The perfect dining-kitchen is the one where you belong – your home within your home. It’s where you head to first after a stressful day, pour yourself a cold one, close your eyes and find some breathing space. It’s where the kids do their homework, and the table is cluttered with yesterday’s junk mail; leaflets that you’ve not got around to binning yet…just in case there’s a supermarket deal on French week that you may have missed. It’s where you sit down together – Waltons’ style – to catch up over a homemade casserole. Best of all, it’s that special room – the nerve centre of your home; it feeds your family and it feeds your soul. If you love to cook but you’re not quite relating to any of the above – it could be time to create your perfect dining-kitchen. Here are some tips to inspire you.
Who’s gets first plaice?
It might be a home dining-kitchen, but it still needs to be run with the precision of a Michelin star restaurant. Otherwise, how will you get the fish fingers on the table at the same time as the baked plaice? Like any adult relationship which involves role-playing (no not that kind), you need to decide who the Executive Chef is and who is the Commis Chef. Whoever is the best, and most frequent cook, should get first dibs on how the kitchen layout should be. Let’s hope it’s you! If it’s not then you’d better subscribe to Jamie’s online recipes…fast, if you want a say in your new kitchen design.
The dining kitchen is organised around you
The best kitchens are designed by chefs, not architects. This goes for your kitchen too. Yes, the supercool fridge may look fantastic against the end wall but if it’s 12 feet away from your sink then you’re going to waste an awful lot of time. Celebrity chef, Rachel Khoo prepares gourmet meals on a two-burner, camping stove in a kitchen not much bigger than a phone box. How does she do this? Because she keeps everything she’s likely to use within easy reach and you should too.
The ‘kitchen triangle’ is a tried and tested formula which means you should have your cooking zone, sink and refrigerator close to each other. As Executive Chef in your own home, you should decide where everything goes from the units to the spice-rack to the potato peeler. If your commis chef (aka your other half), puts your utensils in the wrong drawer then make sure they’re put on KP duties for at least another week before re-joining the top tier of your uber-efficient kitchen brigade.
The appliance of science
Speaking of supercool fridges, when planning a new dining-kitchen think about the appliances you need, based on your lifestyle and your menu choices, rather than whether it not it has a chilled water function. For example, are you or any of your family vegetarian? If so you may want to look at a fridge freezer with a more efficient design for keeping veg and salads crisper for longer. Neff have a range with ‘Vitafresh’ technology which keeps your meat and fish at a different humidity to that of your fresh veg. Cutting down on food waste will save you a fortune each year.
If you’re planning on buying a new cooker there are dozens of options to choose from. Gas is still the favoured fuel of top chefs as it’s so controllable. And, if you’re a lover of stir-fries, you could opt for one with a dedicated wok burner. If you don’t have a gas supply, an electric induction hob is a great option; instant heat yet cool around the edges – a real winner.
What other appliances might you use? How about digging out that old bread-maker lying dormant in the back of a cupboard, or the food processor you got as an unwanted gift? Now that you’re the Executive Chef in your own home it might be worth giving them pride of place on your kitchen worktops, within easy reach. Home-baked bread beats the living daylights out of store-bought and is quick and easy to make with the right appliance. You may however, want to draw the line at the high powered blow-torch and welding mask unless it’s Halloween and you want to totally freak your family out. Leave that one to Heston.
New kitchen units, a makeover or upcycle?
If you like the idea of a completely new fitted kitchen, there are loads to choose from to suit all budgets. For the minimal contemporary look, check out kitchens by German manufacturer, Pronorm. Total precision to match the new-found Executive Chef in you. If, however, the carcasses of your kitchen units are still in decent condition you could just replace the worktops and the doors. Corian® worktops in particular are perfect for the messy chef (not you of course) as spills don’t penetrate the surface meaning it’s resistant to stains and mildew.
If your budget’s really tight then think about upcycling. You can pick up mix-and-match units at your local reclamation yard and a couple of tins of chalk paint from your local hard-wear store. You can then put your own personality into your kitchen. Or how about a kitchen made entirely of pallets? If you’re handy with the old saw and up for a challenge, you’ll find loads of ideas for pallet kitchens on Pinterest.
Have you seen the light?
Your dining kitchen should be a place filled with natural light and if you need more of it, think about creating a space for new doors. Bi-fold patio doors in particular, are a great way to go because they completely fold away and let in more light and air. Not only will this help to keep your kitchen free of excess cooking smells not filtered by the cooker hood, it’s brilliant for entertaining guests as they can move easily from your indoor to outdoor space. So it’s pre-dinner drinks on the patio then indoors for the grub while still letting in some fresh air.
There are loads of bi-fold door companies out there. Origin for example, manufacture excellent quality aluminium bi-folds which come with a 20-year guarantee. If you want German doors to go with your Pronorm kitchen and Neff appliances, then take a look at bi-folds from Dutemänn.
Create the space for a completely new kitchen diner
What if you’ve fallen in love with the whole kitchen diner thing but you just don’t have the space? Nor can you afford a fully blown extension. Don’t despair you can simply add some space to the back of your home. SpaceKube is a new product from home-improvement company Ekco. Basically it’s a room which is engineered off-site then fixed to your home – a brilliant solution and completely Walton friendly! The manufacturer can build it to your specifications, add bi-fold doors if you want them and even include new kitchen units in just a few weeks.
Whatever new kitchen design you opt for just make sure it’s one that you’ll be happy spending time in – because once your foody friends find out that there’s a new Michelin star diner close by they’ll never be away. ‘Pass the corn bread Mary Ellen!’