The kitchen room is the main living space for Londoners. “So we’re seeing fitments that don’t look kitcheny but blend seamlessly with the living area,” says Julia Begbie, director of interior design at KLC School of Interior Design.
Nicola Bellot, a designer with top Italian brand Pedini, says Londoners are taking their cooking very seriously now. “They want all the gadgets and kitchen accessories, and integrated appliances with advanced technology.”
Mark Wilkinson, the flamboyant kitchen designer/maker with three own-brand showrooms in London, says: “Island units are top of the wish list. And a second sink helps two people to work in a kitchen.”
'Londoners are taking their cooking very seriously now'
Entertainment systems are frequently asked for, according to Wilkinson. He says: “A television, a good sound system and docking/speakers for an iPod are all important. Clients are also environmentally aware and ask for sustainable material and ways to save energy and water.” Wilkinson’s company has introduced a written environmental policy.
It’s in the detail
“Unusual worktops in concrete, or engineered stone, either ultra chunky or very slim, are in demand,” says Begbie.
“And taps with LED lights that shine through the water add impact,” adds Jane Stewart, award-winning designer from Mowlem, making bespoke British kitchens from a showroom in the King’s Road, SW6. “Our customers also love Corian worktops and sinks, and bespoke handles,” she adds.
And the cost?
“You can get away with a couple of thousand pounds,” says Begbie. “But you need to be creative.” In this case, Ikea is the place to go. A high-street chain can work with a budget of £5,000 to £7,000.
The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) feels that £10,000 is a reasonable price for a good-quality kitchen that is designed, supplied and installed, but without appliances.
After this, prices rocket exponentially. German brands quote a starting price of £15,000 but do not really come into their own until clients spend £30,000 to £35,000.
Your kitchen designer may not be delivering what you need. Blum supplies internal storage fitments to more than 95 per cent of UK kitchen manufacturers.
It surveyed 2,000 European buyers of new kitchens, and found that an incredible 66 per cent were dissatisfied with their storage, even in a new kitchen. Moreover, 80 per cent still had to stash all kinds of bits and bobs in other places around their home.
The right fitments can increase storage space by up to 55 per cent. Choose fittings such as “full extension drawers” - these have high sides and pull out to their full depth, or tall larder units with individually extending pull-outs.
Clever fitments can brighten those black holes of bleak clutter in corners and under sinks and have drawers in base cabinets not shelves.
For more help with kitchen planning, call Blum on 01908 285700, or visit www.blum.com.
* “Plan for a focal point - an Aga, say, or a dresser,” says Julia Begbie of KLC.
* “Tear out kitchens you like from magazines. Ask friends and family what they like/hate about their kitchens and why,” says Charlie Smallbone, chairman of Smallbone of Devizes.
* “Do plenty of research into styles. Avoid slavishly following fashion. Will your kitchen be too modern for your property?” says Thea Wrightson, designer with Schiffini at DesignSpaceLondon.
* “Find a designer, not a sales person who railroads you into ordering because prices are going up next week,” says Laurence Pidgeon, director of Alternative Plans of Battersea.
What the homebuyers want from a kitchen
“They prefer a tired kitchen they can do up rather than revamp,” says Ed Prickett, associate director of John D Wood at Primrose Hill.
Jo Eccles, director of Sourcing Property, disagrees. He says: “My clients often ask for cutting-edge designs and unusual materials.”
And Simon Bruhl-Davis is the “house doctor” for Savills Interior Services, helping sellers and landlords maximise potential. He adds: “I’ve found buyers and renters want as many hi-tech conveniences as possible: fridge/freezer, washing machine and separate tumble drier, dishwasher, oven, hob, extractor, waste disposal and recycling units, plus granite worktops for glamour.”
A kitchen will put from five per cent to 10 per cent on the value of your home. Only spend beyond that if you really must live the dream and plan to stay put for some time.
You should know that...
* Using an architect or interior designer buys originality, independent advice and expert project management.
* Always ask for expert advice, however small the budget. Even at Ikea, you can book a consultation.
* Any structural alteration, such as changing windows and doors, taking down a wall, or adding an extension, may require approval under the building regulations from your local authority.
* All gas fitters must be Corgi registered, and professional electricians must belong to a government-approved body, such as ECA or NICEIC.
* All plumbing must conform to local water regulations.
* Ask about guarantees and exactly what is covered. For example, on appliances is it “parts and labour” or “parts only”?
* See samples of everything before you decide - pictures can be misleading.
Where to shop
London’s unlikely “kitchen alley” is Wigmore Street in the West End, just to the north of Oxford Street. It has acquired its trade nickname from an abundance of up-market kitchen showrooms.
Not the place, though, to beat a budget - prices start at £15,000. However, you can explore top brands, sort your German out from your Italian, and meditate on a large loan.
The displays are wonderful and packed with inspiration for design and layout, and chatting to the experts yields invaluable tips, whether or not you buy from them.
The Alno Store is at number 120, with doors galore, from glam gloss lacquers, unusual woods, solid acrylic, glass, textures and metal (www.alnokitchens.co.uk; 020 7486 2752).
The German directors of Bulthaup are passionate about modern design, and it certainly shows. They invented the inspired B3 system for hanging cabinets off even the dodgiest of walls, using a concealed steel frame, on show in a spacious corner site with an imposing doorway at number 37 (www.bulthaup.co.uk).
At number 118, Wigmore Kitchens is devoted to Poggenpohl (German again). Have a look at Segmento - it’s a marvellous mix of materials. Spanish Red high-gloss lacquer fronts, brushed stainless steel, light oak with a striking sideways grain and light touches of laminate in “blossom white” or pale grey (www.wigmorekitchens.com).
'The displays are wonderful and packed with inspiration for design and layout, and chatting to the experts yields invaluable tips'
Put German appliances through their paces at number 40, which is a working showcase for the Gaggenau brand, with a fully fitted kitchen in the basement. Book a heart-to-heart session with an expert by calling 0870 125 4500 (www.gaggenau.com).
British by contrast is Nicholas Anthony, multi award-winner for quality design, and trading since 1963. It has filled number 43 with its own bright and modern brand, and kitted it out with working appliances such as a steam oven and wine chiller (www.nicholas-anthony.co.uk).
Director Tony Nicholas is chairman of the KBSA (Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association), now carrying the Government’s new “anti-cowboy” TrustMark awarded to “honest and reliable tradesmen”.
The KBSA also has its own consumer guarantees on deposits and workmanship - check them out at www.kbsa.org.uk. There’s more kitchen information and dealer addresses for London.
Back on Wigmore Street, the Italians take over. Pedini says it is the “Gucci or Armani of kitchens”. This 52-year-old Italian luxury brand has been in London only for four years. Its special skill is kitchens with sweeping curves. Prices start at £35,000 (www.pedini.co.uk).
Schiffini is at DesignSpaceLondon at number 110, parading big names in 20th century Italian design www.designspacelondon.com.
You may feel happier diving into familiar Magnet, at number 78-80. If pushed, they could whip up a kitchen for about £5,000, to include design, installation and some appliances. It, too, has the TrustMark, and gives a guarantee for 15 years on cabinets, and for two years on workmanship (0845 123 6789; www.magnet.co.uk).
If cash is an issue
Go for a kitchen refurb. For example, fit a new worktop and upgrade your sink and taps. Try Sinksation, selling sinks, taps, plus worktops. You could smarten up your kitchen from about £500 (www.sinksation.co.uk; 020 8870 9362).
Get doors resprayed. Kitchens Re-spray is run by Ron Lynch. He will take away all doors, from laminate to solid wood, and spray them with a lead-free acid-catalyst cellulose paint, matched to, say, a branded colour. Prices of £1,500 to £4,000 include stripping out and refitting by a qualified joiner (0800 032 8810/ 07855 290549; www.kitchensrespray.co.uk).
Or order new doors. The Replacement Kitchen Door Company makes them and worktops to measure. “We can copy anything you see in a magazine,” claims director Trevor Batchelor. Prices for a set of new doors range from about £850 to £4,000 (01708 865386).
There are lots of small companies offering similar services.
* Do a web search and compare quotes.
* Ask how long a company has been in business.
* What about quality/brands of materials?
* Are fitters trained and experienced?
* Get references and follow them up.
* Ask to see pictures of past work.
* Don’t over-spend: putting the money towards a new kitchen could be a better idea.
* KLC School of Interior Design www.klc.co.uk
* The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) www.kbsa.org.uk; 01905 621787
* Mark Wilkinson www.mwf.com
* Smallbone of Devizes www.smallbone.co.uk
* Alternative Plans of Battersea www.alternative-plans.co.uk