Thursday, 14 March 2013

New Kitchen What?

You've decided to take the plunge and update that tired, most over used room in your home.  Yes, it can no longer wait, it's time to replace the kitchen. So you've scoured the internet, read the brochures and chatted with friends and colleagues.  Now you find yourself outside the kitchen supplier still with that nagging feeling:  "What should I ask?"

Here are a few tips on what to do when you first turn up.

Before you do go, research the facts.   There is no substitute for speaking with a little knowledge and it will allow you to discuss, extend and update your ideas with ease.  Forewarned is forearmed, and that's certainly true with kitchens.

Check the credentials of the kitchen supplier.  Don't look at the adverts or the glossy pictures as they are easy to obtain and produce.  No, ask for contact details of previous customers. The adverts are all well and good but be swayed by previous work.  A good kitchen supplier will be actively pushing this and may even hold coffee mornings at former customer kitchens to "show off" what they can do.
Discuss the quality! For longevity always go for quality cabinets and construction. Flat packs and hardboard may look good for a month or two but your kitchen should last you 10-20 years!   But how do you tell?  Well discuss the kitchen manufacturer with your supplier and have a good "poke" about the sample cabinets. A reputable supplier will be impressed if you start looking at the quality of construction before you look at the gloss!

Drawers should always be metal-sided with a solid base and back. These will take a lot of abuse over the life of kitchen so strong drawers are a must.  For instance Nobilia profi+ drawers at Kitchen Solutions Kent are rated up to 70kg!  Over the top?  Maybe, but, there again, we can't remember a customer calling for a replacement drawer!

Be personal!   Contact your suppliers and work with them.  Their job is to turn your ideas into reality so you'll need to visit them often.  A good kitchen cannot be designed in a single quick session so accept that many visits and lots of dialogue is a must. 

If installation is included in your order you can expect to withhold a percentage until everything is complete.  This will ensure that any missing items will be fitted before final payment is made.  If a company disagrees with this – just don’t use them! 

Speak to your kitchen fitter!  You'll need to discuss the time, date and key arrangements with them before they get to work.  And ensure they know what "success is" and raise concerns with the fitter as they appear, not at completion. 

Still unsure?  Come and start the journey at Kitchen Solutions Kent where we'll be more than happy to make you a coffee and discuss kitchens to your hearts content. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Anyone can do it, can't they?

Anyone can fit a kitchen, surely?  Well any builder, certainly?

Well, we at Kitchen Solutions Kent would soundly answer "NO! DEFINITELY NOT!".  Many of the problems we see, and are asked to rectify, are problems caused by inappropriate or poor quality fitting.   So what should you consider when looking to have a kitchen fitted?

Firstly, measure!  Measure all aspects of your kitchen; then measure them again, and then measure them again.  And when we say measure we mean measure to the millimetre.  Kitchen fitting is a precise art and the tolerances are to millimetres not centimetres.

Secondly, consider the quality of your walls and ceiling.  What are the wall and ceiling constructed of, are they sound and strong, and are they true and level. If your kitchen walls are not true and level it will be a devil of a job to install a quality kitchen so you may need to consider dry lining.  Also, is the ceiling level and is the height uniform across the kitchen?

Thirdly, consider who specifically is going to fit the kitchen and whether they are qualified? 

For the gas in the United Kingdom it is a legal requirement for anyone carrying out gas work to be registered on the Gas Safe Register.  This will ensure they are fit and competent to carry out the work. 

For the electrics, consider that "Part P of the Building Regulations" came into effect on 1st January 2005.  Now any electrical work must be carried out by a qualified and certified individual conforming to "Part B".

For plumbing there is no legal certification at the moment but the government are considering such a move.  The sooner the better we say!  But the plumber will need to be able to produce high quality work in some very tight spaces.  There isn't a lot of room behind kitchen cabinets but that's where your plumbing will go.  

Finally, the cabinets themselves.  Nobilia kitchens units come fully built, no flat pack construction here.  But this also means you'll need carpentry skills to cabinet builder quality to treat the units with the respect they deserve.  And if your having stone or corian worktops the cabinets must be completely level.  There's no play in solid worktops so a few millimetres out of level precludes their fitting.

So anyone can fit a kitchen.  Certainly not.   This is a precision job needing gas and electrical certification, top notch plumbing skills and cabinet building carpentry talent. Have a long chat with your kitchen supplier or us at Kitchen Solutions Kent.  Who fits your kitchen will be crucial to it's overall success.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Hug For A Hoody

A kitchen extractor hood is a simple, easy to choose appliance.  Right?  Well, there are a few things you need to consider before you make that choice.

Duct-out or recycled?  So which one should you choose? The duct-out system expels both moisture and odours to the outside.  This makes them much more effective, circulating at least 30% more air than the recycle equivalent while not requiring charcoal filters to clean the air.  The down side is that they will need to be ducted through the wall to the outside involving significantly more fitting work. Recycle extractors, on the other hand, filter the air through a charcoal filter back into the kitchen.  They are quick and simple to fit and will remove the odours, but not the moisture. If possible, it is almost always better to choose a ducted hood.

Think about the practicalities before you choose. With either hood system think about where and how it is going to be fitted.   Is that ceiling sound and strong enough to take the weight of an island hood?  And, if ducted,  where will you route the ducting? If you want the ducting hidden will it go into the ceiling? Does your ceiling have joists and in which direction do they run? 

Consider noise! An open-plan kitchen/diners can enhance your entertaining pleasures significantly, but bear in mind that kitchens "in full swing" can be quite noisy places to sit.   So look at decibel levels for the hood and opt for a quieter extractor.  In other words, think of how you kitchen is going to be used and set your priority list accordingly.  An industrial hood will certainly clear the air but may not be the best company for a quiet glass of wine!

And remember to use your hood wisely.  To remove cooking odours most efficiently, turn on your hood before you start cooking and then leave it running on the lowest speed for a few extra minutes once you’ve finished.

Finally, don't feel an extractor hood is just a blank piece of steel.  Today you can have hoods that look anything but the traditional idea of an extractor. If you need advice, Kitchen Solutions Kent would welcome the opportunity to discuss your ideas and desires.  A little time in reflection over this simple appliance may prove most rewarding.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Hidden Art

Small kitchens and small budgets need not dictate a style free kitchen.  With a little thought, a touch of modern technology and a capable kitchen designer it's more than possible to create a stylish kitchen in a small space.   Modern hideaway kitchens are starting to make there mark over here as they are well suited to those space and budget challenges. 

Light, light and light again

In a small space good lighting is an essential. Consider flush ceiling lights with directional spot lights for the cooking and work surface areas.   And fit lights under the wall units.  This will light up the work areas and give the units a floating effect.

Broad shoulders

Working surface will be at a minimum so consider fitting a wide island that can house the sink and cooker.  With suitable design you can fit an entire kitchen into a relatively small island, a kind of kitchen in a box!  

Smooth and silky

Keep the finish smooth and simple.  Minimalism is the watchword here as complex patterns will diminish the feel of space. Consider smaller appliances with minimal detailing, underfloor heating to reduce wall clutter, simple plain units,  and matching floors.  Hideaway kitchens are sleek and streamlined, so any appliances on show should be too.

And breathe...

All kitchen require good ventilation, but the key to success is to choose a hood that hides. Clean lines and simplicity in glass or steel are good for minimalism.  And if you choose that kitchen in an island then go for a designer hood that looks, well, nothing like an extractor!

Why not come and talk to Kitchen Solutions Kent and discuss your ideas.  What ever your design, it can always be hidden

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Nautical Cooking

 A galley kitchen usually consists of two rows of units divided by an essential corridor.  These can be difficult to work with but there are a few tricks you can use. So how do you design a galley kitchen?

The first essential feature is a corridor that's wide enough!  The minimum is considered to be 1.4m. You may believe that you could cope with less but remember you need space to open unit and appliance doors, and you may well need to have two people squeezing passed each other. So 1.4m minimum it is.

Plan in that magic kitchen triangle, an imaginary triangle formed between the sink, cooker and fridge.  You need to check that all three are easy to reach while also allowing room between them to work. Remember you'll need food preparation space next to the hob and never place the cooker, hob or sink within 40cm of a corner or behind a doorway.

As galley kitchens tend to be smallish, plan in plenty of kitchen storage. It's a good idea to speak to your local kitchen designers at Kitchen Solutions Kent  as there are many clever ideas to increase storage space. Innovations include skinny larder units which pull out and then rotate 90 degrees on their axis to make it easy to pick the can or bottle you want. Other helpers are extendable baskets within units, corner units with carousels or pull-out shelves so you can easily reach items at the back, and drawers fitted into the plinth below the units.

If space is really tight bear in mind that small is both beautiful and practical.  Many manufacturers now provide multi-function or half size appliances.  Go for sleek hobs and narrow fridges and freezers. A cooker hood is all the more important in a limited space so get your designer to work out the power you need from it, based on the volume of the room.

A touch of class is always welcome.  Add some luxury with finishes in stone, glass, steel or sleek Corian.  Using the same material for the worktop and splashback is a match made in heaven but coloured glass can have a spectacular effect.   If you do introduce colour limit your choice to one vibrant hue, adding multiple coulours in a small space can easily be an overkill.

And finally maximise daylight!  This is vital in a small room and will help it feel larger, however small the initial space..

Thursday, 24 January 2013

All those banana skins

Kitchen design can be a tricky business, a very complicated, tricky business!  So if you're considering a kitchen change you'll no doubt have some idea of what you'd like the new kitchen to be.  But hold on.  First consider some of the main "banana skins" that have caused many a slip.

1. Worktop, worktop, worktop.

One of the main complaints about any kitchen is a lack of worktop space.  So when you think about your new kitchen, make sure that you have enough worktop space by considering how you use your worktops now. The amount of space you need will be specific to your circumstances and will vary with the size of your room and budget.

Make a list of the types of activities you need specific worktop areas for, and evaluate how they may overlap when more than one person uses the kitchen.

Materials matter, too. Where laminates are rugged and heavy-duty, some of the high priced stone, concrete, metallic and natural wood worktops need regular maintenance and special handling.

2. The Golden Triangle.

The kitchen golden triangle links the three areas of greatest activity: the sink, the cooker and the refrigerator. There should be unobstructed access to and from all three of these locations. Of the three, the sink will see the most action and should have easy access to the cooker and refrigerator. Aisles,  door swings and islands that cut off direct access to these key areas make a kitchens frustrating to use. On a design plan, a few extra steps may not seem like much, but after a few hundred trips around a jutting island corner, you'll start to feel differently.

3. Room and more room

Kitchens typically contain lots of stuff. Not only that, but the items concealed behind cabinet doors can be oddly shaped space hogs. So finding a home for your kitchen stuff that still keeps it easily accessible is tricky. But one big design mistake is not including enough storage.  Remember a working kitchen includes lots of tools that contribute to preparing and serving meals. So try to design in as many storage areas as you can.

4. Island Design

Installing a kitchen island offers a promise of additional storage and preparation space. But choosing the wrong island or placing it in the wrong spot can be a disaster. Remember that the kitchen is a work area, and anything that gets in the way of working efficiently is going to be a problem. Islands that obstruct the flow of traffic to and from the sink, refrigerator, or cooker will create problems. One solution is to add a sink or cooker to the island and make it part of the functional kitchen triangle. Another is to position the island so that it has lots of space around it and doesn't impede foot traffic.

5. Lights
Kitchens need three types of lighting: general lighting , task lighting, and accent lighting. As you consider your kitchen design, think about how you will light each area for it's purpose. General lighting is often provided by ceiling lights together with natural light from a window. But where many designs fail is not consider task lighting. Preparation worktops, the sink and the cooker  should all have task lighting so design it in.

6. Air to breathe

You'll understand the need for good ventilation if ever you've walked into your home only to be overwhelmed by the aroma of last nights dinner! And, of course, cooking meals generates a lot of moisture that would be better housed outside the house.  So a good ventilation system will help improve the quality of your home and help keep your kitchen cleaner by venting odors and airborne grease particles from the kitchen.

7. Rubbish to throw

Dealing with kitchen rubbish is often a case of placing a pedal bin near the back door.  But in the age of recycling and rubbish sorting a little more thought is a prudent investment. Rubbish management, then, is no longer a local council activity but something you'll need to address. Consider what the different rubbish bins you'll need;  food waste, glass, and other-recyclable are the three most common but there could be others in your area.

8. Stay in the black

Kitchen renewable is a big project and a budget can easily get out of control.  Only you know how much you can afford, but set you budget first, be realistic and stick to it.  Also remember that project managers would feel a major project completing with a 10% over budget cost as on target!   They are all too aware that changes of mind, extra desires and unforeseen problems all add to the cost during the life time of a project.  So set yourself a contingency and ensure you stay within that.

9. Trendy but personal

You're taste is your taste.  And jolly good it is too, for you.  OK, no one should tell you what design your kitchen should be, it's your home.  But if you're putting a kitchen in to sell a home, be conservative. 

Have you ever wondered why all new built homers are painted in magnolia colour as standard.  Because, while not setting the world alight or making a style statement, magnolia offends nobody and compliments just about any style of furniture.  So if you choose big colours or brash design bear in mind that others may see that as a disadvantage.   No problem if your staying in the home for decades, but if you plan to move next year consider the future and try to design to please the majority.  Conservative design accessorised with your taste is much more flexible.

10. Follow that map

Remember those project managers.  They know only too well that correcting a "design fault or change" at the installation stage can cost 150 times over changing a requirement on a paper design.  The moral, of course, is to get your requirements right and then get the design right.  That will give a plan to stick to.  In this way you'll actually save yourself a lot of money.

So consider carefully at the start and then seek professional advice. For instance, come down and chat to us at Kitchen Solutions Kent. We often hear people apologisiing for taking a long time or multiple visits but it can take weeks or months to get that design right.  So please, take your time.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dream Islands

 A kitchen island or peninsula can dynamically extend the design potential of just about any kitchen.

The first kitchen island were the traditional farmhouse kitchen table that doubled as extra work surfaces as well as eating places.   But today you have the option of selecting islands of the same design and materials as the kitchen cabinets, whether the island is free-standing or integrated. Any free-standing piece of furniture with a counter height surface can serve as an island.  But most customers today require islands that offer hidden cabinets and shelves in addition to another work surface.

However, it remains that the island is most often used as an extra work surface or a casual room divider separating the kitchen from another family room. In either case, if you add under floor wiring, plumbing, and gas lines, the possibilities for an island's usefulness are endless. Once the plumbing and power lines are planned in just about any appliance can be located in an island.  One of the growing popular uses is as a place to house a sink. The option of facing toward the family room is so attractive that such a "kitchen island sink" has challenged the classic "under the window sink" in many homes.

But remember your needs and tastes are individual and only you can determine what kind of island you desire. In a smaller kitchen, you'll get maximum storage, convenience, and a neat appearance if you specify cabinets on both sides of the kitchen island. The common kitchen principle of extending every surface at least an inch beyond the cabinets to prevent dribbling down cabinet fronts especially applies to islands. Obviously, you'll need significantly more overhang for knee room  if your island is used as a breakfast bar.

An island opposite the fridge is a logical place for the microwave. It's still within the work triangle, which makes sense because most of what goes in the microwave comes from the fridge. Alternatively, if your microwave gets more use as a "snack fixer", you may prefer to locate it outside the triangle but still near the fridge in a combination "work island/snack bar".

In larger kitchens you may like to consider the thought that "if one island is good, two are better." A primary island may be stationed within the work triangle, housing extra storage, a fridge or refrigerator drawers, a sink, and so on. Another island might then serve solely as a breakfast bar.

But whatever your needs, an island or peninsula can open out those design possibilities and turn your new kitchen into the family room it really is.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Kitchen Design: Where To Begin

Your kitchen could well be the room where your family meet and engage most often, or just a small cooking facility! Whatever roll your kitchen fulfills it must be efficient, comfortable and beautiful for it is central to your familiy life and needs careful consideration when it's up for change.

So what should you consider when contemplating a kitchen change?  Well, we at Kitchen Solutions Kent feel you should consider a few basic points before you begin.

Firstly you need to assess your kitchen needs.  At this stage, remember it is your kitchen and the advice of others, while helpful and interesting, will not have contemplated the same needs, likes and loves as you.  So chat with your family, and friends extensively, but do speak to professionals whose first step is not to talk but to listen.

Don't worry if you feel bewildered at this time.  Everyone does. Kitchens are complex and no one design fits all.  Look at as many displays, photographs and brochures as you can and keep pictures or notes of things you like.

Remember, set your budget, establish your essentials and note how you really live.  Be honest with yourself.  While a state of the art oven may sound ideal, if it's not going to be used to it's full potential then a saving here could release that budget for something that really lightens your kitchen life.  Be sure you have fun thinking things through and involve all of your family. They will all have needs from the kitchen.

One essential tip to remember is the kitchen triangle.  Efficiency experts have noted that a natural pathway exists in any kitchen between fridge, oven and sink. This natural pathway forms the heart of your kitchen and while it's sides need not be equal, it is always present.  Consider this natural affinity and try to imagine how you would move around it and, in some kitchens,  what distances you would cover!

Also make sure your design includes counterspace next to the open side of the fridge for standing those bags of shopping, as well as plenty of heat and wet resistant counterspace on both sides of the hob and sink for landing of heavy, hot, or slippery cookware.

Big or small, most efficient kitchen designs fall into one of a few basic arrangements. L shape kitchens have one long "leg" housing two of the three basic appliances and one short "leg" housing the other. U shape kitchens have two "legs" and a connecting "middle leg", while G shape kitchens are L or U shaped with an added peninsula partly separating the work area from an adjoining space.  Finally, galley-shape kitchens often have the hob and sink on one wall, the fridge on the other, and a walkway in between.

Whoever you seek advice from, though, always remember they should be "listening".  No two kitchens are the same and your needs are unique.  A good kitchen designer doesn't tell you the latest craze but listens to you talk about your kitchen life and designs it around you. 

Little things will give the game away.  So if they ask if you're left or right handed, feel assured ... they are looking to put the draining board on the correct side of the sink for you!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Alternative stone

Corian is the original stone alternative for worktops.  It combines natural minerals with a clear acrylic resin so is solid throughout it's girth, durable, non-porous and hygienic.   A template is required to ensure  millimetre worktop fit.  The Corian is then hand crafted so unique and esoteric creations can be installed in any space.

So what are the characteristics and features of this unique material?  Well being non-porous spills of oils and fats will not be absorbed leaving the worktop odour free.  It's solid throughout so scratches can be polished out and it will not delaminate, thus making it durable withstanding spills, scrubbing and extended hard use.  

And because of these characteristics it's hygienic.  There are no pores or holes to trap dirt and bacteria making it easy to wipe clean and keep clean with an off the shelf kitchen cleaner.

But it's best property is it's versatility.  As all worktops are template designed and hand made, it can be crafted into an infinite variety of shapes and designs. Rich natural colours with the translucence of stone yet warm and inviting to the touch add the finishing finesse.

And Corian is not just used for worktops! Wall cladding, upstands and window reveals can all be crafted. 

 Corian, the most versatile stone alternative.