THE landscape of any kitchen is marked out above all things by the quality, finish and seamless installation of its major units. Freestanding, built-in, or a beautiful balance of elements, start with great furnishings whatever your budget.
There’s a sliding scale in kitchen units that starts at the level of cabinetmaking, with full wood and wood doors (generally in-frame in a traditional kitchen). With the attention of an independent craftsman, in a selection of woods, these kitchens are often delivered at a more accurate time-scale than their cheaper cousins at the DIY superstore.
If you want something completely unique to your house, in timber or a painted kitchen, or have architectural challenges with irregular walls and oddly shaped rooms, it’s worth investigating having a kitchen made for you. A bespoke kitchen can be highly contemporary in fine materials and muted shades, so don’t just assume hand-crafted to be all oak hutches and canopies.
Towards the centre price point, we have the semi-custom kitchen, fabricated off-site, generally in easy-care MDF modular carcasses, with timber, resinous or laminate doors.
These kitchens follow a menu of designs, and are prized for their surprising attention to detail, and turn-key delivery with appliances, counter tailoring and interior fittings. Flip-up door, sliders and counter- mounted power outlets, a wide choice in off-standard sizing — there’s a lot take in.
Don’t be put off investigating quality brands such as Kube, In-house, Porter & Jones and Eggersmann (Surreal Designs) for even a modest retro-fit. Ensure you have a pre-installation visit to check those measurements before you order. Lead time can be as long as 12 weeks.
Off the shelf (but still prey to wait times of four to eight weeks nonetheless) are economical MDF cabinets with wood, baked acrylic or foil wrapped doors and drawers in standard sizing of 30-80cm. This lower end of the market had improved out of all recognition, with most firms offering a full design service using CAD technology and 3D visualisation. Don’t be hypnotised at the showroom — feel the quality and operate door, drawers and internal storage details. IKEA, the empire of flat-pack will put the kitchen together for a bonus, but otherwise, you and the screwdriver will be close companions.
The success of any kitchen depends on perfect installation. A listing drawer front of misaligned cabinetry will let down that €5,000 investment, but once tightened up to the wall by a good carpenter, can look all the money and more.
Visit any showcase of kitchens and you’re likely to be met with a wide range of design styles. But, with good carcases, you may be able to get away with just a change of doors in standard sizing.
* Traditional wood or painted units: With pelmets and panelling, they bear the elements of Victorian and Edwardian free-standing furnished kitchen. Safe and cosy, but not for all. They are distinct, and today are a fashion buy in terms of future proofing your home. Recess kick-boards even if the units have legs (a massive crumb cave otherwise). Wood is sustainable, can be repaired easily, and re-finished DIY.
* Non-traditional wood: Subtle and bold richly figured wood finishes are available as veneers, solid wood and vinyl wood surfacing set on flat, contemporary door and drawer faces. There are no recesses, handles or other decoration to these doors. Sleek, minimal, metal legs are now getting longer and put boldly on show in credenzas with on-frame door styles. These sophisticated timber types can step through from a kitchen to a living space effortlessly. One example is IKEA’s Hyttan oak veneer doors.
These doors owe little to authentic Shaker, but they do have a foot in both traditional framing and spare modern looks, which have kept them a firm favourite here in Ireland. You can give them more or less of an impact depending on your handle choices. Richly painted in unusual choices such as a deep matt black, your Shaker kitchen will be distinct from early 1990s examples in that inevitable glowing oak.
* High-gloss lacquered Italian units: Black, white and stone colours rule here. A vast array of quality, so watch your step. Once damaged, an acrylic/PVC finished door is hard to repair in a high shine. If you want colour and modernity, the Italian style units are ideal and combine well with glass and metals. For architectural weight, confine coloured drawers and doors in a chunky frame of white panels. Look for super-wide new drawer choices, rounded curves to counter and unit ends, and a current favourite in colour: cappuccino (cream white).
* Sleek German modular with stainless steel: Born from the commercial kitchen, there’s a lot to recommend metal handsome good looks, but they can cost as much as wood. Stainless steel is difficult to keep completely clean at all times, so keep this in mind with sticky-fingered youngsters about.
What is new are the bold, alternative textures used in combinations with flat doors and drawers in German kitchens- distressed wood panels and drawers sparring with flat metal and lacquered surfacing- fabulous. Innovators in the 1960s with the integrated strip handle, keep an eye on what Siematic is doing in its high-end slab kitchens (arenakitchens.com. Dublin).
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