Kitchen ideas: kitchen design, colour and island inspiration - Which? (2022)

Transforming your kitchen is an exciting venture, but it can be tricky to know where to start. Our kitchen design ideas will help you to create the kitchen of your dreams, whether your budget's small or large.

From choosing the right kitchen layout to perfecting the lighting, read on for kitchen design ideas to inspire you.

Before you buy – or even start the process – take a look at our guide to the best kitchen brands to find out which are the top-rated companies. Customers have judged them on durability, customer service and value for money.

To find out which three brands earned Best Buys for their kitchen units when we assessed them in our lab, visit our best kitchen units page.

Kitchen layout ideas

Before you start, think about the layout of your kitchen. Kitchen layouts tend to fall into six main categories:

  • L-shaped kitchens
  • U-shaped kitchens
  • G-shaped kitchens
  • Single-wall kitchens
  • Island kitchens
  • Galley kitchens.

Flick through our gallery for visual examples of each type:

Kitchen layouts ideas gallery

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A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/fitted-kitchens/article/fitted-kitchens/kitchen-design-ideas-a5ID36Y315bE

Kitchens pictured above are from B&Q, Wickes, Magnet, Ikea and Wren Kitchens (in order shown).

Once you have a clearer idea of what you want, head over to our kitchen planning guide for more on getting the details right and avoiding common mistakes.

You can also visit our guide to the best kitchen brands to see how these companies were rated for customer satisfaction and how their units did when we sent them to the lab.

Trying to work out the perfect plan for a compact kitchen? Head over to our dedicated guide onsmall kitchen ideas.

Kitchen islands

Often, when people think about their ultimate kitchen, a lavish kitchen island is part of the picture. Kitchen islands come in many shapes and sizes and fulfil different purposes. They are:

  • ideal for additional storage and can encompass a variety of storage options
  • a great way to create a breakfast bar or seating in your kitchen
  • perfect for making a statement or focal point in your kitchen
  • an easy way to create more work-surface space
  • useful for housing kitchen essentials, such as a hob
  • a good way to 'zone' your kitchen if your home is open plan.

Think about how you're going to use your island in relation to the rest of your kitchen. What do you want it for? How will it affect the workings of the rest of your kitchen? Once you know that, you can be clearer on what size and type to get, as well as how to position it.

Islands can be as big as you want but, if you're tight on space there are also slimline versions. You can also get one on wheels so that it can be moved out of the way when needed (more on this below).

Another way to save space is to get a peninsula instead. This is essentially where units carry on from your current kitchen and jut out into the room. You can see an example in the gallery below.

Whatever you do, one key thing to keep in mind is how much space it will take up and what usable space you will have around it. Think about the 'kitchen triangle', which helps you plot out the distance you need to leave between different parts in your kitchen.

You can find out more about this and working an island into your design on our kitchen planning page.

Our gallery includes a range of kitchen ideas, from kitchen islands with seating to statement islands, to help get you thinking about what you want.

Kitchen island ideas gallery

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A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/fitted-kitchens/article/fitted-kitchens/kitchen-design-ideas-a5ID36Y315bE

Freestanding kitchen islands

A freestanding kitchen island is exactly what it sounds like: an island that isn't fixed into position (you can see a couple of examples in the gallery above).

A freestanding kitchen island will usually have legs, lifting it just off the floor or even creating more of a table, depending on what you opt for. They come in the range of sizes, from compact to as big as any other type of island. These types of islands don't usually house appliances or sinks, so take this into consideration.

Freestanding islands add a different feel to the space, showing off the floor and making it feel more open. They also allow you to mix and match different styles and play around with storage options.

You can also get ones on wheels, which means you can easily move it around your kitchen, or even take it into another room, for example where you serve your food. To make them lighter, most come with open shelves as opposed to cupboards.

If you're keen on this type, make sure you buy one that has locks on the wheels so that it will stay in place when needed. Also think about where you will move it to: is there actually space in your kitchen to take it out of its position?

Why not consider upcycling too – use a sideboard or console table as a freestanding island? Just make sure it's finished so that it doesn't get damaged by water.

Learn more about kitchens on our kitchen planning page and visit our small kitchen ideas page for tips on how to make the most of a small space.

Kitchen furniture

Don't be limited in your kitchen plan by only looking at standard kitchen cupboards and shelves – there are lots of other options. Why not consider:

  • freestanding shelves or cupboards, or a combination of the two, like in the image above
  • a dresser – these are typically country-style, but you can get modern versions
  • a sideboard, as an island or along a wall to create additional storage
  • a table – either a console or normal-sized one
  • a trolley, ideally on wheels so that it can be moved

These can open up your storage options from cupboards with simple shelves or drawers and can be used in a number of different ways – as a kitchen larder, to display china or glassware, as a wine rack, to hide away appliances that you don't want to have built in or to create another worksurface.

They can also be cheaper too, especially if you revamp an old piece of furniture. Scroll down for more cheap kitchen ideas.

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Visit our page on kitchen planning for more on freestanding kitchens and storage ideas.

Kitchen benches

A kitchen bench is the perfect way to create a social space. Using one at a table will enable you to fit more people around it, while a bench running along a wall will give guests or the family somewhere to sit while you cook.

A fitted bench seat is a good way to maximise space, especially if you use it as an eating space and it has storage built in too.

If you're looking for a reliable carpenter to help you create something bespoke for your space, use Which? Trusted Traders. All our traders have been through our rigorous checks by experts from Trading Standards.

Kitchen décor ideas

Whether you want to create a sleek, modern look, a country farmhouse kitchen or be daring and design something unique, these ideas will get you started.

Kitchen decor gallery

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A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/fitted-kitchens/article/fitted-kitchens/kitchen-design-ideas-a5ID36Y315bE

Open-plan kitchens

An open-plan design works perfectly for our modern lifestyles. Consider the following:

  • Smells and noises. An efficient cooking hood will help, as well as having good ventilation in the room. If you're buying new appliances, opt for a self-cleaning oven if you can, and look for appliances that have scored well in our reviews for being quieter.
  • Using furniture or paint colours to create different zones denoting where your kitchen ends and dining area starts. Screens, curtains or sliding doors are a great way to temporarily close off an area without having them permanently divided.
  • Make sure your kitchen will work for your lifestyle. Do you want to be able to watch the TV in the living room from the kitchen, for example? Do you need to keep an eye on the kids playing while you're cooking? Will it be easy to carry and serve food from the area where you're preparing it to the area where you'll be eating?
  • It's easy to inadvertently create 'dead' areas between the rooms. Eke every inch of use out of them by thinking about the spaces individually and how you could use or connect them to the surrounding rooms.
  • Check your open-plan space will meet building regulations in terms of fire safety. Speak to a builder or kitchen specialist for advice.

Kitchen diner ideas

Here are a few tips to marry kitchen and dining in one.

  • Use a kitchen island or peninsula with seating to enable you to eat in your kitchen. You, your family or guests will need to be comfortable with high seats or stools though.
  • An extendable table will enable you to cater for larger parties or gatherings but not take up too much space day to day.
  • Placing a table in a corner, which you can leave there or pull out when needed if you have the space, will use an areas that might otherwise be a wasted.
  • If you're short on space, a pull-down or fold-away kitchen table could be a good option.
  • Bench seating, as mentioned above, can enable to you seat more guests.
  • A round table, particularly a small one, can be a good space-saver. You can also get ones where the chairs fit around the curve and therefore completely underneath the table
  • Even if you don't have a round table, make sure the chairs won't stick out into the room and cause an obstruction when they're not in use.

Kitchen colour ideas

Traditional and less colourful kitchens can come to life with a splash of colour.

Kitchen colour schemes gallery

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A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/fitted-kitchens/article/fitted-kitchens/kitchen-design-ideas-a5ID36Y315bE

While a white kitchen will remain a classic, grey kitchens have become more popular in recent years, offering limitless options when it comes to design. Think about combining dark and light tones for greater contrast.

Green is another popular kitchen colour in 2022, from muted tones such as sage to more daring and bright like lime green, for a splash of colour. Pair it with wooden worktops or vintage cabinets for a rustic feel.

Take a look at the gallery above for some inspiration.

Kitchen wallpaper

Unlike wallpaper in a bedroom or living room, kitchen wallpaper needs to be able to withstand splashes from water or cooking. Kitchen-specific wallpapers have a vinyl or plastic coating, which will stop them from absorbing moisture and make them wipeable so that you can remove any spills.

However, we still wouldn't recommend using them as a splashback or near where you cook and wash up.

Before hanging your chosen wallpaper, make sure your kitchen is dry, otherwise you may have problems with peeling from the get-go. Check you have the right glue (it differs depending on what the wallpaper is made of) a brush, wallpaper table and good blade knife. Also make sure you check how much glue to apply as this varies too.

Kitchen wall décor ideas

Kitchen walls don't just have to be covered in wallpaper or paint: what about stickers, murals, prints and art?

There is a huge range of stickers available, which they tend to be easy to apply once you have cleaned the surface. Make sure you choose one that will be OK to use in a kitchen: you don't want it peeling off not long after you attach it.

Or what about painting a mural? You can find a design online to copy, or create your own for something truly unique, if you have the skills.

Kitchen paint

Whether you have lots to spend on your kitchen or are on a shoestring budget, paint is a great way to transform the space and inject your personality.

However, you need to make sure you choose paint that is moisture resistant, durable and wipe clean, especially if you have children. Look for a kitchen-specific paint that should do all of these jobs.

Some paints are claimed to be mildew and mould resistant, with guarantees and the length of time this will last for: the longer the better. But specialist paints like this are often limited in terms of the colour palettes that are available.

You could also use a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint, as these will still repel moisture and enable you to wipe away any mould that appears. However, these kind of paints tend to be more suited to small areas, such as window and door frames, as opposed to entire walls.

How to paint kitchen cabinets

Although it is tempting to jump in, professionals follow a process, so you should do the same. One important part of the process is starting by preparing cabinets by removing any hinges and handles.

  1. Look at surfaces and fill any dents with appropriate filler, and then sand them.
  2. Use a primer – this is an important step and it will help paint to have better adhesion.
  3. Once you have done this, use a paint roller for the larger flat areas, and a brush for the edges and final touching up.
  4. Paint drawers and doors separately.

Other things to watch out for are:

  • drying time so that you're aware of how long it will take for your kitchen to be usable
  • how much coverage a tin will give you: consider whether you'll need more than one coat – say, to cover something up or ensure a colour is rich
  • choose one with low levels of VOC if you have children, pets or can't ventilate the room well
  • check whether you will need to use a primer beforehand or whether you can paint straight onto the surface, once it's clean.

See the best home and DIY shops as rated by customers. Alternatively, visit Which? Trusted Traders to find a vetted local trader to do the job for you.

Kitchen tiles

Tiles are a great way to give style and character to your kitchen. Coloured tiles can add personality to your kitchen, whereas patterned tiles are better to jazz up what could be a more traditional kitchen, without it becoming overwhelming.

Kitchen tiles are popular as part of a splashback. Fun fish scale tiles have become one of the hottest trends in recent years.

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Kitchen floor tiles

When tiling a high-traffic area, such as a kitchen, you'll need easy-to-clean and durable tiles.

For a unique design choice opt for patterned tiles (think geometric or ever-popular chevron style) or checkerboard.

If you're less keen on experimenting, large monochrome tiles are also fashionable.

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Kitchen sinks

The kitchen sink is a key part of the kitchen triangle, so you want to choose a material that will prove durable, especially if you cook regularly. You should also think about type, size and style. A double sink, aka divided sink or double-bowl sink, is handy if you don't have a dishwasher and so do a lot of washing by hand, as you can fill one with hot water for cleaning and use the other one for rinsing dishes off.

You'll need to choose between an inset and an undermount one.

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  • Inset: This is the traditional one. The bowl of the kitchen sink drops down into your kitchen worktop.
  • Undermounted: The sink fits underneath the worktops. It usually lacks a sink drainer, so they are more in line with a minimalist look.
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Kitchen sinks take a hammering – think about all the pots and pans that end up there. So it's wise to go for a durable option.

Stainless steel One of the most popular options, stainless steel will endure plenty of hardship in a busy kitchen and makes for an affordable option.

Granite composite They can really add a unique character to your kitchen but can get pricey. While it is a durable material you may want to consider.

Ceramic These tend to be durable and look traditional.

CompositeThis can be a more affordable option that the granite counterpart.

Kitchen lighting

The lights in your kitchen are as important as your worktop or cabinets, elevating it to the next level. You can use statement lighting to make your kitchen distinctive.

Take a look at these lighting ideas for inspiration.

Kitchen lighting ideas gallery

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A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/fitted-kitchens/article/fitted-kitchens/kitchen-design-ideas-a5ID36Y315bE

Find out how to buy the best spotlights

Cheap kitchen tips: how to update an old kitchen on a budget

If money is tight, take a look at these tips to help you transform your current kitchen inexpensively.

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Stick to your existing kitchen layout

Keeping electrics and plumbing in the same places helps to keep costs down, as it’ll reduce the need to hire specialist contractors. Even if you need to get a professional to install new appliances, it will take less time and money if they’re being wired into the same spot as before.

Buy an ex-display kitchen

You may be able to pick up an ex-display or even a second-hand kitchen for significantly less than a brand new one. As well as saving you money, it's a sustainable option as it could also prevent the kitchen from ending up in landfill.

Replace kitchen worktops and fronts cheaply

Some builders' merchants, local kitchen manufacturers and specialist companies will supply new kitchen unit doors, drawer fronts and worktops, at a fraction of the price of an entirely new kitchen. For more pricing details on these updates, head to our page on kitchen costs.

If materials such as marble and granite are out of your price range, there are a lot of laminates that do a good job of mirroring the real thing while giving it a high-end look.

Steer clear of fixtures that are too different from those you already have. For example, handleless doors may not be compatible with your cabinets, because they operate on a runner.

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Cheap and easy ways to add colour to your kitchen

Attractive tiles add instant glamour. Rather than paying to cover the entire room, create feature areas with small collections of tiles.

Repainting your kitchen walls and/or kitchen unit doors is much cheaper than replacing the whole kitchen and, as we said before, can completely transform its look and feel.

Deep shades and rich tones look particularly luxurious. Be bold and paint the entire room, or choose specific areas to draw the eye.

Make sure you use suitable kitchen paint, which is more moisture resistant, and prepare the surfaces as instructed. Find out more about the best washable paints for kitchen walls (although these won't be suitable for wooden kitchen cabinets).

Again, ensure you have good lighting: it could make the difference between a modern, fresh-looking kitchen and a dingy-looking one. Check out our guide to buying the best lightbulbs

Another easy and budget-friendly way to add a pop of colour is by choosing jazzy appliances next time yours need replacing. Check out our best kettle and toaster sets.

Replace your kitchen flooring cheaply

You don't have to spend a fortune to get a bold, distinctive floor.

Vinyl flooring is generally the cheapest type, starting at around £10 per square metre. Ceramic tiles are generally cheaper to buy and have fitted than porcelain or stone. You can buy cheap tiles for less than £10 per square metre.

Shop around for kitchen installation services

You may also be able to save on installation costs by finding your own kitchen fitter, rather than using the retailer's own service.

Always get at least three quotes to compare and ask for a total price for the job including all fittings and fixtures, rather than a rate per day. With a fixed cost for the whole project, there are less likely to be nasty surprises.

Find a kitchen fitter near you using our Which? Trusted Traders service. All traders displaying our logo have been through our rigorous checks.

And if you need to overhaul other rooms cheaply too, find out more about updating a bathroom on a budget.

Visit our kitchen costs guideto find out what you should expect to pay for a new kitchen, including price guides for some well-known kitchen brands, and to find tips from experts and thousands of kitchen owners on how to keep your costs down.

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