An interview with Home Design Consultant Alexa Collins.
I spent some time talking to her about what she thought were the emerging trends in Kitchen Design.
New Trends in Kitchen Design
Q. Alexa, could you just tell us a little about yourself? I heard you got started in this by building your own house from scratch…is that true?
A. I’ve always been fascinated with adapting houses, the change in requirements with each era and the demands of modern living and for increasingly sophisticated lifestyles. From buying my first flat I always loved transforming a property to my vision. Around 10 years ago I took the plunge and began to develop property professionally, which was quite an eye-opener from only having done it for myself. Through a series of events, I had the opportunity a few years ago to redevelop my family home, where I’d grown up. The result was knocking it down and rebuilding from scratch, it was a very challenging project but the results far outstripped my expectations. It’s a joy to live somewhere that’s been design especially for you and how you live. At that point I decided to use my skills and all the experience of 20 years adapting properties to help other people adapt theirs.
Q. So, in your work, what sort of trends have you spotted in the last year or so and how do you think that’s going to affect us all going forward?
A. The trends that I’ve seen are that people are finally moving away from the more traditional classic designs and are not scared to go for something really modern in the kitchen. I see more mixing of materials, maybe most worktops in one style, and then a breakfast bar or island in woodblock or granite. This can be a great way to use a smaller amount of an expensive material that then gives your kitchen a really great look for less money. And also the use of bold colours, not necessarily for the whole room as that could be a little overwhelming, but to use bright accent colours to really liven things up and show style and personality.
Q. What are the fundamentals that we need to remember? I know some designers suggest you use a ‘triangle’ layout, but I don’t quite see how that would work in homes where the kitchen is open plan. But then you are the designer not me!
A. The concept of the work triangle is important, you’re an excellent cook so I’m sure you know! But as with all design, it needs to keep up with how we actually live. Traditionally in kitchen design the sink would always be under the window, with space for one person washing and another drying… Oh please! In our busy lifestyles these days when does this scenario happen? Young couples are both out working, the chances are we’ll try and fit a dishwasher into the design. As a result, there’s no reason why the sink might not fit better into a corner for example. Or go onto an island. It can go anywhere to facilitate a good design. These days, whilst we might try to keep some fundamentals like the work triangle, we know that none of these rules are hard and fast. If we’re creative and know who we’re designing for, we can bend or break the rules.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who has bought a new home and wants an up to date look for their kitchen without breaking the bank?
A. I think a great way to bring an up to date look to your kitchen is to add colour, a brightly coloured glass splashback for example. There are loads of coloured products out there at the moment, pick your colour and follow it through with accents on lights, kitchen chairs, the kettle and toaster or more major appliances are now being manufactured in colour.
Q. Where’s the best place to find information about kitchen appliances? And what sort of things should we be looking for in terms of features in a cooker. Some of them seem to have a lot of options, but what do we really need to cook simple healthy meals?
A. There’s a wealth of information on the internet about kitchen appliances but it’s also good to get your hands on a product to feel its quality. Good department and electrical stores give you the ideal place to compare the feel of the products and then you can shop around online to get the best deals. But it’s always worth talking to the retailer about the online deals as they may be able to match the price or give you a free delivery to balance the deal that you saw online.
Q. How about energy efficiency. I’m a bit confused. A sounds good to me, but there’s now A+ and A++ – if I’m buying a new cooker or fridge is there a minimum I should be looking for in your opinion
A. People make choices based on different things. If energy efficiency is the most important criteria to the buyer then they’ll go for the best rating. But for most of us it’s a combination of things and yes, the rating is important as no-one wants an inefficient appliance which will cost a lot to run, but also we want a good quality appliance which will withstand the usage AND we want something that looks and complements our kitchen.
Q. Integrated vs stand alone? What are your thoughts?
A. This question is asked a lot and the answer depends on many things. How long are you likely to stay in the property? Are all the appliances visible? Would you ever consider renting the property out? If you sell it and move on, would you want to take your appliances with you? But would integrated appliances create a look that might help sell your property?
Typically, integrated appliances cost more than stand alone. The integrated ones also tend to be a little smaller but the overall look of integrated appliances gives that high-end finish.
If I considered letting out a property it’s better to put stand alone appliances in as they are easier to swap out quickly if there were ever a problem with one.
If you’re making a significant investment in equipment that you’ll want to take with you when you move house, then again stand alone makes the most sense. These days there are plenty of stand alone appliances that as well as providing the functionality you need, they look good and make a statement… a bright range cooker, a stainless steel fridge
Q. British Manufacturers? Are they worth considering?
A. Wherever I can, I try to buy British. You know it’s good quality and it’s a good eco decision to buy goods manufactured locally.
Q. Finally, what’s the most important thing to remember to get the most from your Kitchen?
A. For me, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Cooking and eating are essential as well as social. The kitchen needs to function perfectly and it needs to be somewhere warm, welcoming and create an environment where you enjoy your time.