Updating your kitchen? We look at on-trend kitchen units

Kitchens are usually the heart of our homes, so it’s important to choose your new kitchen units to suit your lifestyle.

Whether you’re searching for a minimalist kitchen with clean lines, or a country-style design with warm wood, finding the right kitchen units will create the look you want.

But if you’re not sure what’s going to work best in your kitchen, it can be hard to make decisions given the range of kitchen options out there. You may also want to buy a kitchen that won’t date quickly, especially if you plan to move house in a few years’ time, or you may want to use it yourself for many years.

As well as deciding on your style of kitchen cabinets, there’s also a huge choice of options for materials, which vary from chipboard to solid wood, along with a wide choice of worktops, ranging from laminate to granite, and of course, the costs vary hugely.

We’ve asked some experts for their ideas about kitchen units which should help you narrow down your options, but first here are some basics to think about when planning your dream kitchen.

Shaker-style kitchen cabinets and marble countertops.

Your kitchen layout

When planning a kitchen, think about how you want to use it and the storage options you need for kitchen accessories. Consider the shape – you may have an `L’ shaped, square, or a galley kitchen – as this will dictate how best to use the space. Think about whether you want to eat in the kitchen: you might opt for a breakfast bar, a kitchen island or you might have space for a dining table and chairs.

Kitchen unit options

While you will probably be thinking about base units, wall cabinets, corner cabinets and larder units, also consider freestanding units such as a dresser or sideboard and possibly open shelving.

There’s a great choice of door style to think about. MDF (medium-density fibreboard) or laminate-covered cabinets are the most popular and come in a range of finishes including gloss, matt, and wood. The cheapest are chipboard carcasses, while MDF is stronger and solid wood is more expensive. Flat pack kitchen units are worth considering and it’s also possible to choose cheaper units with high-quality wooden doors and fronts.

When it comes to drawers, it’s useful to have different depths so you can accommodate large pans and even bins. Soft close drawers prevent slamming and feel luxurious. Decorative cornices on top of wall cabinets give a refined look and add more height while adding downlights or LED strips under wall units lights up worktops effectively. You will probably want your kitchen cabinets to stand on a plinth that will hide their legs and prevent dust from getting underneath.

Small kitchens

Integrated appliances can save space in a tight kitchen project, and useful storage solutions such as pull-down racks and a corner unit with a carousel may help. You could install a full-height cupboard though this involves losing worktop space.

Door handles

These will provide the finishing touches to your new kitchen and there’s a huge range of kitchen handles available. Your choice will depend on your style of kitchen units, for instance, wooden knobs provide a country-style look, while metal handles give a modern vibe. Think about how practical they are to use before choosing.

A country-style kitchen with freestanding furniture.

Worktops

Your choice of worktops can make a big difference to the look and feel of your new kitchen. Solid wood and granite are the costliest options while laminated chipboard or MDF are cheaper.

Solid wood

The choice includes oak, walnut, beech, teak, ash, and birch. The wood is sealed and durable and it can be sanded and resealed to remove blemishes. It may need coating with oil when new, or at intervals.

Laminate

These worktops are made from MDF or chipboard wrapped in laminate and sealed to make them water resistant. While they are durable, they can become scratched. Laminate can come in many patterns and colours and can be printed to look like granite, marble, slate stone, and wood. 

Granite

This is hardwearing and heat resistant but can be affected by acid and chemicals. It comes in many colours, including black cream, and pink. Bear in mind that as it’s heavy, your kitchen units need to be strong enough to support it.

Quartz

Quartz is also durable, but not as much so as granite, and comes in a wide range of colours.

Granite, marble, and quartz countertop options.

Expert advice

Kitchen design expert and creative director of Harvey Jones, Melissa Klink commented:

I firmly believe that wood is the best option for kitchen cabinets, oak or walnut, while hand-painted options are predominately made from tulip wood. This gives you exceptional-looking furnishings that are timeless, durable, and long-lasting. Another benefit is that wood cabinets can be easily painted over. So, if you fancy a change, all you have to do is update the colour, giving your kitchen an instant new look without needing to replace anything.

Melissa added that great storage is a key part of any kitchen, with people increasingly selecting open storage to showcase objects such as glassware and tableware, and investing in a pantry larder unit is a good move as they are hugely popular and attractive to future buyers.

She said:  

Pantries are a great place to store food, spices, and kitchen equipment so that your kitchen worktops remain neat and tidy, and clear, and you are free to cook, bake or entertain. This convenience is a natural draw for any potential future buyers. All our pantry larders come with spice racks mounted onto the doors, an in-built wine rack, deep drawers, and a handy worktop. This ingenious piece of high-quality design is a great addition to entertainers’ and family kitchens alike and will continue to prove its worth in the home.

It’s always worth putting some extra thought into the smaller details: a soft-closing pan drawer adds a luxurious element, and we like to recommend the odd glazed dresser for displaying your favourite crockery.

In terms of colour tastes in kitchens, we’ve seen an increase in appetite for darker tones that bring a touch of heritage and sophisticated style. We expect some of the more white-washed timbers will fall out of favour as these richer layers come into popularity. Walnut, cherry, mahogany, and red oak will be seen more in interiors moving forward. These beautifully old-fashioned dark tones will add in another layer of depth for a new wave of interior spaces.

Larder units, such as this model by Harvey Jones, are high on buyers’ dream kitchen lists.

Tori Summers, director of product design and innovation with Howdens Kitchens said that the rising cost of living has increased demand for energy-efficient products in kitchens. She commented:

We are also seeing more multipurpose features being factored into kitchen designs to ensure every product works hard for its place in your home. Interior palettes have diversified as homeowners look to personalise the place they live. From nature-led shades and uplifting brights to designs that mix a medley of hues – kitchen colour has become personal.

Blues and greens continue to top the colour charts thanks to their soothing shade. For an interior inspired by the natural world, go for greenery in the form of Chelford Fir Green or Hockley Reed Green which offers a botanical base to build upon. Choosing green is a way of instantly bringing the outside in, and it partners well with natural materials like wood and stone, for a layered effect inspired by nature. Similarly, the popularity of dark blue kitchens is gaining momentum in 2023.

Selecting a deeper shade can enrich a space and give an opulent and luxurious feel. Howdens’ new, marine-blue colour works brilliantly with marble-effect surfaces and brushed brass accessories. As homeowners become playful with their palette, we see more two-tone schemes coming to the fore. For those starting a kitchen from scratch, customise internal cupboard colours for a subtle take on this trending look.

Tori also noted the interest in open shelving in our kitchens, adding:

When considering storage solutions there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Many of us will have the idea of keeping our work surfaces clutter-free with items hidden out of sight using clever solutions like storage towers. However, more creative and expressive types will find that open shelving displaying crockery and pantry items on display will help fuel their creativity in the kitchen, so opting for more of a maximalist style may be their preference.

And finally…

While the choice of kitchen units out there can seem daunting, if you clarify your `must have’ list at the start of your research you’ll be in a better position to make decisions. Your perfect kitchen needs to reflect your lifestyle, whether the emphasis is on family life or entertaining: finding the right kitchen units that work with your budget will require time and investigation.

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