How to design a modern kitchen – tips and tricks from the experts

Everything you need to to know about designing a modern kitchen from scratch

How to design a modern kitchen
Kitchen by Holloways
(Image credit: Holloways)

A new contemporary kitchen will balance what looks good with what works well so it pays to do your research on both. That's where our guide on how to design a modern kitchen comes in. 

Read up online – you can use our gorgeous kitchen ideas gallery for inspiration – and browse Pinterest, Instagram and your favorite interiors' sites, then start a moodboard. If you’re planning with a partner, a handful images are worth a thousand words and will prevent misunderstandings around sketchy terms like industrial or modern country.

A good kitchen designer can advise on layout, storage and appliances, but be prepared to think through every little detail early in the process. The positions of services such as water supply, drainage, ventilation, lighting and power sockets all need to be decided before the kitchen is installed. 

Never underestimate how many power points you will need in a modern kitchen – everyone wants to be on charge and connected these days so add USB ports too.

Where do I start when designing a modern kitchen?


(Image credit: Wren)

A new kitchen is always an investment so be clear about your budget. Window shop and see what good ideas pop up in the high end showrooms, but doing the maths will guide you to a shortlist of potential companies within your range.

Visit as many showrooms as you need to. Open doors, check the quality and talk to showroom staff about their design and installation processes. When you like what you see, book an appointment with a planner or designer. You may see just the one or perhaps several. And don’t be put off if you like the furniture but aren’t clicking with the person – ask to see someone else on the team.


(Image credit: Scavolini)

Building a kitchen extension? You really do need to be layout-ready stage before services go in, and having a kitchen designer onboard early on allows for small tweaks in the build that might deliver big wins. 

How do I design a modern kitchen layout?


(Image credit: DesignSpace London)

A good place to start is to list the things that do and don’t work about your current kitchen; your designer also will want to understand how you live, what you cook, what you store, who does the cooking and how you shop, in order to plan storage and appliances.

‘In a smaller or more awkward space, it is important to ensure storage is planned carefully and maximised to its full potential, says Andrew Story, Head of Product Development at Roux Kitchens

‘Full-length cupboards, deep drawer organization and pull out storage are a much more viable option than traditional shelving, while bi-fold units make workflow in the kitchen smoother as they can be left open during food prep and cooking.’ 

There are tried and tested layouts that work with spaces of all shapes and sizes and a good designer will have worked with them all.

Galley layouts for modern kitchens


(Image credit: Jack Trench)

Long narrow rooms suit the classic galley layout – one or two long stretches of units. This is one of the most ergonomic designs and it is popular in modern open plan set ups, using an island as the second run.

U-shaped and L-shaped layouts for modern kitchens


(Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

Other popular layouts are the U-shape and L-shape with both suiting squarer rooms. Again, this can be set within a larger room. The trusty work triangle that puts sink, hob and refrigeration within easy reach of each other still holds true, and works in all three of these layouts.


(Image credit: Holloways)

But with bigger spaces come other concerns. Clear and obvious flow through the space is important as is safety and keeping children and guests away from hotspots. With hob and oven now usually separate, both need workspace nearby for hot dishes and utensils. 

Most kitchen companies supply some form of CAD drawing to help visualize a layout in 3D.

Where should I put my kitchen appliances?


(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

When placing key features such as sink and hob, view can be important with island sinks and hobs are popular with cooks that like to chat as they prep. 

With the key elements in place, storage can be designed around each work station, with pan draws next to the cooking appliance and the bin close to the sink.


(Image credit: Plain English)

Again services such as water supply and drainage will dictate where wet appliances can go and the work flow should dictate what sits next to what. Think about how you use the kitchen – for example, it’s good to have pan and china storage near the dishwasher for ease of unloading.

With the kitchen used for living and entertaining, there is a growing desire for utility rooms to take the mess and workings of the kitchen away, freeing dining and entertaining spaces from the noise of washing machines and dishwashers.  

‘The open plan kitchen should be as much about aesthetic as it is about functionality,’ says Tony Wilson, Head of Kitchen Channel at Grohe UK. ‘The emphasis is on minimalism and clear sightlines, uninterrupted by bulky appliances or clutter on the work surfaces.

Kettle hot water taps are becoming increasingly popular in copper, brass, nickel and in graphite to meet the growing demand for dark-toned and industrial styled kitchens.’

What colors and styles are on trend for 2021?


(Image credit: Ledbury Studio)

For 2021, kitchen trends focus on organic and natural finishes such as rich wood, burnished brass, natural stone and a mix of textures. 

As we spend more time in our kitchens we want them to look less functional, hiding practicality behind tall pantry doors or disappearing to another room altogether – boot rooms, utilities and walk-in pantries have never been so desirable. 

And the furniture that remains is beginning to look like furniture with table style islands and perhaps a hint of a glamorous bar. 


(Image credit: Smallbone )

Smooth modern surfaces such as composite quartz (ground minerals in resin) remain popular as they are naturally anti-bacterial and easy to wipe clean. The color palette still favors the dark and moody with rich wood, rough texture and deep shades of blue and green. 

Trendsetters are forecasting earthy neutral, Brave Ground, for 2021, but we seem to be feeling bolder than ever with accent colors and finishes in our favorite room.