Kitchen ideas – 37 decor and decorating ideas for every kitchen

These kitchen ideas will help you create the kitchen of your dreams – and make the most of this vital space

Kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Future)

When rethinking your new-look kitchen, collating your favorite kitchen ideas is a priority – and always the fun bit. These ideas – whether kitchen looks you like, surface materials or cabinetry styles – can then be worked into your ideal layout, the practical key to getting your kitchen right. A kitchen can, after all, look fantastic but if it fails to function as a workspace, it can be hugely disappointing. 

These kitchen ideas are our very favorites – you can save the images you love, then start the hard work: looking at everything, from where to put your recycling to how close your oven is to your food store (after all, you don’t want to end up walking the length of the kitchen every time you need an extra ingredient). 

If you’re using a kitchen designer, they will be able to advise on a design that looks good and works perfectly, too. But, it always helps to go to them with your own kitchen ideas. Every one of our kitchen pictures is different but most suit one of the five basic layouts. 

Kitchen ideas

From cabinets and lighting schemes to backsplashes and flooring, these kitchen ideas cover everything you need to think about. You can use them, too, to inspire your kitchen layout ideas.

1. Warm an all-white scheme with natural textures

Kitchen in cream and white kitchen with marble look island

(Image credit: Valspar Paint)

You can’t go far wrong with white, it will lighten up a small kitchen and feel clean and stylish, but you do need to balance it with a warming material like natural wood, as Will Thompson, Head of Marketing at Valspar advises:

‘When you’re choosing a color scheme, the perfect combination is integral to our positive experience and enjoyment of the room. If you’re a fan of a classic finish, an all white kitchen works beautifully for spaces of all sizes. 

Small kitchens will benefit from the reflective nature of a white color scheme, paired with natural wood finishes such as countertops, wood flooring and door handles to break up the white and enhance the earthy feel. Valspar’s The Perfect White  is ideal for keeping high traffic areas in their fresh white state, for easy scuff removal and stain resistance.’

2. Mix patterns with plains to create a balanced scheme

Kitchen with muted tones and patterns

(Image credit: Gunter & Co)

‘The graphical and playful impact that the backsplash has on this space is a real conversation-starter,’ says Irene Gunter, Co-Founder of Gunter & Co.

‘When designing a kitchen there always needs to be that one eye catching feature. In this case the tiles were chosen before anything else and the metal trims and cabinet door finish came after, the blue was chosen as a neutral which in the case of this colourful project made total sense

'Given the cost of the luxe marble tiles with satin brass inlay, we knew that we needed to use the tiles sparingly. That’s why this single-wall kitchen configuration turned out to be the perfect fit.’

We love the detailing of these kitchen tile ideas and how they work against the sleek blue units. The result is an exciting color scheme that incorporates both pattern and plain elements that’s both bold and contemporary.  

3. Love grey? Create more impact with deep tones

Kitchen Hartford in nightshade

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

‘It’s important that when it comes to making a bold design choice that it fits within your home and with your tastes,’ says Tom Howley, Design Director at Tom Howley

‘Rather than persuade a client to step away from a more traditional paint color to follow a trend, it’s all about deciding how much of a statement they want to make.

'Neutral color palettes in the kitchen will never disappear, but for those that want to add a stronger injection of color blacks, greys and navys still remain very popular and can be contrasted with light color work surfaces and flooring.’

4. Add personality with eclectic decor

Shambala, colourful, patterned kitchen

(Image credit: Michelle Nussbaumer)

For color lovers a kitchen is a great place to go a little wild and introduce a theme using favorite shades, prints and patterns – particularly in kitchen wall decor ideas. We asked sought-after interior designer Michelle Nussbaumer, known for her stunning global style, for her advice on how to incorporate these elements in your kitchen:

‘For a good colorful kitchen, it is important to intersperse bright shades of blues, reds and pinks within a neutral space, but there has to be some consistency in color when combining different patterns like flooring. 

'I like to include tribal patterns mixed with an English Chintz, French Paisley or Indian block print to achieve my worldly look. Think 19th Century English traveller goes to India via Morocco.’

5. Glam up a green kitchen with gold fittings

Kensington Green modern kitchen with lots of color and storage space

(Image credit: Moores )

Green kitchens are on trend – and unlikely to fall out of favor in the near future. Easy to coordinate with natural materials, such as wood and stone, they can also be given a glamorous edge with brass or antique gold fittings – from bar stools to handles. 

This kitchen has cleverly married both gold fittings with country style furnishings on the window seat – which usefully hides lots of storage space beneath – to create a space that feels both elegant and relaxed.

6. Start with a well-planned lighting scheme

yellow kitchen


(Image credit: Future)

A great lighting scheme has the power to transform ordinary kitchen ideas into something truly spectacular. Now that our kitchens are increasingly performing on a multifunctional level, so the lighting plan must evolve to cater for dining, relaxing, office or homework and entertaining. 

Cleverly positioned lighting can also hide a multitude of sins – making a small kitchen appear larger, disguising awkward architecture or compensating for poor natural light. ‘Planning the lighting at the same time as the kitchen is essential. It is always obvious when lighting is an afterthought,’ says Mark Holloway from Holloways of Ludlow

Boost the impact of statement pendants by arranging in a row along the length of an island unit, table or peninsula. Odd numbers work best; try three or five depending on the area and your budget. 

7. Add in feature wall lights

kitchen with wall lights

(Image credit: Future)

As the layout develops, start thinking about the lighting, not only for wiring purposes, but also so that you can problem-solve as the plans unfold, says Jamie Blake, creative director of Blakes London

'For example, I would usually use LEDs under the wall cupboards to light the worktop. Without them, another lighting solution is required, so instead I might include wall lights on swing arms that can be angled to suit.'

8. Paint your kitchen

green painted kitchen


(Image credit: Neptune)

This beautiful kitchen from Neptune has a painted look that we heartily approve of – and it's one that should inspire your painted kitchen design. 

One of the most appealing and varied finishes for kitchen cabinetry, paint lends itself to both the classic looks of the traditional kitchen and to modern linear designs. 

The advantage is in its almost limitless choice of colors, allowing you free rein to express yourself, whether your home is period or contemporary, country or urban. And you can always re-paint if you want a change or update in the future.

When planning your color palette, start by considering the room’s size and design and choice of flooring. Soft neutral shades are easy to live with in even the smallest spaces, while on-trend grey can look coolly architectural in a modern room, or warm and inviting when teamed with wood. 

Large rooms with lots of natural light can support a bolder paint color choice. ‘Consider painting one  element – an island unit or tall cupboard, perhaps – in a strong color, and then pick that up in your choice of pendant lights, cushions or chairs,’ says Scott Nicholson, MD of Chamber Furniture

9. Make shelving practical and beautiful

Kitchen with green cabinets and pink walls

(Image credit: Future)

Good kitchen ideas always combine practicality and aesthetics. Think about how you might make a 250mm-deep wall shelf beautiful, as well as functional, with some stacked up cookery books, in colors chosen to tie in with the curtains perhaps, and some attractive accessories. 

10. Free yourself from the restraints of a fully-fitted kitchen 

blue kitchen


(Image credit: Mowlem & Co)

For those seeking a more relaxed approach to kitchen design, the option of buying freestanding, rather than fitted, cabinets is proving increasingly  attractive. Often initiated by the desire to protect original architectural features from the permanent attachment of modern fitted units, the freestanding kitchen is becoming a particularly popular choice in period properties. 

‘Not everyone aspires to the sleek banks of units associated with a contemporary fitted kitchen,’ agrees Debbie Bowden of Barnes of Ashburton

The ability to try out various layouts to find out what truly works reduces the pressure to get your kitchen right first time. There’s also a great deal of reassurance to be found in the knowledge that a freestanding kitchen can be configured in different ways to meet your family’s changing needs. 

11. Add character with pattern

kitchen with textiles

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

It's incredibly sensible to choose a classic cabinetry design, finish and color that will not date within the life of the kitchen – Shaker cabinetry or flat-fronted doors are both safe choices, while white, grey or blue kitchens are enduringly popular. So, how to add your own stamp to these spaces? The easiest way to do so is with pattern – in backsplash tiles, fabrics on upholstery and curtains. These elements can be swapped out with the season or when you want – but don't yet need – to remodel your kitchen.

12. Make use of vertical space – beautifully

Kitchen with tall dresser

(Image credit: Neptune)

Mixed materials or finishes create a kitchen that's full of character, but what has really caught our eye in this room is the clever use of vertical space on a wall that demands narrow cabinetry. 

It's a perfect kitchen idea for a galley layout – solid fronted units would have made the space feel narrower, but open shelving has the opposite effect, adding depth and – because you can usefully store your best pieces on it – a ton of character.

13. Seek a straight and narrow design 

Kitchen - long galley with dark units and orange wall beyond


(Image credit: Future/Jonathan Gooch)

Single or double, a classic galley layout makes the most of modern-day kitchen zones and works like a dream for keen cooks. 

A one-wall galley is best suited to the lone chef, as it requires linear movement from one activity to the next. 

For ease of use, separate the cooking and wet zones by a reasonable length of worktop but resist the temptation to put the sink and cooker at opposite ends of the room. ‘You’ll gain wide work surfaces but may feel very cramped when cooking or washing up,’ explains Graeme Smith, Conceptual Designer at Second Nature Kitchens

A double galley allows the traditional work triangle, with a cooker and fridge on one side and the sink opposite, and provides more room for a pair of cooks to work  together. 

14. Add color and vibrancy with a mural

kitchen with decorative wall


(Image credit: Future/Jonathan Gooch)

Hardworking and high functioning, kitchens have generally focused on easy to clean surfaces but there is nothing to say these have to be plain. Approached with care, kitchens can prove surprisingly receptive to some decorative interest. 

‘The kitchen is very much the heart of the home and somewhere we all spend a good deal of time. Introducing pattern in your style will help it feel more personal and relaxing,’ says designer Susie Watson

Perhaps the easiest way to add pattern, and one that is simple to update, is to use wallpaper and fabric. The trend for kitchens to be larger, to be an open space that incorporates some form of living zone, encourages décor with curtains or blinds and perhaps even a sofa and cushions. 

15. Choose a practical U-shape design 

U shape kitchen with banquette dining


(Image credit: Future/Davide Lovatti)

U-shape layouts are installed in smaller kitchens, and used to shoehorn maximum storage and work surface into a compact footprint. ‘The U-shape kitchen really takes advantage of the ‘working triangle’ model, making working in your kitchen as effortless as possible,’ says Mark Jones of Halco Showroom

The best arrangement is to position your sink, cooker and fridge on three sides of the U. This layout creates a perfectly balanced work triangle with everything within easy reach as well as plenty of worktop space in between the areas.

16. Be sympathetic to the original design 

painted kitchen with wooden table

(Image credit: deVOL)

Take inspiration from your room’s architecture to search for kitchen ideas that feel right at home. 

You may have always dreamed of a painted classic kitchen or, indeed, something more sleek and modern, but there is no getting away from the fact that the most successful kitchens work in harmony with the architecture of the room.

‘Done well, taking design cues from the existing structure will result in a relaxed, harmonious cooking space. It’s also a great way to add character and individuality,’ says Richard Davonport, Managing Director of Davonport

It’s worth noting that using the key features of the room is just as important as starting with date and style – after all you’re not looking to create a slavishly accurate historical replica. And where possible, use authentic materials to create a characterful look. This works particularly when you are looking for kitchen flooring ideas – the brick-look of this herringbone flooring is spot on.

17. Put functionality at the heart of your kitchen 

painted kitchen with armchairs


(Image credit: Neptune)

Ample space for entertaining, generous storage and room for all the latest gadgets, a big kitchen is top of most homeowners' wish list. But with space, comes layout issues.

‘Large kitchens are great but they come with their own set of problems. If not meticulously planned, they can result in a lot of unnecessary travel and a disjointed design,’ advises Mat Davies, owner of Landmark Kitchens. 

An island unit is perhaps the most popular solution, and is one that can perform a variety of functions. In a very large room, it will act as a bridge between perimeter furniture, improving the work triangle and allowing more than one cook to work comfortably side-by-side. 

18. Introduce a splash of color 

Blue kitchen with a stripe of yellow


(Image credit: Original BTC)

Pick a shade that will give your kitchen a vibrant lift and create a welcoming space for cooking and entertaining. With the kitchen now a multi-purpose room designed as much for living as it is for cooking, it is important to decorate to suit. 

Neutrals aren’t for everyone and the sizeable cost of a new kitchen shouldn’t dictate that you play it safe. It’s more a case of choosing how and where to introduce color, picking spots that can be easily updated, and introducing shades that mirror the color palette in the rest of your home. 

‘It’s amazing how a change of paint color or some new tiles can give a kitchen a completely fresh look, picking up on different accents within the home,’ adds Rob Whitaker, Creative Director, Fired Earth

19. Ensure your kitchen is fitted with the best appliances

Kitchen with bank of eye level appliances


(Image credit: Future/Neale Smith)

While the kitchen has become the hub of the home, let’s not forget its true purpose – and one not duplicated by any other room in the home. This is the place where you come to cook. Of course skill level and indeed levels of interest vary dramatically from home to home, but all of us cook at some point – even if it is just to heat a ready meal or boil water for pasta. Some are altogether more demanding, giving Michelin-starred chefs a run for their money.  

Technology in the kitchen has really come into its own in this field and now there is a vast  range of appliances to suit all types of cooks, from ultra-accurate pro-style ovens, to  programmable versions that take away all of the guesswork to cook a meal for you – it’s a dizzying array.

Even iconic brands such as AGA, which pride themselves on traditional quality, are  embracing new technology with all electric designs and even a touch screen range cooker. But in the modern kitchen, aesthetics are almost as important as gadgets and gimmicks.  

‘Appliances naturally provide the backbone for any successful kitchen,’ explains Robert Laurie, Director at Poggenpohl Kitchens.

‘But thanks to great improvements in design, consumers can now enjoy exceptionally practical ovens and hobs and integrate them seamlessly into their surroundings. Banked appliances, stunning range cookers and integrated hobs not only create a visually impressive focal point but are quicker and more efficient than ever before.’

20. Factor in space for ample storage 

wooden cabinetry in modern kitchen


(Image credit: Future/Richard Powers)

Precision planning is the key to turning a chaotic kitchen into a neat and tidy work space. With the kitchen coming under increasing pressure to perform a variety of  crucial roles such as family dining, relaxing, working and entertaining, a good layout and adequate storage are more important than ever.

‘High capacity, well sited storage is essential to keep everything neat and tidy, providing a clutter-free space that’s a pleasure to use,’ says Danny Lay, Sales Director, Caple

In a multi-use, open-plan space, try to allocate dedicated storage in each area, not just the kitchen cupboards. For example, window seats with deep pull-out drawers are perfect for stashing away toys and ensure that there’s at least one drawer or shelving unit near the TV for tidying away remote controls and games consoles. 

‘Installing an island with cabinets on both sides helps maximise storage in the dining area for formal crockery and glassware,’ adds Tony McCarthy, Commercial Director at Crown Imperial

21. Maximize a small kitchen 

black and white kitchen


(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Don’t let a lack of space restrict your style. Taking an ambitious approach to the design and fittings can result in striking small kitchen ideas that punch way above their weight. 

While the long established preference for going ‘light and bright’ when decorating small spaces does apply, it’s important not to let your kitchen slip into neutral obscurity. 

‘Don’t be afraid to use color – even really bright colors in high gloss finishes, such as lime green, blue, lilac or pink. It’s a great way to give your kitchen a  boost if you haven’t got a great deal of space to play with,’ advises Adrian Stoneham of Stoneham Kitchens.

22. Invest in high-quality stone 

Blue kitchen with wooden island and marble backsplash


(Image credit: Lanserring)

Beautiful, hardwearing and timeless, it’s no surprise natural stone has enduring appeal in the kitchen. Stone adds a drama and natural beauty to your room that simply can’t be matched by other materials.

From limestone and marble, granite and slate, this versatile material is available in a wide range of shades and patterns, and it can suit modern, country and classic schemes. Popular for floors, walls, worktops and backsplashes, it’s the variety of stone and the way that it is finished that delivers so many strong looks. 

There’s an element of care involved in the maintenance of all kinds of stone as it is a naturally porous material. The level of upkeep will depend on the stone, so ask the retailer’s advice and make your choice based on lifestyle compatibility as well as aesthetics.

23. Enhance a classic kitchen 

Long white kitchen with island in the middle


(Image credit: Future/Davide Lovatti)

Kitchen trends might be ever-changing but more often than not, it’s a blend of styles that hits the right note – elegant proportions combined with modern practicality. 

Classic kitchen ideas, with their timeless lines and broad appeal, can tick all these boxes, narrowing the gap between traditional furniture and contemporary design to suit your home. 

‘While the architecture of the cabinetry may pay homage to a particular era, the equipment can be state of the art and tailored to your lifestyle,’ explains Jane Stewart, Design Director at Mowlem & Co

‘For example, you can house banks of refrigeration and wine storage in a corniced, fully framed run of furniture. Materials should be of the finest quality but the look can be updated by details, be it stains, color, reflective finishes, distinctive handles, lighting, pop up sockets, boiling water taps or unusual bespoke elements.’

24. Pick warm-toned finishes to create a welcoming space

wooden kitchen with open shelving

(Image credit: Future/ Paul Massey)

During and since the coronavirus pandemic, we have all spent much more time in our kitchens – they have once again become the heart of the home. With this in mind, the trend for minimal, streamlined kitchens has shifted somewhat. Yes, we still want them to be sleek, smart and functional, but it's just as important for them to feel welcoming. 

This can be achieved simply with paint colors and finishes on lighting or even cabinet furniture – swap them to something warm-toned, such as wood, and witness the kitchen's transformation.

25. Make space for working from home

Kitchen island with open display shelves

(Image credit: Stefani Stein)

Note the detail on the left-hand side of this lovely, breezy kitchen designed by Stefani Stein: a space for working from home. More than ever now, we are working from home when we can. And when we're not, it's a good spot for doing household admin or for children to do school work under your watchful eye. We love how, in this kitchen, the work station is designed to complement the kitchen.

Kitchen with bi-fold doors folded back

(Image credit: Future)

The Northern climate may not offer year-round sunshine, but there are certainly enough good days to want to make the most of any outdoor space. Linking a kitchen to the garden lets the entertaining zone spill outdoors, especially if there is a table close to the threshold. 

27. Blur the boundaries

Kitchen with glazed doors by the dining area

(Image credit: Future / Jonathan Gooch)

The trend towards open-plan living has soared in recent years. Whilst the kitchen has always been dubbed the heart of the home, this space is no longer just for cooking. Within a modern set-up, the kitchen can also be used as a dining area, work space and somewhere to gather as a family or socialise with friends.  

‘The area immediately outside the kitchen is increasingly becoming kitchen territory, ideally with a terrace for alfresco dining,’ says designer Johnny Grey. ‘The easiest way to make good use of outdoor space year round is to have one wall of the kitchen completely glass or with large doors that fold or slide back,’ advises Steven de Munnich, design director of Smallbone of Devizes. ‘Glass structures allow light to flood into the room and help make the garden feel like part of the kitchen-living space,’ he adds.

28. Make just one change to transform a kitchen

Bright dresser within a dark grey-green kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

Looking for kitchen ideas to upscale an existing space? If you have a painted or freestanding kitchen you are in luck: their looks can be switched up really quickly. Here, a dresser is painted in a contrasting color to the rest of the room to create a splash of warmth, a focal point and a modern new look all in one.

29. Pay attention to details 

Kitchen dining area overlooking garden

(Image credit: Future / Richard Powers)

If your kitchen extension features an expanse of glass, then it is imperative to pay extra attention to the material choice inside your kitchen. 

Select durable cabinetry and flooring that are not likely to be bleached by sunlight. Natural timber finishes will fade gracefully over time. Make sure cooking appliances are well ventilated, preferably with an externally ventilated extractor which will help prevent windows from steaming up.

30. Maximize space in a galley kitchen

Dark grey-black galley kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Darren Chung)

So much has changed in the way in which we design and use our kitchens over the last decade or so, but there is something reassuring in how galley kitchen ideas have adapted to the new-found sense of space, and have thrived. 

Named after a ship’s kitchen, it was originally associated with simplicity and tight spaces – there’s not much room for superfluous detail on the average ship. But the reason that a galley kitchen works is that it is ergonomically sound, and it’s easy to place everything so it is to hand. 

Galley kitchens were originally designed to be both compact and ultra-efficient, maximising every inch of space for both storage and preparation. 

Professional kitchens also follow a similar linear plan with lines of ranges or hobs divided into specific stations for the preparation of different types of dishes. 

Where there is room for a parallel run of units – a double galley – you can introduce the classic work triangle, arranging the key task zones of fridge, cooker and sink in this  pattern to cut down on the footwork between them. This is not only successful in narrow rooms that have enough width to take two rows of units, it's exactly the format that is so popular in open plan spaces, with a long island providing the second leg, often creating a sociable casual seating area and a natural boundary for the kitchen  space at the same time.

‘Galleys can be really stylish. Long lines of worktop create strong horizontal planes that look incredibly sleek,’ adds Hugo Tugman, Architectural Designer, Architect Your Home.  

31. Make a U-shaped kitchen practical

Wooden U shape kitchen

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Kitchen trends come and go, but planning a layout essentially remains the same. The classic layouts of galley, L- and U-shapes are designed to be the most ergonomically sound, helping to create the ‘work triangle’ of hob, sink and fridge within easy distance of each other and allowing for adequate work space in between. And while we have swapped compact kitchens for open plan living, it is interesting to see how these shapes have found new relevance in a larger space. 

U-shaped kitchen ideas have traditionally had units running along three walls of the room with one free wall as the access point. Modern variants include the U-shape plus island combo, which sees an island bridging the middle of a large U-shape, as well as standalone U-shape islands that sit in the middle of an open-plan room. 

Alongside a tight workspace, the main attraction of an U-shape layout is its abundance of worksurface. ‘Capitalize on this by investing in the best worktop you can afford, such as a striking granite or chunky timber, to create a stunning design feature,’ suggests Hayley Shaw of Magnet.

32. Make an L-shaped kitchen feel cohesive

L-shaped Farmhouse-kitchen

(Image credit: Neptune)

A classic layout that works in any size space, L-shaped kitchen ideas are practical, concise and look great. 

When deciding on a layout for your kitchen your choices are to a great extent dictated by the shape and size of your room, but that doesn’t mean you have to be restricted when it comes to design. 

Whether the space is small, medium or large an L-shape layout works with both contemporary and traditional cabinetry, and the form is flexible enough to adapt to structural needs, such as sloping ceilings or large windows. 

In a small kitchen an L shape is ideal as it concentrates all storage and appliances into two sides of the room, leaving the others free and open, so making the overall  space seem bigger. 

For larger kitchens or open-plan designs an L-shaped layout can serve as a divider between cooking and living zones or as an informal dining area with the bottom of the L becoming a useful breakfast bar.

33. Embrace an island kitchen

Kitchen with long kitchen island with lighting over the top


(Image credit: Future)

‘A striking island design will naturally draw your eye into the space and the furniture can provide a perfect cooking platform where friends and family are able to gather round as you prepare food and cook,’ says Andrew Hall of Woodstock Furniture. 

Kitchen island ideas can prove to be pivotal additions to galley, L and U- shaped layouts, allowing the rooms themselves to grow while maintaining a comfortable work area where everything is in reach. 

‘Islands are increasingly popular and act as central distribution points for incoming shopping, food preparation, and outgoing dishes, thereby breaking the traditional ergonomic triangle,’ says designer Tim Jaspar.

34. Go open plan for a sociable space

kitchen with dining table

(Image credit: Future/Jan Baldwin)

An open kitchen-dining-living space offers great versatility for the way we live today. The modern kitchen is all about space. 

Space to cook, space to entertain and  space for the whole family to gather, to chat and to just be. In response, the average kitchen project has become so much more than new look cabinetry and appliances. 

The big appeal is for the kitchen and cook to be part of the action when entertaining and, on a day to day basis, for the whole family to be together – in this time-pressed age, it’s a real boon to be able to offer help with homework while  preparing the evening meal; and to be able to keep one eye on tots and teens while managing other tasks. 

‘People have become generally less formal and so are more willing to share cooking, dining and relaxing areas,’ says Tim Higham of Higham Furniture. ‘When throwing a party or entertaining friends, it is seen as sociable to cook and entertain at the same time. 

Families also want to share the space so that they can multitask while preparing food.’ And in summer, an open plan space really comes into its own. The majority of open plan kitchens include large amounts of glass to let in the light and have easy access to the garden, which vastly expands living and entertaining space.

35. Introduce textiles to create an inviting space

cottage kitchen with textiles

(Image credit: Future / Brent Darby / Styling Pippa Blenkinsop)

'Where once kitchens were purely practical and designed to be functional, now we are looking to create lived-in looks for them that are more a reflection of the decor in the rest of our homes, particularly our living spaces,' says Homes & Gardens Editor in Chief Lucy Searle.

'The easiest way to transform an existing kitchen is with textiles – rugs or runners that can withstand or disguise the odd splash or stain along a run of cabinetry or under a dining table, and pretty cushion pads on seats are a good place to start. Another way to introduce color and texture is by showing off decorative china and pottery on open shelving.'

36. Pick a cabinetry color based on your room's light levels

Kitchen in a glass extension with wooden floor, blue cabinetry and white countertops


(Image credit: Future)

'A kitchen needs to feel light and bright – all day long and during the evening, too,' says Homes & Gardens Editor in Chief Lucy Searle. 'This is obviously for practical reasons – you need good light to cook by, even if you dim the lights when you sit down to eat – but also because the kitchen is now the hub of the home and likely to host everything from home working to social events.

'So, when you are researching kitchen color ideas, by all means go for a deep-toned cabinetry, but only if the room receives really good natural daylight, like in the room above, or if you have created an excellent artificial lighting scheme.

37. Add bags of texture for warmth and interest

Kitchen with hexagon tiles and natural leather bar stools


(Image credit: Future)

When you're creating a kitchen scheme, ensure there's at least one area of the room – whether the flooring, the countertops, the backsplash or the cabinetry itself – that has an element of natural texture or pattern to add interest, warmth and character to the room. 

This is particularly important in a kitchen that is very streamlined and contemporary with flat-fronted cabinets. Spaces like these need natural texture to stop them looking too clinical. Unless, of course, clinical is the look you love.

It's important to note that many recent kitchen trends have come about as a direct result of the pandemic. 

No longer simply a place to cook, our demands on our kitchens to be exceptional living spaces have pushed boundaries to create all kinds of exciting possibilities.

Now firmly established as a flexible living space, cooking is just one of many  activities that happens in the kitchen, and the latest approach to this essential space reflects a growing need and desire for flexibility. 

Once, design was all about function and ergonomics, then came the entertaining kitchen, and now the ‘living kitchen’ which can encompass a home office, media centre and relaxed lounge-style seating as well as semi-professional cooking arena. 

Moving away from sleek white, boxy cabinetry, there is a return to more classic styles with painted finishes offering a softer finish and the option to choose from a larger palette of shades and, indeed, to use two or three in one kitchen. But it is texture that is really bringing the space to life. Grain, concrete, heavy relief patterned doors, textured stone – these tactile surfaces have a presence, they interact well with light, and offer all kinds of exciting  design possibilities.  

The kitchen now looks like a living space. Cabinetry is sleeker, handless, in subtle finishes that wouldn’t look out of place in the living room. Freestanding pieces are mixed in with fitted units, and modern-day islands stand on tall legs looking like elegant tables as opposed to functional work benches. 

There is a definite move towards being more creative with décor. Statement lighting –  notably large pendants draw the eye and help define the zones, while wall art adds character and expresses personality.   

Appliances have become super smart but also know when to disappear. The new finishes of matt black, white glass and soft grey for ovens are designed to blend with new cabinet finishes. Integrated extraction set into the ceiling or down draught options that slide demurely into the work surface when not in use allow for uninterrupted views. Even sinks now have covers to make the use of every inch of work surface and to help them blend, or are formed from the same composite material as the worktop such as Corian and Silestone to give a seamless finish.

What is a good theme for a kitchen? 

So, you've got your color sorted, but what is a good theme for a kitchen?

Here's a breakdown of some of the most popular choices, including modern, classic, country and modern rustic...

Modern kitchens   

The mainstay of modern kitchen design is simple flat-fronted cabinets – it’s a  sleek look and one that is ageing incredibly well. In fact, much of what we  consider to be modern design dates back to the 1930s. Even the sleek, handleless cabinets so typical of modern kitchen design right now have been  around since the 1960s when SieMatic launched the first finger-pull kitchen cabinet, and the notion of open-plan kitchen-living is almost as old. 

‘The modern style of kitchen developed out of the 1980s trend for loft or warehouse living, and that has extended into the open-plan living that is now so popular,’ says Keith Atkins, Director of Design at Design Space London. 

For a while, modern kitchens seemed to take stark to a whole new level. Cabinetry was pared down and invariably white gloss, but it’s a look that can be too clinical for many. Thankfully, the current trend for modern is a far warmer affair. The clean lines and a fuss-free finish are still there but with texture, surface finish and soft color that bring character and are easy to live with. 

Bernard Otulakowski, Managing Director, of SieMatic UK points out the design potential in the new modern. ‘The key is to use sleek handleless cabinets and a rich and authentic combination of materials and textures to create a really interesting and elegant scheme. Hidden storage will keep the kitchen clutter free, but include enough open areas to put special items on display,’ he advises.  

‘Modern style has become more eclectic, more professional, sometimes more glamorous,’ says Graham Barnard, MD Matrix Kitchens. ‘There’s a trend away from sterile minimalism and a distinct move towards warmth, often with a hint of steel.’

Traditional kitchens   

Kitchen trends might be ever-changing but more often than not, it’s a blend of 
styles that hits the right note – elegant proportions combined with modern 
practicality. The classic kitchen, with its timeless lines and broad appeal, can 
tick all these boxes, narrowing the gap between traditional furniture and 
contemporary design to suit your home. 

‘While the architecture of the 
cabinetry may pay homage to a particular era, the equipment can be state of 
the art and tailored to your lifestyle,’ explains Jane Stewart, Design Director at
 Mowlem & Co. 

‘For example, you can house banks of refrigeration and wine 
storage in a corniced, fully framed run of furniture. Materials should be of the 
finest quality but the look can be updated by details, be it stains, color, reflective
 finishes, distinctive handles, lighting, pop up sockets, boiling water taps or 
unusual bespoke elements.’  

Part of the classic kitchen’s popularity lies in its useful features. Dressers, full-
height larder cupboards, deep ceramic sinks, hanging rails and island units 
aren’t just decorative elements – they’re also hugely practical, while simple 
cornicing and mantles are a natural home for LED lighting and hidden storage 
respectively. 

Country kitchens   

Warm and inviting, the country kitchen has always been known as a comfortable and 
friendly space, without the formality or urban edginess of the city. The goal, says 
Mark Wilkinson, Founder of Mark Wilkinson Furniture, is to create a room ‘that puts 
its arms around you, allows you to dump your muddy wellies, and not sulk that you 
are spoiling its ‘look’.’  

And the latest designs revel in the relaxed mood of the country, without being in any 
way twee. ‘The look has become simpler and cleaner,’ says Graham Jones, 
designer at John Lewis of Hungerford. ‘Not as fussy as of old, the new country 
kitchen has clean lines without being stark, providing traditional warmth with a mix of 
modern materials and touches.’  

Classic framed, Shaker-style cabinetry with a painted finish remains a popular choice 
because it tends to create a softer, warmer look than glossy, sharp-edged designs. 


Details, such as overmantels and cornices, feature less embellishment, while the 
paint palette is cool and simple: modern neutrals, particularly grey, are used to 
create a gentle look, or stronger shades, such as deep navy or charcoal, can be 
used to add modern punch. 

And we are also seeing more flat-fronted cabinets in 
lighter timbers being used to add the warmth and natural beauty of wood to clean-
lined design. 

Cottage kitchens 

Pretty, decorative, and often space-challenged, cottage kitchens are all about clever spaces solutions and attention to pattern, texture and layering. 

Traditional cottage kitchens in period homes are prized for their original features – whether stone floors or ceiling beams – it’s these details that give cottage kitchens their unique charm and homely feel. 

However, you can recreate a cottage kitchen in a contemporary home – although this style looks best if kept to small homes with low ceilings.

Modern rustic kitchens   

After decades of being counselled on the benefits of sticking to safe, neutral 
design when renovating, today’s modern rustic kitchen trend is a breath of fresh air. 

The look sits somewhere between classic country and urban 
contemporary, uniquely blending the best of both, with the nod to industrial design providing a sharp edge.   

The modern rustic look involves a careful balancing act of materials, design styles and colors. Achieving a clean but eclectic look that appears effortless, 
not contrived, requires skill but there are a few simple design tricks that will  help.  

First, keep control of the number of different finishes and materials – too 
many may result in chaos; too few will prove bland. No more than three core  materials, with perhaps one or two accent finishes, should suffice. Think plain 
painted cabinets, with concrete or wooden worktops and stone floors, plus smaller doses of stainless steel, copper or brass. 

Next, introduce interest and 
shape using standalone pieces – a vintage lamp, heirloom chair or well-worn butcher’s block, for example. 

Finally, consider texture. Tactile finishes, such 
as upholstered bench seats, rough-sawn timber doors or worktops, and encaustic tiles will all help soften the hard surfaces in a modern kitchen. 

Additional words / Linda Clayton