On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.
Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.
So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.
Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?
I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.
Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.
Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.
The old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is true. Careful planning is the key to a successful and required outcome. However, another saying ” The best laid plans of mice and men” means that despite careful planning things can still go awry! This said, planning a home layout which incorporates your desired layout, accommodation and budget takes time and input.
Prior to our meeting with our architects who had sketched out a few different ideas for discussion, we sketched out a few layouts and ideas of our own, which if possible we would like to include in the design. One plan presented to us by the architect left very little of the original house – a few walls in fact, and the remainder re-built. Not only were we not keen on the design layout, but if so much of the original house was demolished we may as well flatten the lot, build a new house and save ourselves 20% VAT in the process. Having bought a structurally sound house, we thought it unnecessary to take such drastic measures, we don’t think the existing house is that bad!
It is interesting the way in which different people have such different ideas on the use of space in design layouts. Some of which we had not thought of or considered, which is why you need an architect. Some of these ideas have been incorporated into a master drawing plan, ‘a fusion of ideas’ and not a mish-match as described by my husband. The main constraint in the design was the roof pitch. The extension design needs to work with the existing roof.
Having now decided on the layout, I needed to be sure that the proposed kitchen was going to be sufficient in terms of space and layout,it needs to be workable. It is no good re-siting walls etc. only to find that the space doesn’t work for the way you like to live and what you want from your kitchen.It is easier to move the door or window position now on paper, than when they have been built.
Basic kitchen layouts
A more detailed kitchen layout
Armed with a scale ruler, sharp pencils and an eraser I plotted the available space. Kitchens have different zones in them, cooking, wet (sinks and dishwashers) food prep area, storage for groceries and china, fridges and freezers, plus ideally, somewhere to sit. How this is plotted also depends on individual work style preferences and the space available. The zones need to flow for ease of use and not too far apart to avoid unnecessary leg work. Regardless of your budget the key is in the planning of the design. Make yourself a checklist by asking yourself questions and answers.
How much you cook will dictate your needs.
What type of cooker? Range, wall mounted ovens and counter top hob or Aga? Will the hob be gas or electric? Consider the cooker hood extractor, how will it be vented?
Which fridges and freezers do you need to suit your cooking requirements? Do you want a free standing statement piece or fully integrated appliances?
Do you want a tap that provides instant boiling water to replace the kettle?
What is your preferred sink? under mounted, Belfast, single or double drainer?
Your choice of sink will dictate the choice of work top materials. Natural granite, silestone, a composite stone, wood or Laminate. You can’t have an under mounted sink with formica.
What style do you prefer? Modern gloss, contemporary, country?
Contemporary Modern Style
Modern Country Style
High Gloss Colour Kitchen
Do you want splash backs? Will these be tiled, glass or another material?
What is your flooring preferences? Tiled, wood, vinyl, or another material?
Once you are happy with your layout, if it’s an open plan kitchen, consider how the space integrates and one area to another especially the flooring. When you have decided what you want from your kitchen visit a kitchen showroom, and speak to kitchen planners, they may have ideas which you had not thought of or knew existed which can be included into your design. Prior planning helps you and the kitchen designer.
I would like to include an island with bar stools or chairs on one side or end, for breakfast and entertaining whilst cooking. The other side of the island will be used as a preparation zone with appliances below. Islands are a great way to maximize the available space. Consider ‘traffic flow’ too. People walking through to other rooms, does a door need to be moved to create better use of space, or a door need hanging the other way. Our kitchen will open out onto a garden room designed to be the dining room/ family area with glass doors opening directly onto the garden. Although the kitchen will not be huge, it will be very easy to work in and incorporate my key zones.
Lighting is a key element in design and very important in a kitchen. Task lighting so you can see what you are doing and lighting to create different moods and activities. The controls should be flexible, controllable and dimmerble. I will do a detailed lighting plan at a later date which will be for the whole house for the electricians to quote on and work from. LED’s work well under wall mounted cabinets as they won’t heat up the contents in the above cupboard.Consider hanging directional spot or inset lights in line with the edge of your counter top. Angle the light to bounce off the wall to avoid casting a shadow. If you have more than 12″ or 30 cm of space above a wall cupboard install a warm white fluorescent, a linear low voltage or Linear LED to create a diffused light to bounce off the ceiling. A light at kick board height is dramatic when dark. Statement pendant lights, whether you want one or more over the island adds atmosphere and helps break up the solid line of cabinets.Layer the lighting for multifunctions in the room.
Plug sockets for appliances from the kettle, toaster, coffee machine and food processor. Have plug sockets put in your island too, and perhaps a drawer or cupboard for charging mobile appliances such as phones. Where these are sited depends on how you like to work in your kitchen.Plugs for dishwashers, electrics for the hob and oven need to be planned also.
Whether your budget is a for a flat pack or bespoke kitchen, the layout will be the same, the design is the key to it’s success. I haven’t decided on cabinets, sinks and specific appliances yet, although have a style in mind. At this stage I’m content with the design layout, the rest will follow more easily now.
Interior decoration in our main living areas is always top of our priorities. However, have you ever wondered when walking around beautifully staged show homes where you will keep your vacuum cleaner? Indeed if the home does not have a utility room, where you will keep your ironing board, iron, the pile of ironing for that matter, and the plethora of cleaning materials – in the kitchen or under-stairs cupboard? Even the most modest of Victorian terraced homes had an out house or scullery with a sink and perhaps an old copper to heat the water for wash day. Laundry was not generally performed in the kitchen, this was kept for food preparation only. In today’s modern, modest homes the washing machine is located in the kitchen, which means losing valuable cupboard space. The same loss of space if you have a dryer, and associated cleaning materials and tools. If you have the space, then a utility room is a must.
The minimum space required along a wall is 190 cm, this would allow 60 cm width for the washing machine, 60 cm for the sink and draining board and 60 cm for a tall cupboard to house products and tools – even the vacuum cleaner. If you have a dryer this can be put on top of the washing machine. The minimum depth of space required is 1500. 60cm being the average measurement of appliances and cupboards, plus room to open the appliance and cupboard doors. Layout examples below.
Alternative arrangement and task lighting
Stack Appliances if space is a premium
Place the sink between the appliances
Utility rooms are best located near the kitchen, with it’s own access to the garden. This allows ease of access to the garden for the washing line, and somewhere to leave muddy footwear and hang everyday outerwear. If a separate room is not possible, and you have an integral garage, which does not house your car, but used for general storage, section a partition wall and place your utility area in the garage. Another option is to designate one wall in your kitchen (or elsewhere if space allows) as the laundry area (minus a sink) and hang sliding or bi-fold doors across the whole lot, so it looks like a cupboard when not in use.
A Utility Cupboard using bi-fold doors
Utility area hidden by sliding doors
Plumbing requirements need to be planned, hot and cold supply to the sink, cold water to the washing machine and waste from both into a drain. If opting for a dryer too it will need venting through an outside wall. If this is not possible opt for a condensing dryer. Washer dryers are an option too, but these need to be vented.
White Goods -Appliances – Buy the best quality you can afford. Meille being the top of the range. Consider whether you want integrated appliances, hidden behind doors. If so you need to purchase integrated appliances specifically designed for the purpose.
Hang a simple curtain if your budget is small
Appliances hidden by purpose built cupboards
Cupboards and Storage – A tall cupboard with well designed interior space arranged so that items can be easily retrieved. Think about whether yo would prefer doors or drawers under the sink. A ‘Sheila Maid’ or rack above the sink for drying clothes is useful.
Flooring – Porcelain or ceramic floor tiles are durable, waterproof and are the best choice in utility rooms. If the room is directly off the kitchen, use the same floor tiles as the kitchen as this makes the space larger. Lay electric matting underfloor heating under the tiles instead of a radiator. This frees up valuable space and prevents the floor from being cold.
Lighting – If space, opt for a window as well as a door, if not have a door fitted with glass to let natural day light in. Energy efficient, good quality daylight white or warm white fluorescent tubes provide the most economic, practical and shadow free task light. Under cupboard downlights, track spot or pendant lights are also an option.
A utilitarian pendant light
Under cupboard downlights
Adjustable tack spot lights
Sinks – Consider the use of the sink. If used for cleaning muddy football boots the Butler sink is ideal. If only used for water to wash the floor a stainless steel or ceramic sink will be adequate. A high level mono tap is best in a utility room, so you can fill a bucket or whatever easily. Worktops – Your choice of work top will be lead by your choice of sink. However, laminate is fine, but will not stand up to hard wear and tear. A granite or stone composite is hard wearing and grooves can be cut for drainage, eliminating the need for a sink and drainer set up.
A stainless steel inset sink ith granite work top and draining grroves
A large butler sink with tiled splash back
High mono taps
Decor – If the room is accessed directly from the kitchen, use the same wall paint or a tonal shade. If having a splash back behind the sink use the same tiles as in the kitchen if you have them. If not a plain white brick style tile will create a utilitarian feel.
A family bathroom with plenty of storage and functional lighting.
An Indian cupboard has been custom made into a vanity unit in this bathroom.
Fixtures and Fittings – Think functionality.
Before you even walk into a bathroom showroom, and walk out, what seems like hours later, laden with product brochures feeling bogged down, and totally confused about the choices available to you, do your homework first.
1, Measure your rooms dimensions including ceiling height (so you know that the height of your chosen shower will actually fit). Measure the windows and doors.
2. Note where your existing plumbing pipes are, including the soil stack (for toilet waste). Pipes can often be re-routed if necessary, but best to check with a plumber. It would also help to know if you have high or low water pressure. Think how disappointed you would be having the ‘rain water’ deluge head fitted in your shower, to be greeted by a trickle of water.
3. Make a checklist of what you want. What do you want to do in your bathroom? Bath with a separate shower, or do you only have space for a shower bath? Do you want a statement or purely functional bath? Do you want to remove the bath and replace it with a large walk in shower? Do you have room for, or want twin basins?
4. Consider storage needs for bottles, make up, loo rolls and perhaps towels.A vanity unit with drawers fitted with separate compartments could be considered.
5. Lighting – A range of task lighting for applying make-up or shaving. Consider a wall hung vanity cabinet with a back lit mirror and a de-mister pad, with lights hung each side of the cabinet to avoid shadows from being cast onto your face. Recessed LED lights in ‘cubby holes’ ( built in recesses used for shampoo, conditioner and body wash products avoiding chrome fittings) and under units or shelves add ambiance whilst enjoying a relaxing soak.
6. Fittings – This can be a mine field. What style do you want? Sleek and modern, classic, period. Do you want looks over functionality? Do you want mixer taps, bath fillers (bath fills with what looks like an overflow) plus diverter hand set, or standard ‘telephone’ taps. bath shower mixers or thermostatic shower mixers.Do you want chrome, gold, white or very decorative fittings? Do you have a preference towards a Caronite, steel, acrylic cast iron or other material for your bath? Cast iron is heavy, expensive and virtually everlasting. Caronite is durable, excellent wearing capabilities, mid range in price good quality and very popular. Steel is less expensive than Caronite, is hard wearing but can feel cold. Acrylic baths are cheap, light but are prone to movement. A Jacuzzi bath tends to be great to begin with, but tend to clog up with lime scale if fitted without a water softener.
7. Flooring – Do you want tiles, with underfloor heating, vinyl,or wood?
8. Heating – Do want a statement radiator, or heated towel rails? Do you want the heated towel rails to be dual fuel? (Duel fuel means having a separate electric switch fitted which can be used to warm and dry towels when the main heating is not switched on).
9. What do you want on your walls? Do you want it fully tiled, or only in wet areas? Do you want different tiles in different areas? How do you want the tiles hung? Landscape, portrait or brick style?
10. Budget – What is your budget? You usually get what you pay for in terms of quality in the product.
Once you have narrowed down your wants, needs and desires, then go to a bathroom show room, knowing what it is you require from your bathroom.