An expert’s guide to kitchen remodelling

Planning a kitchen makeover? Here are some essential things to consider before you start on the shopping, contracting and D-I-Y

Let’s face it, remodelling your kitchen is no small task. How do you figure out where to begin? John Rowley, Interior Design Manager at Figjam, a Dubai-based food concept and design agency, weighs in on the key points to plan and look into, before you begin to renovate or build your dream kitchen.

Create a mood board

The first, most important aspect of remodelling a kitchen is to draw out a plan of what exactly you want from your space? “It is important that the look and feel you want to give your kitchen comes from a strong core foundation. Pick one item that you have an emotional connection with, be it a light, a ceramic tile or a backsplash. This item should best describe you, and the rest will follow from there,” says John. Make a mood board of everything you desire from your kitchen, and once it is finalised, move ahead with a clear vision.

Select a finish

Right after you have finalised your kitchen design, choose the materials. “It should be done at the very start of the project and each material reviewed not in isolation, but with all other materials in mind too. A strong colour and material palette will complement each other,” says John. He also states that a poorly selected finish can’t be saved no matter how nice the fixtures and fittings. When choosing the material and finishes – whether veneer, stainless steel, wood, marble, or laminate – think about the floor, wall, backsplash, and lighting, to help you tie it all in together. For a classic look, use wooden cabinets, or go for a dark, distressed finish with patterns. Plain, sleek, and durable laminates work well for a modern-style kitchen, whereas matte adds a contemporary look to any space. A stylish, glamorous look can be recreated with polished metallic finishes, and bold glossy red, or bright yellow coloured cabinets.

Pick your paint

This step goes hand in hand with choosing your finish, since they complement each other. “Getting the right shade can sometimes be more a case of trial and error, so it’s essential that you select and sample a number of different hues. The level of light in the area that the paint is going to be used in, will have an effect on how the colour is perceived,” he says. Avoid trendy colours, and opt for colours that don’t easily show signs of dirt. John also recommends avoiding light pastels and white, as they will need instant touch ups, if they get marks on them. Browns and greens usually work well in kitchens.

Make it functionally viable

The kitchen, the heart of any home, has to accommodate the needs of the entire family. John recommends following the rule of the triangle when it comes to planning what goes where. “A successful kitchen design will have the three main elements of the kitchen – the cooker, the sink, and the refrigerator positioned in a triangle. While you want the sink close enough to the fridge so that you’re not constantly walking back and forth, it’s also crucial that they are far enough away, to ensure that the working spaces don’t interfere with each other,” he says. You also need to keep in mind where most of the prep work for dishes will be done, and plan this space close to the cooker – the kitchen island or kitchen counter, which is where you would do most of your prep work, should not be too far away from the cooker. Think about how you use your kitchen, and plan the placement from there, keeping convenience in mind.

Choose the right lighting

“When selecting lighting for your kitchen, getting the balance right between task lighting, and decorative, or ambient lighting, is really significant. You want ambient lights to set the tone, but equally vital is the task lighting. Workspaces that are poorly lit are dangerous and allow for the build-up of germs and dirt,” says John. If pendant or decorative lights are the route you want to go down, make sure they aren’t so big that they dominates the space. Under the cabinet spotlights, and pendant lights, both allow you to control the overall mood in the kitchen, to suit the time of day. Where possible, use LED lighting, as it’s not only environmentally friendly, but will also save on power bills in the long term. Strip LED lighting can be used to great effect under cabinets, and nowadays there are LED spotlights that will allow you to fully light a kitchen for about a fifth of the energy used by traditional bulbs.

Finalise the flooring

There are three main points to consider when choosing the floor finish for your kitchen – Is it going to be durable for high traffic? Is it food-safe? How are you going to maintain it? “You must be aware that the final quality of the finished floor has to be as good as the quality of the fixing or bonding agent that you use. Always spend the maximum amount of money you can for it,” says John. For a luxurious finish, try porcelain tiles or heavy-duty ceramic. If you want timber flooring, avoid cheap laminates, as the floor needs to be water and heat resistant, and a laminate won’t handle the workload and will warp and crack easily. Narrow board hardwood gives a modern, clean feel to the kitchen, while a wider board exudes a rustic vibe. Nowadays, semi-solid engineered boards (real wood flooring) are available in different colours. Ceramic tiles are available from grade V1 (low) to V4 (high), and this covers the colour shading distribution of the tile, and the slip rating. “A tile with a low shade variation and a narrow grout detail will give the kitchen a modern sleek look, while a V4 tile will have a more rustic feel. Slip ratings are calculated from R9-R13,” says John. A high slip rating is essential to avoid accidents in the kitchen.

Find the ultimate backsplash

A backsplash livens up a kitchen, but it is also the element that gets dirty the quickest, so the most important thing to consider is how easy it is to clean. According to John, traditionally, ceramic tiles would have formed the backsplash in the average family home, or perhaps marble if the budget allowed for it. But today, with modern technology and the ability to custom-make designs using laser etching, glass backgrounds have grown in popularity due to ease of maintenance. Keep in mind size and width restrictions when choosing one – if you are going to be fitting it yourself, carefully locate the joints so that nothing ruins the effect of your backsplash.

Organise your storage space

When planning kitchen cabinetry, think about what will suit you most – from the height, to the number of shelves. All too often, top shelves in kitchens tend to become out of reach for most users, so try and steer away from traditional designs to find clever ways to maximise your space. If you have awkward corners and odd spaces, use them to your advantage by planning small shelves that you can store bits and bobs in, or even simply placing something decorative to add colour.

“You could invest in open shelves with glass bases to add elegance to a space, and give the space a visual break, from the chunky cabinets all around,” says John. “Put away bulky items from the kitchen counter, as it clutters the space.”

“The inside of your bottom cabinet shelf is a great place to add hooks on for extra storage. Railings and hooks combined are a great combination for storage of things, from spoons to broom sticks, depending on where you place them. Plus, they are cost-effective and don’t require a large amount of space,” he adds. John also recommends investing in dividers for your cabinets, and using Tupperware containers to store loose grains and ingredients, to ensure a neat, tidy look for your kitchen.