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Candid, honest, useful advice on all things kitchens, furniture, design, and wood, from the younger brother at H. Miller Bros.

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The most frequently talked-about frustrations our clients have with with their exisiting kitchen setup....

August

2023

Hey design-lovers...

 

This week I'm talking about frustrations! It's maybe the no.1 thing people talk to us about when they first get in touch: something that’s really frustrating them within their existing kitchen set-up. Some have inherited a space that simply doesn't reflect their taste or sense of style, while others have been building their dream home from the ground up and want to avoid past mistakes. What they all have in common is a desire for a space that enhances their daily life and eliminates the annoyances of a poorly designed space.

 

So, what are the top frustrations, and how do you solve them? I've had a look back through the briefing notes we take when we speak to new clients, and here are the 7 most frequently mentioned frustrations, and some advice on how to solve them:

 


1.        A poorly designed layout that makes cooking a chore and entertaining a bit embarrassing…

Solution: There’s a really important principle in kitchen design called the golden triangle. The points of the triangle consist of your fridge, sink, and hob. These are the most important zones in your kitchen and you’ll be moving between them constantly. If you look at a plan of your existing kitchen, and drawer a triangle between these 3 zones, what sort of triangle is it? If it’s long and pointy at one end (or worst of all, a straight line between all three), then this signals a sub-optimal layout where you’re having to expend a lot of effort just moving around between zones. If your triangle is a bit more equilateral, then this suggests you have a pretty efficient layout. Great news! If you’d like to see examples of good and bad golden triangles, check this out… https://shorturl.at/dfrIV

 

There are loads of other things to consider with layout, prep spaces being the first that comes to mind, but the golden triangle is a great place to start.

 


2.        Inefficient storage or organisation, not enough drawers, and no worktop space (or the classic cluster of kettle, toaster and mixer taking up the one good prep space)…

This is a great one, and there are so many solutions I could talk about. My no.1 tip would be a pantry cabinet. These Tardis-like cupboards are amazing at swallowing all your dry ingredients, and even hard to store things like wine glasses and oil bottles. The interior worktop space can be a home for small appliances like toasters and blenders so they don’t dominate your valuable prep spaces.




3.        Poor lighting, making the kitchen less pleasant to be in…

Lighting is often an afterthought when it comes to kitchen design, and it really shouldn’t be. The way you light the space can transform it from a sterile operating-theatre-vibe to a warm and inviting sanctuary. One of our signature moves is to incorporate a light box above the island. We make ours with Japanese shoji paper, so as the light is defused, you see all the fleck and fibres.  




4.        The free-standing bin that smells, is always in the way, and there’s nowhere for the recycling to go….

Solution: There is a better way with this one – the bin drawer. We make bin drawers for all our projects. Different types of waste can be separated out into separate buckets, and the bin self-seals against a shelf that’s installed in the cabinet. There are off the shelf options for this too, but try to avoid the light-weight versions, or those without self-sealing lids, as it can be a real pain to open the bin drawer with a handful of waste, and have to take an additional lid off before you can empty your hand.




5.        Sagging doors, or mis-aligned drawer fronts, which make a kitchen look shabby…

Solution: such a common one, and so incredibly annoying. The reason is one (or both) of two things – poor quality hinges/drawer runners, and cabinets made of chipboard. Poor quality ironmongery has only a small amount of adjustment, so it may not be possible to get doors and drawers to align properly. They also droop and sag and break much more frequently, so even if you get everything aligned, another round of adjustment will be needed the next month. The best solution to this is to swap out your hinges and drawer runners for better-quality alternatives. We recommend Blum softclose hinges and Blum Movemto drawer runners, but there are lots of good brands - Salice is great, as is Hettich.

 

But your doors and drawer fronts will still sag if you’re screwing these into chipboard. It’s just a very friable material, and once a hole has degraded a little, it’s difficult to get secure fixings. This is why we don’t use any chipboard in our kitchens – it just doesn’t last. If you’re stuck with a chipboard cabinet with loose screws that make your hinges move around, then a good solution is to drill the screw holes a little larger, and use M4 nuts and bolts to clamp your hinges in place.

 


6.        Outdated technology and appliances that are too limited, malfunctioning or damaged - the steam function in the oven that doesn't work anymore; the digital display that you can't change the time on; the extractor that is very loud but doesn't seem to have any effect…

Not much of a secret fix on this one, it’s a case of remove and replace. The good news is that most kitchen appliances are a standard size, so if you’re swapping out your oven, a new one is likely to fit into the same space in your cabinetry. We tend to recommend Miele as they’re great quality, integrate into cabinetry beautifully, and last ages. We also use certain suppliers for special bits, such as Bora for down-draft hobs and Fisher & Paykel for dishwasher drawers and American Style fridge-freezers. It’s probably a good idea to avoid the cheaper end of the market, as the build quality is poor, and they don’t integrate as well. Getting last year’s model can be a great way to get good quality at a better price.

 


7.        Nowhere for a friend to sit and have a glass of wine whilst you finish prepping dinner; you’re unable to join in the conversation whilst cooking because the hob is facing the wall.

The solution here revolves around the island. This is the place you and any visitors will gravitate towards. It’s a good idea to incorporate an area where people can sit, and get their knees underneath. In addition, if you’re undecided between putting the hob or sink on the island, go for the hob! It means the island attracts less mess (and wet patches) and you can socialise whilst you stir a pot.

 



These were all issues for me when we were designing my own kitchen (The Furniture Makers Kitchen - surely you'd guessed by the name). My old kitchen was constantly frustrating (the list above, and some...), and these annoyances added up over the months and years.

 

Howard and I starting with a really comprehensive briefing exercise, which teased out all the important things I needed the new kitchen to do, as well as the style and feel I wanted for the cabinetry (I love Japanese design, hence the nods to this in our work). That was many years ago now, and I still love the space, and I'm constantly surprised at how much it's improved my home life. But I shouldn’t be! Our clients say the same thing to us all the time about the kitchens we've made for them.

  

Cheers,

Hugh

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