Kitchen renovations

'Kitchen renovation' is a misleading term because usually a property renovation will involve installing a new kitchen, rather than simply trying to improve an existing one. The primary concern with kitchens is their placement within the property. You need to decide this early on in the design process, so that your plumbing and electrics can be included as necessary.

You don't need to follow the existing property layout unless it is the best one for you. When there is an existing kitchen in a house it is natural to begin by planning a new kitchen in the same room. But first you need to take a step back. If you were designing the layout of the property from new, is that really the room where you would want the kitchen to be?

The modern trend is to have a large kitchen and dining area as the centre of the house. To some extent this trend has emerged from a traditional farmhouse style, so it may well be the case that your property already uses the ideal room for the purpose, but this is not always the case.

Openings and doorways are usually easy to add to a property, and existing partition walls are also easy to remove. If you want to place the kitchen in a different place, or for it to be a different shape and size, now is the time to decide, before the electrician and plumber have packed up and gone home.

General Kitchen Layout

Suggested layout plans for kitchens are widely available. These generally focus on keeping the distances between the cooker, the fridge, the sink and the work surface reasonably small. This avoid spending too much time walking about in the kitchen and reduces the risk of accidents.

That's the theory, but the appearance of the kitchen is also very important, as is the ability for two cooks to work together at the same time, and the possibility of having visual contact between the cook and other people in the room while food is being prepared - talking to your family and friends while you do the cooking.

It is the attempt to strike a balance between all these factors that is the hard part of designing a kitchen. You need to define your priorities first, and then make sure that your design incorporates them.

Recent kitchens I have installed have all included a work surface or breakfast bar that faces into the room, towards the eating area. I find this much more inviting than a series of kitchen units placed against the walls of the room, forcing the cook to look at the wall.


Personally I dislike 'kitchen islands'. I suppose they are practical if your arms are two metres long or if you like to walk around a lot, but I don't. U-shaped, -L-shaped, or two parallel lines are my preferred designs.

If there is enough space available, the kitchen design should include plenty of places to sit and eat, ideally including a breakfast bar, since this permits easy communication in the room. Try and have some work-surface on either side of the cooker, so that hot pans can be put to one side. And no televisions please.

Other Considerations

There are hundreds of possibilities to choose from when the time comes to buy your kitchen, so I can't even begin to cover them all here. The crucial elements are the worksurface, the units, the appliances the flooring and your budget. Probably not in that order.

In a new kitchen quite a lot of the funds often go on buying the units. Nowadays, I think that is unnecessary. I am a big fan of IKEA kitchens and have never had a problem with them, and they have styles as modern or old-fashioned as you could hope for. If you don't want to install a kitchen yourself, you can ask IKEA to recommend someone, or you can ask your local carpenter perhaps. The shops called 'But' and Lapeyre are other options in France.

I would suggest that you should buy units, cupboards and doors from IKEA, or a similar 'mid-price supplier', and then spend the money saved on the work-surface, the flooring, and the lighting, or general kitchen additions.

A carefully designed cheaper kitchen, but with quarry tiles on the floor, a sophisticated coffee machine, and fresh flowers on the breakfast bar, will usually look better than an expensive kitchen with cheaper flooring and no flowers.

Needless to say, if you are willing to spend more money, there are an enormous number of possibilities and a bewildering assortment of accessories that can be added to ensure that every corner is used to best advantage. If I had additional funds, I would certainly talk to a local carpenter first, because often these will charge no more than a mainstream supplier, and will provide a kitchen that is truly unique.

General - fitting a kitchen

Unless you are very confident in your measurements, put all the units in place without fixing them before you start. That is the best time to find out for example if:

  • the plumbing pipes are not correctly positioned at the back of the sink unit
  • the washing machine and fridge sockets will be inaccessible
  • the window will not open because of the tap
  • the worksurface is higher than the windowsill etc

Although generally straightforward, the two most common problems with fitting a kitchen are:

  • room corners that are not square. The easiest solution if your walls are very uneven is to not have a corner unit at all, which holds the adjacent cupboards to an exact right angle, but to have the first cupboard on each wall positioned so that their corners meet at the front. Hold them together 'behind the scenes' by screwing them to a batten of wood. One problem is that your corner is then wasted space, so this method will only be suitable in a larger kitchen, and also it may not work for all types of door fitting. If you have the carpentry skills to adjust a 'real' corner unit that will also work.
  • cutting work surface accurately. Use a decent circular saw to cut straight lines across your work surface, or it will be difficult to make an 'invisible join' where two lengths of worksurface meet.