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Expert kitchen design tips from Joel LaRosa

Designer, creator and lover of colour Joel LaRosa focuses on creating bespoke kitchen and bathroom designs so is our go-to guy. Here he shares with us his top tips for creating the perfect kitchen.

Have a clear out

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Giving your kitchen a good clear out can help you gain up to 30% more storage and you’ve not had to spend a penny! Something like a pegboard with a hanging planter for fresh herbs on a wall works well or even a couple of simple floating shelves for your tea, coffee and sugar pots. If you’ve got the height, you can get extra tall wall units which will gain you so much more storage without realising it. Finally, something that is a sub-passion of mine is ‘hacking’ – turning everyday things into useful pieces; that wooden spice rack on the worktop, gain some space by fixing it on the back of a wall unit door.

Light it up

Space and style is a huge factor when it comes to lighting and under cabinet lighting is so flexible and diverse. Putting them on a dimmer works beautifully as it can give an intimate feel on those late summer evenings. If you can have a feature pendant you can get the usable lighting from the under cabinet lights. If you don’t have much space, then spotlights work perfectly as you can have a run directly over your prep areas. Always go LED too – they are low energy consumption and have a very very long life span.

Use your budget wisely

If you’re a keen cook, then spending a little more on appliances is where to concentrate the cost. If you have a family home with pets, a quality floor is a great investment. A lot of people say to put the money into your worktops but honestly, I’ll always recommended laminate. It’s the most basic option, but in my opinion it’s one of the best. It’s low cost, low maintenance and comes in a huge variety of colours. Alternatively, solid Quartz is a strong competitor to laminate. Even though they’re opposite ends of the price spectrum, they both have great qualities and resistance compared to wooden or acrylics versions.

Think lifestyle first

Think about how you want the space to work for you, something I call ‘the ergonomics of lifestyle’. A few questions to ask are, is it practical to have a double oven with a microwave? Is it easy access? Do I really need…? I’m a very visual person so when I’m with clients, I try to demonstrate working in the space with the designs suggested and see how it works for them.

Do I need an island kitchen?

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In all honesty, an island kitchen takes up a lot of room – the floor space required is at least 4m x 2.9m so something simpler is the idea of making it a peninsular off one wall which will give the effect of the island but also open the space better. You can have the same style of breakfast bar seating on a peninsular so it’s always good to consider.

Entertaining your needs

Something worth thinking about is a wine cooler. Although the company you’re entertaining won’t mind seeing your weekly shop when you pull out another bottle of white from the fridge, it’s nice to have a dedicated area for your favourite tipple. With dual zone options, you can keep your white, champagne and mixers cold and your reds at the perfect temperature ready for serving. Dimmable and ‘zoned’ lighting is key to entertaining too. If you have a dining kitchen, you can have the pendent light over the table, ceiling lights and under cabinet lights all on their own dimmers. Later in the evening you can set the mood with a low under cabinet ambience and the dining pendent gives intimacy – perfect for evening entertaining.

The finishing touches

The old phrase ‘it’s the little things that count’ springs to mind here. Something worth investing in is good featured products. For instance, getting a nice kettle with matching toaster is something that sometimes can be missed so find the right one to match your style. If you can, fresh herbs are a must. Having them out not only adds a bit of colour and life, but you will always have fresh herbs to hand when cooking. Okay, you may not use them but your guests don’t need to know that right? Also, personalise it. If you love a certain artist, designer or music, let your space reflect that. Display a piece of their work or even incorporate a wireless speaker into the space. Remember, a kitchen reflects who you are and with it being a place more of us are spending more time in, you want it to feel ‘yours’.

Splashback – yay/nay?

Yes and no. In some areas it’s a must. For instance, behind your hob you want minimal hassle so a glass, solid surface or tiled splash back here will not only provide low maintenance, it will also add a feature into the space. Some people want splashbacks all the way around the kitchen but it not only makes the kitchen feel smaller and you’re pretty much buying another worktop and putting it on the wall. A trend now is using smoked mirror. Not only is the glass lower maintenance than tiles, but it reflects the light around the space and makes it feel a lot bigger.

Make it family-friendly

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An island can work well here and is a great way to get everyone involved. When you’re cooking, the kids can do their homework on the island/peninsular or get them involved in helping you prep/bake around the island. Another option to consider is USB sockets. Either a pop up out of the worktop or in the wall means any device can be on charge in the kitchen. Something simple like a cosy chair works well too. If you have a nice wing back chair in the kitchen, they can be curled up reading or chatting to you while you’re cooking.

For more information and advice, contact Joel LaRosa Design.

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