28th July 2021
Our guide will talk you through all the things you need to think about when planning your new kitchen - whether from scratch or if you're adapting a current design.
Before you start planning a new kitchen, the first thing to decide is whether you want to update your current kitchen or start afresh.
Look at what you already have, and think about what you like and don’t like about it. It can help to draw up a list of what you want to keep, move or remove completely.
If your kitchen layout already works well, you'll save money by keeping things in the same place, particularly your sink and appliances.
Kick off your kitchen planning by measuring the space you have to play with and noting what can and can't be moved.
Our review reveals the kitchen companies rated highest by their customers, plus details of each brand's planning services. It also includes information on our new lab-based kitchen unit assessments, which saw three brands scooping a Best Buy. One brand got an impressive score of 88% for one of its units.
The planning process is the key time to consider big changes to your kitchen's design, so think carefully about how you use your current space and how you would like to use the new one.
Ask yourself these questions before you start:
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.
Map out your current kitchen layout (or empty kitchen if you plan to start from scratch) on graph paper using metric measurements, as this is what kitchen manufacturers use.
Take a look at the images below for an example of how to measure your kitchen. The first shows an overhead plan of the whole room.
The image below shows how to measure your walls and plot the location of windows, cupboards and appliances.
The image below shows a 'kitchen triangle', which helps you plot out the distance you need to leave between key locations in your kitchen.
Take measurements from the ceiling to the floor and across each wall. It's worth taking the measurements of the same wall or floor at a few different points, as rooms can be slightly asymmetrical and not completely square at every point.
For the width across the walls, measure along the floor, half way up the wall and near the ceiling. For the ceiling, measure at three points across the wall from the floor to the ceiling. It's a good idea to note down the measurements for each wall individually and name them, for example 'wall one, wall two etc'. Make a note of any architectural features, such as cornices.
Note the location and size of windows and doors. Add in the distance between them and the floor, as well as between each other. When measuring windows and doors, you should include the door or window frame (sometimes called the trim) in the measurement, so measure out from these.
Also make a note of which way they open and how much room they will need to open fully. Name all the windows and doors too, for example 'window one' and 'window two'.
If there are any kitchen units you want to keep, add these to your plan with their measurements – width, height and depth – and distances between them and the walls and floor where it makes sense to add this. For example, if a unit is on the floor in a corner, you would only measure the distance to the other wall, or if it's a unit fixed to the wall, you would want to include measurements to the floor and other walls.
Highlight where the electric sockets are, the cable routes from them to the relevant appliance, and where the plumbing and waste pipes are - moving these will add to the costs, so plan to keep them where they are if possible. If you can, measure the height, width and depth of these too, and ideally how far they are from other walls, the floor and ceiling. Make sure you note anything else that is a fixed feature, such as radiators.
Mark which kitchen walls are external or internal.
Most of the national kitchen companies have a kitchen planning service, where you will be able to discuss your requirements with a designer who will create a digital plan of your kitchen. Many also have an online design tool that you can access from home, before or after an appointment.
We've listed which companies do what below - click on the links to go to each review page where you will find more information about their design services as well as what their customers think of the company.
These companies have both a design service and an online planner you can access from home without having to speak to anyone beforehand or making an appointment.
You can only use a design service with one of these companies if you book ahead. None have an online planner you can access without having spoken to someone.
It's worth noting that for independent kitchen companies, although most won't have an online planning tool, their designers are more likely to have specialist expertise than with the more general DIY kitchen stores.
Two fifths (44%) kitchen owners we spoke to said that they regretted nothing about their kitchen. However, more than half (54%) did.*
Subject to space constraints, all of the gripes listed can be dealt with if you plan your kitchen design correctly.
A fitted kitchen is exactly what it sounds like - a kitchen that is fixed into place on the walls and/or floor. A freestanding kitchen - usually made up of lots of different pieces of furniture - isn't fitted and can, theoretically, be moved.
Some advantages and disadvantages of a freestanding kitchen are:
You can also mix both styles to get the best of both worlds. For example, you could marry a movable kitchen island on wheels and freestanding dresser with a fitted kitchen. You can draw on as many elements as you like from each style to create the perfect balance.
The obvious benefit of this is that your kitchen will completely suit your lifestyle and needs, will make use of every inch space and be unique. The downside it the cost - as you can imagine, this level of work comes at a higher price.
If you're interested in this sort of kitchen, we'd recommend speaking to a few companies, including the bigger chains, local kitchen companies and carpenters. That way you can get an idea of what would work best for you and the cost, which is likely to vary between the three.
It's worth keeping in mind that even a specialist kitchen company, particularly the larger chains, is likely to use the basis of a kitchen design in its range, so it might not be completely individual.
In addition, many of the standard kitchen companies offer a variety of options to help you to create a design that is tailored to your needs.
You can find a local kitchen company or by using our Which? Trusted Traders service. All professionals displaying our logo have been through our rigorous checks. You can also see how customers rated independents vs the bigger brands on our page.
Lack of storage was a key regret for many of the people we asked, so this should be a key consideration when designing your kitchen.
Assess your needs:
For example, if you like to try new recipes and experiment with spices, having cookbooks and a spice rack to hand near the hob would be useful. Or if you’re a seasoned baker, storage for baking utensils and ingredients might be best placed by the area where you’ll do most preparation.
Once you’ve thought about what you want to store and where it makes most sense to place things, have a think about the different types of storage available: kitchen islands, open shelves, pull-out units, corner storage racks, hooks, freestanding units such as dressers, floor-to-ceiling cupboards, plate racks and wine racks (built-in or freestanding).
These days, kitchen cabinets don't just house shelves - there are a whole host of other storage solutions that make life easier and untilise otherwise wasted space. This includes:
A kitchen larder is an incredible useful way to organise and store all your food supplies - as well as keep them out of sight.
But not many of us are lucky enough to have the space for a traditional, walk-in larder, where you have a dedicated space (or even an entire room) for your food. There are, however, lots of other ways to acheive a similar thing.
Lots of the big-name kitchen companies offer pull-out larder units in thin floor-to-ceiling units that make the most of the space. These usually contain racks as shelves that can be fixed or moved around and added to.
You can also get open larder shelves (there is an example in the gallery above) where open shelves also run the full height of your kitchen, or utilise a shelving unit by buying boxes to sort your food into sections.
A dedicated larder unit or dresser is also an option. These freestanding pieces of furniture usually come with racks and shelves inside and on the doors.
Using the dimensions of your kitchen you’ve mapped out, take a look at the typical kitchen unit dimensions in the table below to see how much you can fit into your kitchen and where things will need to go.
A lot of the big-name kitchen brands sell kitchens pre-assembled, ie to the standard measurements below. If you have the budget, you could consider getting storage made to your home's exact specifications.
Kitchen unit dimensions
72cm plus plinth
2.5m, 3m or 4m and cut to fit
Up to 60cm
Depth of cabinet plus 3cm overhand
Washing machine/tumble dryer
Even if you don’t opt for bespoke design, many kitchen companies have design services to help you come up with the best design for you and your lifestyle, including which types of storage could work best.
Keep these measurements in mind as you plot out how much you can fit into your kitchen, as well as how many power sockets you'll need.
Think about the electrical goods in your kitchen currently and whether you want any more. Consider how often you use, or would use, these items and how they should sit in your kitchen.
You might want to keep some of these on the work surface. In this case, think about whether you will have enough plug points or workspace free – and if you could do with any additional shelves or built-in storage for appliances such as microwaves, toasters and food processors.
Most people have a kettle, toaster and microwave in regular use, so these should be easily and quickly accessible. Are they currently in the best place in terms of how you use the kitchen?
Other kitchen gadgets to consider are breadmakers, coffee machines, food processors, stand mixers, hand blenders and mixers, grills, jug blenders, juicers, slow cookers and steamers.
Make sure you kit out your new kitchen with the best and right gadgets for you by taking a look at our section to find Best Buys that don’t cost the earth. In this section, you will find everything from cookers and fridge freezers, to toasters and blenders.