8 tips for improving your kitchen to add value
PUBLISHED: 13:34 25 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:58 14 June 2017
Bruce Clark from built environment consultancy Nash Partnership speaks to interior designer and fine decoration specialist Lucinda Rowan-Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Interiors) about improving kitchen space to increase a property's value. How can these spaces be easily transformed and what are the pitfalls to avoid?
Kitchens are increasingly becoming multi-use spaces and the working heart of the house. Unless budget is not a consideration, re-fitting needs to be considered very analytically.
1. Prioritise practicality
Ultimately, a kitchen must be practical. The working triangle of refrigerator, stove and sink is well known. Two other very basic requirements are storage space and ensuring sufficient working surfaces. These are frequently under-estimated, with the increasing competition from built-in equipment. Within our lifetime, the expectation of equipment levels has multiplied at least three-fold.
For example, most kitchens now separate the hob from the oven (often a double), sometimes with a separate grill and - in addition - have a microwave and sometimes an Aga. Instead of a single sink, double sinks are usually fitted, sometimes in separate positions for food preparation and washing up. And built-in dishwashers are almost standard. Refrigeration needs have similarly altered, often with separate full-height fridges and freezer units. All these fittings cut down on working space that is further under pressure from electronic utensils and work top placed equipment.
2. Create links to living rooms
Even where the kitchen is a separate room, a visual and physical connection is now expected to adjacent living rooms, so that those preparing food are not isolated from the rest of the house. This is a reversal of historic practice. Where kitchens are too small to become multi-use spaces on their own, an extension can provide additional space and improve links to the garden, but be careful of turning existing rooms into passageways. To create a feeling of space, this extension can be a high percentage of glazing or light surfaces. They frequently take the form of a conservatory on grounds of cost and light (subject to Building Regulation requirements). However, make sure you do avoid building a rear extension over an external manhole. It has been done, and floors have been dug up as a result. If it is the water authority’s manhole they have the power to excavate to remove blockages from a sewer with no compensation.
3. Identify listed building issues
Even in some large houses, kitchens increasingly provide the main hospitality area with a direct link to the garden. This can create issues with listed buildings, where kitchens were almost always concealed in a basement, with minimal views and deliberately remote. Listed buildings have their own particular challenges and alterations - even to the interior and gardens - are closely controlled. Make sure your carry out your searches. Policy does change so seek some professional advice and/or consult with the Local Authority.
4. Be realistic about space and size
With a smaller kitchen, don’t be seduced by the images from larger kitchens and overload the space with equipment based on seductive sales brochures and magazine articles. It is important to concentrate on the real necessities. It is possible to maximize the space by re-locating some of the units. For example, fit a smaller ready-use fridge freezer in the kitchen and fit larger units in a utility area.
Too many high level units will encroach on the feeling of space. The number and choice of fitted units, fixtures and fittings creates a real financial hazard of spending more on one room than can ever be recovered by any potential increase in property value. Often, the next owner will immediately change the kitchen. However, with care, a well-fitted kitchen helps maximize the value and definitely makes a house more sellable.
5. Consider an accent colour
Airy and well-lit kitchens create a feeling of well-being, reinforced by the choice of units, fittings and finishes. The use of colour can help unify the space or create visual discord. A mix of lighter tones of greys, magnolias, gardenias and white are safe choices but can look anemic. These are still very fashionable and are therefore a safe bet for a kitchen for re-selling. Large areas of brighter colours can make a stronger statement but may be too overbearing for many. However, a carefully chosen small area can create visual accents and personalize the space without dominating, eg. using individual coloured tiles in an otherwise neutral-coloured splash back.
6. Update with new materials
If a kitchen works well but looks tired, changing the taps, door fronts and handles and replacing the worktops with a new material (eg. stone, quartz or stainless steel) can radically update the look. This can be done for a lower investment while still adding value. The same strategy can be used to raise the presentation and detail of less expensive units and bring a touch of individuality and class within budget.
7. Make a statement with furniture
Individual pieces of loose furniture can be used as statement pieces to lift an otherwise plain room. For example, brightly coloured moulded chairs offset against plain white units, or Charles Eames or Arne Jacobsen furniture (including lights) can be used as a design statement. Because they are loose, they can easily be changed at a later date and either sold on or taken with you when you move.
8. Think ‘planning’ before purchasing
If you intend to carry out anything other than re-decoration, particularly if the building is a development project, you should ensure proper searches are carried out to ascertain the restrictions on work and the approvals needed. Early discussions with a consultant will give a strong steer on what is and what is not likely to be readily acceptable. This is particularly the case with works to or in the curtilage of listed buildings, where nearly all work without approval will be a criminal offence with fines up to £20,000 for domestic owners.
Kitchens must work properly to become the heart of the home. It is possible to spend many tens of thousands of pounds on units and fixtures over and above any increase in value or real value to the owner. Less expensive units or existing units, particularly if they are of good quality, can be simply updated or improved. Loose furniture, lighting and accent colours can lift a very neutral space. Finally, do not forget the restrictions of the space and need for a practical working area for food preparation so that the kitchen can be used as intended.