Utopia    Feature 11 Aug 2017

Leading designer, Hannah Keyte of Virtu Kitchens, reveals the secrets behind a successful kitchen design

What are your top tips when designing a new kitchen? I always imagine every kitchen as my own and I won’t accept it until I can happily say I love it. At the top of my agenda is always the ergonomics; I want to know that every kitchen is designed to maximise space and make its user’s life easier. With so many useful gadgets available now it’s important to get them in where possible, for example, internal bins and pop up sockets have both revolutionised and maximised space in kitchens.

Next it’s aesthetics; kitchens don’t have to be completely symmetrical, especially with open shelving and tall housing units, but I try to match up base and wall unit sizes as much as possible to keep clean lines. Aesthetics also extend to the worktop and splashback which are huge parts of the look of the kitchen – get them wrong and it will throw your whole design out.

Last but certainly not least is lighting. Lighting will transform the look of a kitchen and if used correctly, can create the impression of a bigger space and that all-important wow factor.

What do you try to avoid? Overpromising. Many clients expect a kitchen to be designed, ordered and fitted within a small period of time. For their own sanity – I advise not to consider a new kitchen as anything less than a project. It will take weeks from design to completion and it will cause disruption to your water, electrics and possibly heating; and it will mean quite a few takeaways or meals out. But, as potentially the second most expensive purchase in your lifetime, you want it to be right, so it is important to plan well ahead and remember the value you are adding to your home, in terms of both price and lifestyle.

How do you deal with client’s expectation when they ask for something you don’t think will look good or work? It is important to keep a clear head and maintain a professional attitude. For the client, their
home or business is personal and there is an emotional attribute there. But as a designer, it is
my job to advise based on the longevity and usability of the project, as well as the style. Compromises can always be made.

What projects have you found the most challenging and why? Surprisingly, large kitchens tend to be the most challenging as you have to ensure that the kitchen still looks well balanced and tasteful rather than over- filled and cluttered. Many clients prefer to have open kitchen
or diners which usually means
an extension or some form of building work is required. Building work can be challenging for a designer as we need to work closely with the tradesmen on
the positioning of electrics and water, and also to ensure that the wall measurements are accurate. My advice to homeowners would be to wait until any walls are
built up to at least 1m from the ground before asking a designer to measure up, and try to avoid having a kitchen designed from
an architect’s plan, as many things can change during the build.

What is the most over the topor unusual thing a client has asked for in their new kitchen? I once had to design a kitchen which, due to this client’s particular religious beliefs, required two of everything in completely separate areas – two sinks, two ovens, two hobs and two fridges. This proved very challenging for me, as I had to ensure not
only that everything would fit comfortably, but that I could
do so without compromising
the ergonomics or aesthetics of the kitchen. Although difficult, this became a huge personal achievement, as it is not something you encounter every day!

Designing unusual kitchens
is my favourite part of my
job. I love that with every kitchen there is always a totally different brief – it means I’m always learning new things.

What advice would you give homeowners who are thinking about a new kitchen, butdon’t know what they want?For me there are three key things – budget, non-negotiables and style. Many consumers tend to dive straight into having their kitchen designed before doing any research but think about how much you can really afford to spend and go to a company with good reviews or recommendations. One thing I have learned from designing kitchens is that with every kitchen there will always be a compromise, as space can be tight and ultimately the kitchen has to work effectively. So think of three ‘non-negotiable’ things that are the most important items for you to have in your design. With so many kitchen options available it can become impossible to decide on a style, so go on Pinterest or Houzz and think of what you want the room to look like, think about the style and period of your house too.

Virtu Kitchens | virtukitchens.uk