Over the last few decades, kitchens have transitioned from isolated preparation rooms to what has widely become known as the "heart of the home". The shut-off cooking spaces of the past are now the rooms many of us use for various social activities. Kitchens have taken on more responsibilities, grown and expanded, and it's now a room we take great pride in.
It is also the room a potential property buyer will make a beeline for and that often has the greatest influence on the value of your home. Whether you're inviting dinner guests, family or potential buyers, here are some elements that will make your kitchen stand out.
A Kitchen Island: For a Comfortable Kitchen Layout
The first thing people notice when entering a kitchen is its layout. Kitchen dimensions can vary greatly. Galley, U layout and L layout are some of the most common layouts seen today, but open plan is always the most desired kitchen design when space allows.
One thing that makes an immediate statement in a kitchen, whatever its shape, is a kitchen island. A kitchen island helps to create the kitchen triangle concept - the ideal modern kitchen design layout - which has the refrigerator, stove and sink all located at different points of the triangle, creating the optimum workspace.
With kitchens adopted more and more as the social centre of the home, a kitchen island plays multiple roles. They aren't just useful for storage and extra worktop space; they also offer homework spots and eating areas on top of extra preparation space.
They're an instant tick for potential buyers, as people envisage themselves and their family using this space or their guests gathered around it during social occasions. In our multi-tasking lifestyles of today, an island facilitates all the activities that take place in the home. Kitchen islands are also easily customisable, with open shelving, wine racks or any number of appliances able to be situated or installed there
The Key Players: Cabinetry, Worktops and Storage Solutions
Once we realise how big a kitchen's space is, the next things to influence our impressions are its surroundings - namely the cabinetry, worktops and other storage solutions. These features give your kitchen its character and set the mood when guests are round, and they also have a big impact on property value.
Cabinetry isn't impossible to replace, but it does take a lot of work and, often, quite a bit of money, so buyers will immediately want to assess what they're working with. A sleek design and durable materials will stand out proudly, while poor-quality cabinetry that has been neglected will act as a red flag.
Likewise, adequate storage space and modern storage solutions will catch a buyer's eye. Carousel units and soft-closing drawers and doors are satisfying touches that have people admiring a kitchen's functionality.
Worktops and cabinet doors that are well maintained and give the kitchen a fresh, clean look will make your kitchen stand out as a state-of-the-art central hub where people will want to spend time.
Impressively Illuminated: Lighting
Of all the rooms in a home, effective lighting is most essential in the kitchen. Many of our active hours are spent in the kitchen, whether preparing food, hosting people or doing chores. It is where days begin and end, but it's also where most of the health and safety hazards in the house can be found. Efficient lighting then - both artificial and natural - is vital.
Natural light has a huge impact on our mood and emotions, making it highly sought after. Nobody wants to be relaxing or preparing food in a dimly lit room with little exposure to the natural elements. Being isolated and in the dark can bring us down, but light shining through wide windows is uplifting and entirely changes the feel of a room.
A kitchen will stand out if its windows are centre-stage. Make sure they are unobstructed to allow natural light to flood the room. Overhead glass windows and French doors are also options, and while obviously eye-catching, they'll also reduce your need for artificial lighting. Sometimes, installing another window or adapting a kitchen to take advantage of all the natural light on offer will completely change a room.
Artificial lighting is somewhat easier to modify. Under-the-counter lighting and some form of overhead lighting are essentials for lighting the room during the evening when making and eating dinner, but when it comes to adding value to your home, these can be easily changed and won't be a dealbreaker to potential buyers.
Appliances: Fridges, Ovens and the Fundamental Features
How well a kitchen functions will ultimately come down to the fundamentals. Once guests or buyers have absorbed their surroundings, they will start to notice the aspects that keep a kitchen ticking. This is when taps, sinks, stoves, fridges, bins and all those essential kitchen appliances step up and flaunt themselves.
Of course, when it comes to impressing buyers, items like fridges and bins are less important, as they're unlikely to stick around when the current homeowner moves out, but others, like the oven, are longstanding members of the kitchen - or otherwise costly and time-consuming to replace.
State-of-the-art ovens, taps and fridges are the unsung heroes of the kitchen and will receive many admirers if they are well-kept and function smoothly.
Eye-Catching Feature: Backsplashes
Backsplashes are a sure-fire way to make an impression. Not only do they add character to a home, but they are also effective at preventing food splashes and spillages around the stove and sink. As their smooth surface is durable and can be easily wiped down, they also make cleaning a much easier job.
They are also an excuse to bring a little ornamentation to the kitchen. Today's kitchens are so often monochromatic and minimalistic, with a focus on sleek and simple design. With so much in the kitchen competing for your attention, we can see why such a design is so popular, but this also limits the places where you can inject a bit of colour and personality.
Cabinets, fridges, worktops and walls are typically off-limits, but a backsplash provides an area that you can properly exploit.
Whether you choose simple subway tiles, mosaic patterns, geometric shapes or anything in between, backsplashes make your kitchen stand out and give it class and character. It's a great way to add something different and bring some vibrancy to a plain kitchen design!
Eve Crabtree is a journalist
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