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Planning a kitchen

Kitchen design ideas

By Liz Ransome-Croker

Article 1 of 8

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Kitchen design ideas

Follow our simple kitchen design ideas to help transform your existing kitchen, or create a dream kitchen that's both beautiful and practical, without breaking the bank.

Before you start planning a new kitchen, the first thing you need to decide is whether you want to update your current kitchen or start totally afresh.

Start by looking at what you already have, thinking about what you like and don’t like, and deciding what you want to remove, move or keep. If your kitchen layout works, only change it if you can see it will bring a real benefit.

Bear in mind that if you're planning on moving house, totally updating your kitchen might not add value; many buyers want to put their own stamp on a place and won't want to change a new kitchen. In this case, making superficial changes to refresh it might be the best option - see our advice on making cost-effective updates at the bottom of this page. 

If you do want a new kitchen, visit our best kitchen brands guide to find out which are the top and bottom-rated companies for quality of products and finish, customer service and value for money by their customers.

Also, visit our Which? kitchen Best Buy page to find out which three brands gained a Best Buy for their kitchen units when we assessed them in our lab. One got impressive scores of 92% and 90% for its two units.

Kitchen design ideas

If you are set on an entirely new kitchen, think about the layout and how you use your current space. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you move around your kitchen? Elements that you often use at the same time, such as the fridge and cooking station, should be close together so that you don't keep walking around in circles. 
  • Where do you prepare food? Next to the hob and oven? This will determine where you will put the majority of your worktop space. 
  • How much storage do you use? Think about whether you need more than you currently have and what you need to store. Do you prefer open shelving or big, deep cupboards?
  • Who will you be entertaining in your kitchen? Do you use it for dinner parties, or often chat to your family while you cook? You may want space for a table or a breakfast bar where people can sit and talk to you while you work. 
  • Where do you want to keep the utensils and dinnerware that you use most?
  • Do you have a lot of gadgets? If so, do you want them to be on display for easy access or stored away out of sight?
  • What large appliances do you want, and will there be room for them? For example, an American-style fridge freezer will take up a lot more space than a traditional fridge.

The planning process is the key time to make big changes to your kitchen's design, so thinking carefully about how you use your current space and how you would like to use the new one will help ensure that your day-to-day needs aren't overlooked. Read our guide to planning your kitchen for plenty more advice on choosing your new kitchen.

Remember to consider your kitchen's constraints, such as its size and the positions of doors, windows and plug sockets. If you're not planning any structural work, you'll need to be realistic about what your space can accommodate. Different kitchen layouts are better suited to different kitchen sizes and shapes, but they tend to fall into six main categories. The most common kitchen layouts are listed below:

Kitchens pictured above are from B&Q, Wickes, Magnet, Ikeas and Wren Kitchens (in order shown). 

See how these brands are rated for customer satisfaction in our guide to the best kitchen brands.

Cheap kitchen ideas

If your budget is tight and you don’t need an entirely new kitchen, there are simple changes you can make that will transform your current kitchen without breaking the bank.

  • Refresh paint – updating your walls or kitchen doors with a lick of paint is much cheaper than replacing the whole kitchen, and can completely transform its look and feel. If you do it yourself, make sure you use oil-based or latex (water-based) paint and prepare the surfaces as instructed for their type. Alternatively, visit Which? Trusted Trader for a recommended tradesperson to do the job for you.
  • Create a feature wall – highlighting a particular section of your kitchen will add character. Use colourful or patterned wallpaper (specially designed for kitchens), statement tiles or a distinctive splashback to create a focal point.
  • Update worktops and doors – some builders' merchants, local kitchen manufacturers and specialist companies will supply new kitchen unit doors, drawer fronts and worktops, enabling you to refresh your kitchen at a fraction of the price of an entirely new one. Our page on kitchen costs gives more details of the prices of these kinds of update.
  • Add lighting – careful lighting can change the feel of your kitchen, especially if it’s a small room. Spotlights or lights under the counter can add a modern touch, while pendant lights will add character. If you're rearranging your lights, as opposed to just getting new shades, speak to an electrician first to find out what is possible.
  • Replace flooring – if your floor is old and tired, replacing it will revitalise your space. Vinyl flooring is generally the cheapest, starting at around £10 per square metre, while natural materials such as stone and wood are more expensive, with prices starting anywhere from £20 to £100 per square metre. If you're interested in a wooden floor, see our guide to buying wood flooring.
  • Decorate with tiles - using inexpensive tiles as a splashback behind your cooker or in a strip behind worksurfaces can transform a kitchen. You can buy cheap tiles for less than £15 per square metre - pair bold or colourful ones alongside plain white ones for a striking look.

Visit our kitchen costs guide to find out what you should expect to pay for a new kitchen, including price guides for some well-known kitchen brands, and to find tips from experts and thousands of kitchen owners on how to keep your costs down.