on and an island or the back of a peninsula.
Having seating as part of the kitchen itself is a great way to make the area social for dinner parties or more family-friendly by having the kids sat doing homework while you are cooking.
If you have a separate dining room or table in the kitchen, you may not want this and so you could have extra storage or worktop space by forgoing a breakfast bar.
Speaking of cooking, start to think about what types of appliances you would like and that fit well into your lifestyle. An appliance that I always see divide opinions is the hob.
Are you more of a traditionalist ‘proper cook’ and prefer a gas hob, or are you moving with the times and adopting the sleeker and safer induction hob?
Do you need the maximum fridge and freezer space and have to have an American style fridge freezer, or would you prefer to hide the appliance away and have an integrated fridge freezer? Or even a separate full-height fridge and build under freezer? Something I’m seeing much more of these days.
Start to think about what is most practical as well as most aesthetically pleasing. The goal here is to strike the perfect balance of the two. Step 1 of How to start planning a new kitchen done, moving on!
So you know the type of kitchen you would like, how much have you got to spend on it?
This can be difficult to figure out and will depend on what exactly your project involves. When I talk about the kitchen budget I like to break it down into four sections.
- Installation(kitchen fit only. No building work, tiling, decorating etc.)
What is your overall budget that will cover these four sections?
Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer; it will depend on the size and specifications you have. For instance, if you have a small kitchen and want laminate worktops and are happy with lower-end brand cabinets and budget-friendly appliances and have a good local tradesperson to install, you could be looking at £5k – £15k.
And of course, there is the middle ground too. Usually smaller independent kitchen showrooms or less expensive brands, you could get good quality cabinets, middle of the range stone worktop, some good quality appliances such as Bosch / Neff / AEG / Siemens and have their in house fitter/team install it for you for around the £20k-50k range.
Look at what you want to achieve, add up other costs that may be involved (building work, electrics, plumbing, tiling etc..) then allocate yourself a budget for the kitchen. It’s always good to give yourself a little 10% contingency money if you come across something you absolutely love but it’s just that little bit more.
You know what type of kitchen you would like; you’ve got a budget in place, now it’s time to start getting a design and plan together.
Arguably the most fun step in ‘how to start planning a new kitchen’ this is where you can let your creativity fly and use that research and budgeting to good use.
If you’re doing this yourself start by measuring the room and sketching it out. Measure all the walls, windows, doors, ceiling height and anything that is fixed in the space (boiler, fuse box etc…) once you have these dimensions you can use free online kitchen design and planning tools or websites such as Ikea to help design your space, you could also go the old fashion route and draw everything out on scale paper.
While there is nothing wrong with designing and ordering a kitchen yourself, (in fact, it can be a great way to save money) I would always recommend going to visit a kitchen design showroom and have a professional draw out and design your kitchen.
Not only do they have better software and know how to use it, but they also do this for a living and have a huge amount of knowledge and experience in this. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to overlook some little detail that can have a huge impact on the project later on down the line.
Many kitchen showrooms offer a free design and quote service, so use them, and go to at least 2 different showrooms (possibly more), not only to look around and shop for the best offers but to get another person’s take on the design.
You may like one section or idea from one place and another from a different, and then you can combine everything into your final design.
Bring in your plans (your home drawn measurements or architect drawings) and ideas or images of what you want to get the process started.
It usually takes a few days to a week to get your kitchen drawn up and priced. Some companies will then email you everything, others will invite you back to present to.
Some companies will also want to come out and measure everything themselves. However, if it’s an extension this isn’t always possible. In these instances you have two options, proceed with everything according to the architect’s plans, where you assume the builder and the kitchen design are all being made to the same measurements.
Alternatively, wait until the space has been built and have the kitchen company (or yourself) take a final measurement before ordering the kitchen cabinets.
This may seem like the obvious choice, but with some kitchens taking 8-12 weeks to manufacture you can end up needing to order before the space is finished in order to keep the project timeline moving along, otherwise, you could end up waiting weeks for the kitchen cabinets with an empty room.
Once you’ve found the type of kitchen you like and it’s in your budget there is usually a bit of back and forth between yourself and the designer to tweak and make sure you love everything about the design.
This sort of depends on you and how quick you are at making decisions, but this normally takes a few weeks to get perfect so give yourself a bit of time for this so you don’t make any rushed decisions.
4. Timeline and Ordering
Once you have your kitchen finalized you need to figure out the timeline of events for your particular project. If there’s building work involved talk to your builder about how long they estimate it will take to complete certain stages and what they will require to be available to them and when they need it.
So in the instance of your kitchen, find out when your builders will be ready to have the cabinets installed, so you can either make sure they arrive ready for the builder to install, or that the room is ready for the kitchen company to come and install the cabinets.
You will also need to know the order time from your kitchen supplier. Most independent kitchen suppliers have the cabinets made to order and range from 2-12 weeks for ordering and delivery.
Give yourself and the kitchen supplier a little bit of extra time just in case the build isn’t quite ready or there are delays from the supplier etc… It’s better to have to wait a week before installation than everything turns up early with nowhere to store things and the risk of items getting damaged on site.
Once you’ve agreed on a date with your builder and kitchen supplier, get everything ordered with the relevant suppliers. Most likely that will be the cabinets and worktop through your kitchen company (sometimes appliances and installation).
If you are saving a bit of money and sourcing your appliances online yourself, allow plenty of time to make sure the items you want are in stock and can be delivered when you need them.
Don’t leave it to the day before to buy something online, only to find out it’s out of stock.
5. Building work
The day has finally come that you have been working towards; it is day one of the build/kitchen renovations. Whether you are in for a few weeks or months of building an extension or if you are simply refurbishing your kitchen in the same space things are about to get messy.
Pack away everything from your old kitchen and if possible, set up a temporary kitchen space somewhere else in the house. It’s nice to at least have space to microwave some meals and make a cup of tea.
Depending on how long you are going to be without a kitchen can influence how much effort goes into this temporary kitchen but get used to takeaways for a little while.
This is the stage at which things get ripped out, electrics and plumbing get installed or moved to suit the design, walls get built and plastered and flooring is prepared and put down along with preliminary decorating.
All that prep work to get the space ready to start installing those kitchen cabinets.
You will need to have your kitchen plans to hand to show your builders. This is so they know what and where everything is going. These are the top-down and elevation views of your kitchen provided to you by your kitchen designer and should label what everything on the plans is.
Now is the time to think about where you want your lights, if you want some extra sockets (you do!) and things of that nature.
The typical timeline of events for the building phase are:
- Demolition – Knocking down any walls or chimney breasts and ripping out the old kitchen etc.
- Structural changes – Any new walls, windows, doors and interior studwork.
- First fix– Adding/moving electrics, plumbing, gas etc. Getting the cables and pipes in the right place for your new layout.
- Plastering / preliminary decorating– Getting the room plastered and the first few coats of paint on as a base layer.
- Install flooring – Whether that’s wooden, tiled or laminate. Get it put down wall-to-wall and cover the whole area.
6. Kitchen installation
The last step in ‘how to start planning a new kitchen’ is the kitchen installation itself.
Once the room is ready and all the messy stuff out of the way it’s time to start fitting the kitchen. Most cabinets come ready assembled (always check) and it’s relatively quick to get the units in place and installed.
Depending on the size and complexity of the kitchen it should take between 2-7 working days to get the cabinets installed.
If you are having laminate or timber worktops these can be installed straight away and will speed up the installation process.
If you are having Granite, Quartz, Dekton or anything that needs a more specialized installation this will take longer and usually work like this. Once the cabinets are all installed, the worktop company will come out and make a template off of the cabinets and measure exactly what they need.
They will then go back to the factory to fabricate your worktops. This can take anywhere from 1 – 3 weeks, once fabricated they will return and install your new worktops.
During this time, you should be able to use most of the rest of the kitchen. Okay, you won’t have worktops for prep space, but you should have a working fridge and oven at this point you could start to make some basic meals if you’re getting sick of the takeaways.
During this period there may be odd little finishing bits to do. The kitchen cabinets or your electrician may need to visit to do any ‘second fix’ work such as connecting up new spotlights and sockets in the area, but mostly this time is just a waiting game for the worktop.
Once the worktops are installed you will need to have your sink and tap plumbed in and hob (if in worktop) connected up. Other appliances can and should have already been connected and set up.
It’s only the things that sit in the worktop that have to wait. Your kitchen fitter may also need to return if there are any units that sit on the worktop (pantry/dresser unit) in order to finish off these final bits.
If you are having a splashback or tiling then this will happen after the worktop has been installed, so as to template or tile around the finished space.
Depending on how big the area is, this could take 1-2 days to be tiled. Or if you are having a glass splashback that isn’t just a simple single piece behind the hob and required templating, then this is work in the same way as your stone worktops.
It will get measured up professionally to manufactured off-site and can usually take 1-2 weeks before returning to be installed. If you are having something more specialized such as antique mirror as your splashback then this can take 2-8 weeks to be manufactured and installed.
Allow some extra time at the end for any final little finishing touches. This could be the final decoration and touch up phase or a return visit if anything needs to be adjusted or replaced due to damage.
Make sure the space gets a good clean and inspection before signing off any work. Don’t be afraid to raise any concerns you may have with your kitchen designer or builder – it’s your kitchen and you need to love it!
That’s it, you’ve made it and have a beautiful new kitchen, now it’s time to unpack, fill those cupboards and start to enjoy your new space.
Before you rip out your old kitchen or start knocking down walls for your new extension, consider reading my guide on how to survive a kitchen renovation. – Temporary Kitchen Setup During a Renovation – Top Tips
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