To toe-kick or not to toe-kick – that’s the question to ask when you’re planning a new kitchen. In kitchen design, a toe-kick is a recessed plinth at the base of your cabinets that gives them a ‘floating’ look. The alternative is a plinth skirting that creates a solid base at floor level.
Toe kicks versus plinths is a recurring debate, and one that's come to the fore on Instagram recently.
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‘Toe-kicks tend to be more common in the US, where kitchens often have a freestanding look,' says Collette Black from deVOL (opens in new tab). 'In the UK, many of our customers choose skirting for a more fitted appearance that suits an English-style kitchen, but it’s really down to personal preference.'
That personal choice could be down to the size of your feet… ‘The toe-kick stops anybody who is quite tall or has big feet from having to stand away from the counter and potentially strain their back while washing at the sink,' says interior designer Dee Gibson, founder of Velvet Orange (opens in new tab). 'This seemingly unimportant detail can have a big impact on the usability of your kitchen, and it’s something I always discuss with clients.'
‘While countertops need to be at the right height for you to keep your posture, the toe-kick will also help you stand closer to your work surface without angling yourself forward because your feet can’t get close enough.’
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But whatever your shoe size, a toe-kick may not be the best option for you.
A modern kitchen works well with a toe-kick, but a traditional country-style or Skaker kitchen tends to look better with a proper skirting board around the base.
The trend for open-plan living also means that we are designing kitchens that need to work within a single living-cooking-entertaining-relaxing space. Which means we want cabinets that look more like furniture pieces.
‘A skirted kitchen creates continuity with wall details and styling,’ explains Gibson. ‘If your kitchen is bespoke or the supplier has a range of different options, you can choose how deep your skirting. And if you like chunky furniture, this will give your kitchen a very solid and expensive look.’
Gibson’s pro tip is to make sure that any skirting is finished in durable paint to withstand scuffs and chips from working in and cleaning your kitchen.
The final verdict on toe-kicks versus skirting: factor in how deep the skirting is in the rest of the room, how much time you spend in the kitchen and, finally, how big your feet are…