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Fitted kitchen buying guide

Fitted kitchen buying guide

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

41 guides

Fitted kitchens are designed to divide the room into specific zones for easy movement. From ready to fit kitchens to flatpack models, there are lots of elements to pick including worktops, drawers and cabinet doors, all of which come in various materials and sizes. Read on to find the right fitted kitchen for you!

Important features

  • Kitchen elements
  • Materials
  • Kitchen unit sizes
  • Cabinet doors
  • Drawer fronts
  • Layout
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Whether you're a seasoned DIYer or a beginner, you'll need to think about what type of fitted kitchen you're after. You will usually have two main options: a flatpack or ready to fit kitchen. So, which is right for you?

Flatpack kitchens

With this type of kitchen, all the furniture units come in flatpack form and will need to be built either by you or by a professional.

Ready to fit kitchens

In this case, the furniture units come pre-assembled and simply need to be installed. While they're not made to measure, ready to fit kitchens designs help to avoid installation issues – especially if you're not particularly handy.

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Fitted kitchens

Kitchens are generally set up according to a specific layout that optimises the use of the space. This layout is known as the kitchen work triangle and involves dividing the space into three zones. When these zones are set up as closely as possible to each other, you end up with a triangle of activity between the main elements of the kitchen. In turn this helps you to move around more efficiently.


This is the zone where most of the food is kept including perishable goods (such as fruit and vegetables) and non-perishable items (conserves, bottled water, etc.). This zone should have a refrigerator and units for food storage.


This is the preparation and cooking zone which should ideally be set up adjacently. This area should include hobs, a splashback, worktop, cooker hood and a few other handy additions such as a utensil holder or a shelf for spices and condiments. The worktop should sit between the sink and the hob for easy food preparation and utensil cleaning. The worktop itself should be strong and resistant. You'll need a material that can withstand knives, splashes and impact.


The washing-up area should ideally contain a sink, tap, bin, food waste disposer and dishwasher. This is also a handy spot to store dishes and cleaning products.

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There are a few different kitchen layouts to choose from depending on the layout of your room, the importance you attach to the kitchen and, most importantly, your own requirements for the space.

I-shaped kitchens

The I-shaped kitchen is all about length and is generally used for narrow rooms. While you can't set up the traditional triangle of activity, these kitchens can still be very functional. The furniture units are installed side by side along one wall above your appliances. To make the most of this type of layout, it's best to place the preparation area between the sink and the hob as shown above.

Parallel kitchens

Parallel kitchens are made up of two rows of furniture units installed to face each other. In this kitchen layout, one side is dedicated to consumables and cleaning while the other is made up of the preparation and cooking areas. These kitchens generally have a lot of storage space.

L-shaped kitchens

A more traditional layout, the L-shaped kitchen is modular and can be adjusted as required. A perfect option for a medium-sized space, these kitchens offer the perfect set up for an activity triangle. These kitchens are installed in the corner of a room along the main wall of the kitchen and often leave space for a dining area.

U-shaped kitchens

The U-shaped kitchen is one of the most spacious options and best suited to rooms of over 12m². The furniture units in this set up take up a large amount of space and you will still need at least 1.5 metres of floor space to move around. These kitchens can incorporate a dining area or even an island. A U-shaped kitchen can be an excellent counterpart to an open-plan living space.

Island kitchens

Island kitchens have been the layout of choice for a few years now. This layout lends your kitchen a lovely flow but can make a smaller kitchen feel cramped. Perfect for an open-plan living spaces of at least 20 m², island kitchens should be set up to allow at least 1.5 metres between the central island and the kitchen units. They offer additional clearing up and storage space but be sure to check that you have plug sockets where you need them.

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Fitted kitchens

Once you've decided on a new kitchen layout, you'll need to fit out the space with all the units and storage equipment you require. The design of a kitchen should always be based on the needs of its users. The size of your kitchen units and storage accessories must match the space you have available. They must also be ergonomically designed and chosen to make your space as functional as possible. It's also important to choose units and appliances that are easy to clean as they are likely to be subject to splashing.

Oven housing units or double ovens

Oven housing units or double ovens can be combined with a microwave or even storage units designed to hold baking trays and utensils such as skewers or grill pans. Oven units come in a variety of heights to meet your needs. Ideally,  built-in ovens should be installed at least 90 cm from the ground so that they can't be accessed by young children – and to save you from straining your back!

Larder units

Larder units are ideal for storing all your ingredients in one place. These units fit neatly next to a fridge and/or an oven unit.

Open shelving

Open shelves are not widely used in modern kitchens, but they're great for spices, cookbooks and foodstuffs displayed in attractive containers.

Kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are designed to store dishes and are usually placed close to the dishwasher or the dining area. For pans and other utensils, it's best to go for other types of storage. Kitchen cabinets, both wall units and base cabinets, can be set out in the layout of your choice and may be equipped with hanging or stackable trays, shelves or removable storage boxes. To make the most of your space, your base units should be around 90 cm in height while your wall units should be installed about 45 cm from your worktop.

Pot and pan drawers

Pot and pan drawers are designed specifically to hold things like pots, pans and small appliances like pressure cookers. These drawers offer quick and easy access to all your cooking equipment and can be fitted with all sorts of accessories. Looking to perfect your drawer storage? A pan separator can be used for neat storage while a drawer mat can provide a non-slip base.

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Pan drawers

A well-designed kitchen will be a pleasure to use every day. Cooking is a breeze with functional storage and you won't waste any more time fumbling around badly designed units!

Two-tier drawers

Two-tier drawers are generally designed to hold pots. Inside the drawer is a second pull-out drawer installed above the main drawer. This can be a great spot to store pot lids or spare crockery without breaking the sleek facade of your kitchen units.

Cutlery dividers

Divided into sections of different sizes, cutlery dividers are designed to keep your drawers organised. Some cutlery dividers even have larger trays for holding utensils like rolling pins or chopping boards.

Sliding spice racks

Sliding spice racks allow you to organise your spices alongside condiments like oil and vinegar. Some models are even combined with a bread bin!

Sliding baskets

Sliding baskets are perfect for storing tea towels or cleaning products.

Corner storage

Corner storage is designed to optimise your storage cupboard and make the most of every last centimetre of space! These units come in all sorts of designs. The most common option is basic shelves combined with sliding drawers or even removable trays for quick and easy access to all your products.

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Household products

With your layout decided on, it's time to move on to choosing the kitchen façade. The doors of your cabinets and drawers will determine the overall style and design of the room. Luckily, there are plenty of options on offer to ensure your cabinets provide a perfect match to your worktops.

Kitchen facade finishes

If your priority is strength, go for melamine cabinet doors in the colour of your choice. A gloss or matt lacquer finish is great for an ultra-modern kitchen style but this coating will scratch easily. For a more natural look, go for imitation or even natural wood. If you're looking for a really stylish and high-quality option, why not go for lacquered or stained glass? These doors create a stunning effect and can actually be more shock-resistant than other materials.

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Kitchen cabinet doors

When it comes to fitted kitchens, there is a fair bit of vocabulary out there. Here is a quick round up of some of the most common terms:

  • Drawer front refers to the material covering the front of the drawers;
  • Cabinet doors refers to the façade of the kitchen units;
  • Built under refers to any appliances under worktop level;
  • A cornice is a decorative moulding fixed at the top of cabinets;
  • Soft close refers to drawers fitted with a mechanism to prevent banging;
  • Runners are designed to help drawers open and close smoothly.

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Kitchen wall units

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Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester, 41 guides

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

After years of DIY, renovation and designing, I decided to turn my passion into a career. Starting in 2006, in the South-West, I helped people with renovation or construction projects. My expertise and curiosity led me to look further into innovative ideas for myself and my clients. Indeed, to live your passion is also to transform the space you live in and the objects you use daily. My family love my creations and ideas that I bring into their lives! My favourite thing to do: use colour to brighten up interior space. But also tips to hide away clutter. Your home is just never big enough, is it? It is therefore a great pleasure to share my tips with you, so that you also can take as much pleasure as I do when starting up your next project!  

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