Kitchen furniture buying guide

Kitchen furniture buying guide

Anne, Painter, Cambridge

Guide written by:

Anne, Painter, Cambridge

Choosing your type of kitchen furniture depends on whether you need a pan drawer, a kitchen trolley, spice rack or kitchen sink units. The material you choose also has an effect on maintenance, design and the price. The difference can be significant between an acrylic kitchen and a piece of Formica furniture.

Important features

  • Size
  • Material
  • Function and type
  • Maintenance
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How to choose functional and stylish kitchen furniture

Choosing stylish kitchen furniture will play an important role in your decision. But don't forget to consider functionality. Your new kitchen furniture must meet three essential criteria.

Kitchen work triangle

Kitchen work triangle

Kitchen experts often talk about something called a kitchen work triangle: this is about positioning your fridge, oven and sink in such a way as to minimise travel between them. Parallel lines make the ideal layout:

  • on one side, a hot zone (oven/hobs);

  • on the other, a cold zone (fridge/kitchen sink).

Your kitchen should adapt to your needs.

Go for low units if you're short and high or raised low units if you're tall (especially for the kitchen sink and worktops). If you're not as good at bending down as you used to be, think about storage solutions that will make life easier for you:

  • kitchen carousel for corner cupboards;

  • roller drawer units

Large worktops 

Large worktops 

Depending on the size and shape of your kitchen, arrange your furniture in such a way as to keep large and practical worktop space for cooking and plating up. Chef's tip: choose a worktop that's deeper than the units underneath to create space for any pipes and cables.

Easy to maintain kitchen furniture

Whether your a novice or a masterchef, you don't want to be fighting against grease and spillages on your lovely new kitchen furniture! Go for easy to clean materials that only need a quick wipe with a sponge.

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Kitchen units

Kitchen layout

Kitchen layout

Depending on the existing set-up of your kitchen, your kitchen furniture will need to be arranged differently. First of all you must:

  • locate the water, gas, electricity and waste water supplies in order to position your electrical appliances (especially for the cooker hood, except for air-recycling models);

  • measure the space available to accommodate your kitchen furniture;

  • decide on the overall kitchen layout.

Once these steps are complete, you'll be able to think about installing your kitchen furniture. Remember: top kitchen units are often designed to store foodstuffs, whereas base units are used storing for kitchen equipment (pots, pans, cutlery, small electrical appliances, etc).

L-shaped layout for long and narrow kitchens

L-shaped layout for long and narrow kitchens

Use a single wall face for your top and base kitchen units.

L-shaped layout for medium-sized kitchens

L-shaped layout for medium-sized kitchens

Go for an L-shaped layout, i.e. with units arranged along two perpendicular walls.

Kitchen islands for large kitchens

Kitchen islands for large kitchens

You can opt for a central kitchen island which is usually designed to accommodate the cooking area. Failing that, you can install an high bar table lined with base cabinets and shelves to store utensils or daily foodstuffs.

U-shaped layout

U-shaped layout

Arrange your units along 3 walls, or 2 walls and a bar. Good for both closed-off and open-plan kitchens (i.e. American kitchens).

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Kitchen units

Kitchen furniture materials: budget, maintenance and décor

Kitchen units are all standard manufacture (18mm chipboard), so it's your choice of façade and profile that will determine the style and cost of your units, along with the type of worktops you opt for. There's a vast range of materials to choose from:

Formica

Formica

A real 70s period piece, Formica's coming back in! Just like laminate, it's durable and easy to maintain. It's no longer widely sold, so you'll have to dig around if you've got your heart set on it. These retro units can be bought second hand at very low prices. Recycling old Formica kitchen units also keeps the air fresh in your kitchen as the reconstituted wood panels stop giving off pollutants after a number of years. Formica is valued for its resistance and retro look (although it can be hard to find it in good condition). Its grooved panels also tend to break over time.

Wood

Wood

Wood brings instant warmth and charm to your décor. It is often protected with varnish and stains for easy maintenance.  The price can vary depending on the quality and species of wood. Being a natural, living material, the colour can change over time and it can react badly to excessive heat and moisture (causing cracks, warping...). There are 3 main types of wood used for kitchen units:

  • natural wood (+5mm thickness);

  • wood veneer (-5mm thickness);

  • plywood (sheets of wood assembled and glued together).

Wood does have a timeless and warming quality to it, but also has high prices to match.

Stainless steel 

Stainless steel 

Stainless steel is resistant, very hygienic and easy to maintain. Several versions are available (brushed, non-marking, satin effect, mirror effect…) and goes great with matching kitchen appliances. Ideal for creating a contemporary look, stainless steel can also be combined with light wood to great effect. Stainless steel is unfortunately prone to scratches and the price can be high (depending on your choice of finish).

Lacquer

Lacquer

This is the perfect material if you're after a stylish, high-end finish to your kitchen units. Lacquer creates a mirror effect that brings brightness and depth to your kitchen. Polyurethane lacquer comes in two varieties: satin and gloss. It's durable and easy to look after. The price is fairly high, and its sensitivity to finger marks will mean you have to be vigilant with your damp cloth.

Acrylic

Acrylic

Also known as a glass façade, acrylic cladding offers the same kind of shine as lacquer but at a price much closer to laminate. It's a good compromise if you want a modern and bright look. It's easy to maintain but finger marks and scratches can be a problem, and it doesn't give quite the same sense of depth.

Melamine

Melamine

Melamine is an economical, easy-to-maintain material available in a multitude of colours and textures. Bright and colourful, it will create a light and joyful feel. Wood effect melamine can bring warmth to your kitchen. Metal effect melamine can revolutionise your décor with a modern and industrial look. The only downsides: melamine can warp in damp conditions, the finish can be poor (visible joints) and the glue used in its manufacture is harmful and polluting.

Laminate

Laminate

Laminate is a strong material known for its resistance to scratches, impact, cleaning products, abrasion and heat. It offers excellent value for money and the wide choice of colours and finishes make laminate a complete hit with buyers. Just like with melamine, the glue used in manufacture is toxic and will release pollutants into the air. Therefore, you may want to regularly air out your kitchen.

Polymer (PVC)

Polymer (PVC)

Once highly prized, this material is now shunned by consumers because it was the subject of controversy a few years ago. In fact, it was proved that PVC contains carcinogenic substances. Easy to maintain and available in three finishes (matt, gloss, ultra-gloss), it does offer impressive value for money and a range of possible finishes.

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Wood stains

Kitchen wall units

Aside from the matching units provided with a fitted kitchen, separate custom units let you create a variety of layouts, whether starting from scratch or for renovation. There's a variety of kitchen furniture available depending on your layout, available space, style and storage needs.

Kitchen wall unit

Kitchen wall unit

Installed above the worktop and / or sink, kitchen wall units offer a range of compartments but no drawers. Sliding racks for wine glasses and plate racks can easily be contained within these.

Wall cabinet

Wall cabinet

Generally thought of as side furniture, wall cabinets are available in a range of styles. They typically have two doors, a shelf and storage hooks.

Kitchen shelf

Kitchen shelf

Kitchen shelves are used for storing condiments and spices, in which case you would call it a spice rack. Hooks can be added for greater functionality.

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Spice racks

Base units

Kitchen base unit

Kitchen base unit

Free-standing and supporting the worktop, base units offer drawers, compartments, carousels, fold-away storage racks, etc. They're highly practical and available in many different formats.

Kitchen trolley

Kitchen trolleys have stood the test of time and can either be fixed or mobile (on wheels). Kitchen trolleys are practical and offer extra storage if your worktops are getting crowded.

Kitchen sink unit

Kitchen sink unit

Kitchen sink units offer a large amount of space and are very scratch-resistant. They are also designed for easy access to the sink waste and water pipes.

Pan drawer

Pan drawer

A pan drawer is a base unit with two or three large drawers. Models with drawer slides are best, so your pots don't end up all over the place every time you try to open and close!

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Pan drawers

Combination kitchen units

Sideboard

Sideboard

Kitchen sideboards can be single or double, i.e. just a bottom unit or a bottom and a top unit. They typically have at least two doors.

Larder unit

Larder unit

Larder units are tall units that lets you make use of corners and tighter spaces. They can have open compartments, drawers and hanging hooks. They can be both functional and stylish.

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Larder units

Kitchen furniture sizes

Kitchen furniture sizes

Although it may seem obvious, measuring the available space before buying kitchen furniture is crucial.

Kitchen sink units that are too tall or deep will mean sending them back, or getting the jigsaw out in the kitchen.

Avoid cutting by measuring the depth, width and height of the furniture as accurately as possible. Especially when they are to be built into an existing kitchen.

Kitchen trolleys and spice racks must also be taken into account. Optimising space in the kitchen means it will be more comfortable to use.

 
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Guide written by:

Anne, Painter, Cambridge

Anne, Painter, Cambridge

After 8 years of trade, I turned professional: I trained myself to be a painter and carpet fitter, either on my own or with 16 year old comrades. 9 months later, following vocational training, I created my company. I’m a self-taught DIYer and decoration enthusiast, I love to find and restore furniture and to create unique decoration pieces. I completed the renovation of my sister’s house with my niece: electrics, tiling, plasterboard...we did it all. And today, if I can share my experience I'm happy to do it. Good Luck.

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