17 kitchen design ideas for the perfect cooking and entertaining space

How to make your kitchen your happy place.

If you’re thinking of replacing or updating your kitchen, keeping track of the best kitchen design ideas can become a full-blown hobby.

Yes, sensible kitchen design may have some fairly strict layout rules (working triangles, anyone?), but the exciting trade-off is that no other room offers more variety in terms of materials, colours, appliances and accessory choices.  

Designers are constantly coming up with new and unexpected ways to add décor spice to this constantly evolving theatre of home life.

Roundhouse kitchen with large island and neutral coloursCredit: Roundhouse
Open shelving can give your kitchen a light and spacious feel

No wonder, when what is sizzling hot one year in kitchen design can have all the appeal of mouldy bread the next – remember when red high-gloss cabinets were hot kitchen property? 

So, where can you start confidently compiling your best kitchen design ideas? With your Exceptional Homes team, of course. 

With a helping hand from some top kitchen design experts, we’ve sifted through a batch of today’s tastiest kitchen designs to share the ones we think have a long shelf life. 

Your perfect kitchen design recipe? A pinch of what’s fashionable now, a dash of your own unique creative flair and a large dollop of elements with proven longevity. 

Sprinkle some amazing lighting in the mix and you will create a kitchen for the kind of mealtimes that live on in the memories of those you love, for generations. 

1. Stick with classic white

White is a great base for longevity

White kitchenCredit: Roundhouse
The Dunne Kitchen from Roundhouse, from £35,000

Sometimes a look sticks around for the simple reason that it has transcended trend status and is now a solid classic. The all-white kitchen might not seem like a cutting-edge design idea, but it’s as perennial as potatoes.

Why? Four reasons. First, due to the white kitchen’s popularity, there is an off-the-shelf design to suit all interior styles – great for those on a budget. Second, white finishes boldly demand one of the key aspects of any decent kitchen: scrupulous cleanliness.  

Then, there is also the matter of high quality, all-white kitchens looking glorious. The best-looking examples aren’t shy about using lashings of Carrara marble. And, with the right upgrades (composite white worktops and gorgeous handles), even a bargain all-white kitchen can look the part. 

White kitchen cabinets with aluminium handles for a classic lookCredit: Roundhouse
A white kitchen will stand the test of time

White can also allow any “statement” elements of your kitchen to shine. Allison Lynch, senior design consultant at Roundhouse and designer of the Dunne Kitchen, says: “We had designed a dark blue island (painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings) for a client two years previously. For phase two of the kitchen design, they wanted to go for a light colour.    

Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White was chosen as the new finish for the cabinetry. This new neutral backdrop allowed the statement stone on the island to pop!”

Our final upside to all-white kitchen? Should you get bored with it, white joinery is usually the easiest to transform with a lick of paint.

2. Embrace colour blocking

Zone your kitchen with units in different shades

Sean Symington's colourful kitchenCredit: Sean Symington Interior Design
A kitchen painted in cheerful colour zones never looks tired

You know what never gets old? A kitchen so cheerfully colourful that it makes you smile every time you walk into it. That’s the power of the colour-blocked kitchen. Pick two colours that you love and either alternate them for a playful look, or use each colour to define a different kitchen activity area, such as prep, cooking or dining. 

Seating that pops also goes a long way towards extending the cheer – as do appliances that complement the main colours you have chosen.

Sean Symington, founder of Sean Symington Interior Design, says: “Our client was a huge fan of colour and wanted to incorporate some fun punchy tones into their kitchen. We designed the curved banquette to optimise comfort for dining, as well as watching TV and entertaining. 

“The room wasn’t quite wide enough to incorporate a sitting room and dining room setup, so the banquette offers the practicality of both. The island is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal and the kitchen cupboards are Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue.” 

3. Assign space for a pantry

The ‘all you can eat’ walk-in pantry

Fully-stocked pantry with multiple shelfsCredit: Studio EVH
A fully stocked pantry is a joy to behold

There is some talk in kitchen design circles of the rise of tiny pantries incorporated into breakfast bars or hidden within islands. And don’t get us wrong. We think they’re great kitchen design ideas. But in our view, wherever possible, the motto of the pantry should always be “go big or go home”.   

The only reason to have a pantry in the first place is that you like the comfort of being fully stocked at all times, you like to plan ahead, and you like things to be orderly. A pantry that is too small to cope with all the demands of your full kitchen life is the last thing you need. 

Plus, the sight of a fully stocked walk-in pantry never fails to impress. With all those colour co-ordinated tins and treats, it is heaven for savvy snackers and neatniks alike.  

Interior designer Emma Victoria Hancox of Studio EVH is a big fan of styling walk-in pantries. She says: “Adding a pantry to your property serves as an effective means to optimise space, which is often underestimated during the design phase of a new property.  

“In addition to providing ample storage, a pantry allows for easy viewing and access to items you have in the house. Incorporating a pantry can also prove to be a cost-effective option, and one that is often less expensive than installing cabinetry that can be difficult to access.” 

4. Take a fresh look at kitchen conservatories

Give yourself a sunny space for entertaining

Conservatory giving light on to a white kitchenCredit: A project by Life Kitchens for Laura Passey Interiors
A kitchen conservatory with glass doors and windows can fill a room with light

There has been some debate in the Exceptional Homes Team about whether the kitchen conservatory is over. The consensus?  No it isn’t, not by a long shot – but the only way to stay relevant if you’re going to have one is to go modern. The final word goes to our Homes staff writer, Sarah Harley, who has diligently researched whether conservatories are now old-fashioned. 

“Design and architecture have since come a long way since the days of white uPVC conservatories. In my mind there’s no doubt that conservatories are still deserving of consideration if you’re looking to add extra space to your home,” says Sarah.  

“For the ultimate modern approach, nothing shouts contemporary more than a glass box. With a sleek, frameless finish it’s the ultimate light source and works equally well even if the exterior of your home is more traditional.  

“In keeping with the glass structure, keep the lines of your kitchen clean and simple. Opt for handle-less drawers and use the volume of natural light as an opportunity to try a darker trend such as black taps.

“Keep work surfaces clean and free from clutter and go for dining furniture such as benches, which serve as a nod towards a more traditional furniture style but still match well with the linear structure of a glass box.  

“To soften the look, add plenty of green plants and hang artwork with pops of colour to add warmth.” 

5. Mix it up with a broken -plan kitchen

Have space together and apart

Bond Street shaker kitchen by deVOL, broken-plan designCredit: deVOL
The Bond Street kitchen by deVOL is an example of a broken-plan design

Recently, Rated People – the homes and renovation experts – suggested that open-plan living is going out of fashion. Its report says that after years of an open-plan love affair, that “…homeowner priorities are now shifting from maximising space to optimising design”. 

As far as kitchen design ideas go, this is a seismic shift. It moves away from the notion of knocking down interior walls to create sweeping kitchen-cum-living room vistas – instead, kitchen design concepts have expanded to include divisions like floor-to-ceiling bookcases and glass wall partitions.

The benefit? Families can be together, but separate, at the same time. So while the kids are focusing on homework or play, you can keep an eye on them without disturbing them – or being disturbed.

Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL, gave us this insight into creating the broken-plan Bond Street Shaker kitchen: “The glass panel and corner brass rail were designed specifically for this room,” she says. “The glass panel was something I saw at Malplaquet House in Mile End, east London, and I wanted to replicate it to give light to this dark space. The whole panel was aged and waxed to give an old look and the addition of antique glass gives the room a beautiful, mottled shadow when the sun shines.” 

Wondering what the luscious red is on the Bond Street’s base cabinets? It’s deVOL’s own Refectory Red shade, which can be sourced separately from the kitchen.  

6. Make a statement with wallpaper

Wallpaper can be an affordable way to change up your look

Wallpapered kitchen by HuxCredit: Hux
Wallpaper can add a sense of intimacy and cosiness

When fleshing out your kitchen design ideas, it’s easy to overlook the décor flourishes that can make it really special. For example, creating a feature wall with wallpaper.  

There are thousands upon thousands of wallpaper motifs in the world, giving you scope to make a one-of-a-kind statement. And if you’re using off-the-shelf cabinet, worktops and tiles, wallpaper is a way to elevate their look. 

Your fancy might take you to a simple repeating pattern in yummy earthy tones, or to a wild floral motif that gives your kitchen a real sense of drama. You could even go the extra mile and create your very own custom-designed paper – Rebel Walls is a good place to start if you decide to get your sketchbook out. Just make sure the wallpaper is suitable for kitchen use – or keep it away from areas that have the potential to get steamy, such as the hob. 

Above all, wallpaper in a kitchen evokes a kind of warmth and intimacy that invites your guests to linger a while. Instead of your cooking domain feeling off limits, you will create a sense of intimacy – almost like a second living room – that will make others feel truly welcomed. 

Caroline Milns, head of interior design at Zulufish, says: “Kitchens are an area of the home where hard materials such as stone and marble tend to prevail, creating an architectural and aesthetically seamless finish that is hard-wearing and practical. Adding wallpaper will bring colour and a different texture, which can soften the rather utilitarian feel and make the space feel instantly more homely.”

7. Be unique with freestanding furniture

Swap basic base units for characterful antiques or upcycle projects

Edward Bulmer Natural Paint used in kitchen with freestanding unitsCredit: Edward Bulmer Natural Paint / Matt Lincoln
A unique freestanding piece of furniture can give your kitchen an uplift

Do the kitchen design ideas on offer feel a bit… identikit? Popping a unique piece of functional freestanding furniture in your kitchen is like adding that secret ingredient to your pasta sauce to give it extra kick. 

If your kitchen is modern, vintage furniture can offer a playful contrast to all the perfect slickness. Root around your local antique and vintage shops as a starting point.  

Prefer to shop with your feet up? The Hoarde, Vinterior and Pamono are excellent online sources for the kind of pieces that will get your kitchen décor juices flowing.

8. Create texture

Check out the latest innovations in 3D tiles and tactile timbers

Hux London kitchen design with panellingCredit: Hux
Panelling extended across the ceiling can add texture and surprise

What would cheesecake be without that lovely textured base? So it is with 3D finishes in the kitchen – there is something satisfying about mixing smooth finishes with other accent materials that are a bit more rough to the sight and touch.  

Cladding your island (for example, in ribbed MDF) is a simple way to introduce a 3D material to the kitchen. Another is to add fluted glass doors. Indeed, there are probably as many kitchen design ideas that incorporate texture as there are days of the year. As with any good meal, there just needs to be an element of imagination and confidence when putting together ingredients.

Felix Milns founder and managing director at Hux says: “Kitchens can be rather flat spaces as they often feature lots of harder edges and finishes.

“This ceiling (pictured above) takes the rather classic concept of panelling and extends it across the room in an unexpected way. The result is an instant feeling of depth and architectural detail – a showstopper moment that will surprise and delight.”

Here is a taste of five 3D materials that are suitable for your kitchen:

Ribbed MDF is now a texture staple of kitchen design, where it is now liberally used for cladding kitchen islands and cabinet doors. The material has all of the benefits of classic wood in terms of warmth and longevity, but feels more modern and tactile. 

Patterned wood-effect porcelain tiles like these by Topps make an excellent kitchen floor option. They give the aesthetic warmth and exoticism of the real thing without any of the maintenance challenges that come along with using actual wood, which is porous. 

These metal-effect tiles by Matter of Stuff make for robust and dramatic kitchen splashbacks. The raised diamond motif is a welcome creative departure from the predictable rectangle tiles that dominate kitchen styling, and can be a good option for a kitchen that wants to be a bit edgier in style. 

Black kitchens are making a comeback. Playing with texture, by way of this faux-croc effect wallpaper by Graham & Brown, on walls or within cabinetry is a way to incorporate the trend in an unexpected way. This look is popular in North America where it is used by designers to give a luxe private members’ club feel.

Using these small-scale mosaic tiles by Victorian Plumbing as a splashback can be sophisticated – especially as they are metallic. Include in a kitchen as a way of reflecting the light and capturing a feeling of movement. They can also give a vintage feel, without the price tag of an aged mirror.

9. Commission a custom-designed splashback

Take a tip from trendy restaurants

Red Dog Glass kitchen splashbackCredit: Red Dog Glass
A bespoke kitchen splashback adds an original touch

There is no danger of getting burnt with an unoriginal kitchen if you design some of the elements from scratch. A glass kitchen splashback lets you do just that. 

We first brought Red Dog Glass’s custom splashbacks to your attention in our roundup of our favourite interior surface trends.  

This functional artwork, straight from the easel of founder and artist Sally Coulden, is created just for your space, based on her designs – the company can even colour match if you ask nicely! Coulden told us her splashbacks are “a really practical luxury that will keep you loving your kitchen for years to come”. 

11. Embrace open shelving

Give your kitchen an airy, open feel

Roundhouse kitchen with large island and neutral coloursCredit: Roundhouse
Open shelving can give your kitchen a light and spacious feel

When done well, open shelving in a kitchen feels gallery-like. We suppose that is because only those of us confident in the beauty of our crockery – not to mention our tidying skills – gravitate to the look. 

And it certainly has its advantages. 

Shelving in the kitchen always makes the room feel lighter verses wall-mounted cabinetry. With shelves, there is also always the possibility of slipping in a piece of framed art, too, which always goes down a treat. Finally, shelves tend to be positioned within reach, making cleaning them a bit easier than cleaning the tops of wall mounted cabinets. 

Liane Burrett, senior design consultant at Roundhouse, says: “Floating shelves can act as a perfect feature piece to showcase beautiful crockery or glassware in the kitchen. An open shelf can often lighten the space, creating a great balance of on-and-off show items.

“When ceiling heights change in a space, a shelf design can also assist with guiding the eye to the splashback and enhance the architecture of the kitchen.” 

12. Go back to nature

Wholesome wood finishes are satisfyingly organic

Wood finish in kitchen for calmCredit: The London Kitchen Company
A wood finish can create a sense of calm and serenity

Wood, naturally, brings trees to mind. In the kitchen, this wood grain connection can make for a peaceful mental departure from the chaos of everyday life. Which is precisely what good food should do, too. 

So, the act of eating, becomes not purely mechanical, but meditative.  

Giving his thoughts on the wood in the kitchen, Sebastian Aronowitz of The London Kitchen Company, says: “Using natural materials like real timber in a kitchen is a fantastic way to bring a burst of energy and warmth into a design. The contrast between the silent, subdued austerity of the dark grey and white two-tone kitchen with the vibrant oak splashback (pictured above) creates a dramatic sense of life and colour.  Wood is rarely seen unpainted these days on the kitchen doors themselves, but we often use it to great effect within a feature unit like a breakfast pantry. The dovetailed drawers, spice racks, and shelving are all built in solid oak, and hidden behind painted doors. It’s a secret that will surprise and delight every time.” 

Inspired to install a wooden splashback? Pay further homage to nature by adding plants and natural stones to your kitchen design ideas. 

13. Super-size your porcelain

Massive stone-effect slabs are both contemporary and practical

Porcelain kitchen worktop by MirageCredit: Mirage
Porcelain makes a brilliant, affordable imitation of marble, stone, metal and concrete

Natural materials like stones have their limitations – not least of all their restricted sizes. Not so with porcelain. Innovations – from brands such as Mirage – in how the material is crafted means that it is not unusual for a single slab to come at a whopper size like 1200 x 2780mm.

What this means for your kitchen design is that not only do you pay a fraction of the price than for, say, marble, but you can seamlessly clad walls and floors in porcelain for a dramatic look.

The materials that porcelain brilliantly imitates are marble, stone, metal and concrete. It is also available in a range of patterns and prints – making it a great material for stylish waterproof splashbacks or statement-making wall and floor cladding.

14. Shed the right light

Lighting should make a statement, set the mood and help with practical tasks

Zulufish kitchen with bespoke lightingCredit: Zulufish
Good quality lighting in a kitchen makes a big statement

A lot of kitchen design ideas by homeowners focus on the cabinets, hardware and appliances in a kitchen and overlook the quintessential garnish – decorative lighting. 

When it comes to kitchen ceiling lighting, dainty and delicate rarely makes the cut. Much better to invest in the highest quality light you can afford – even if your kitchen is bijoux, a well-appointed light will set the scene for a delicious meal. 

We love this kitchen and light combo as seen in this extremely well appointed Zulufish kitchen. It proves that there are few kitchen design ideas as drool-worthy as a decadent ceiling light. 

15. Get a handle on things

You can pick up gourmet kitchen handles at frugal prices

Cabinet handles - EtsyCredit: Etsy / FlexandHide

Once upon a time, getting your hands on anything other than a basic cupboard knob or standard pull handle really ate up your kitchen design budget. Not any more. With cottage-industry artisans plying their handmade wares on sites like Etsy, interesting and well-crafted handles at pocket-friendly prices are just a click away. 

Copper handles by the Cornish Copper CompanyCredit: Etsy / Cornish Copper Company

The only question you need ask yourself is, what are you in the mood for? You can indulge your handle appetite with pretty standard design fare or really go for it and try some of the more exotic offerings.  

And the best part? All of this creativity seems to be limitless as options abound. The internet’s handmade handle peddlers give luxury brands a run for their money with the simpler shapes, and offer a huge variety of designs compared to the high street. Great news if you want to keep the Joneses guessing. 

16. Add some curves

Rounded edges are both stylish and safety-conscious

Curved island for safety and interestCredit: Fisher & Paykel
Curves add interest – and can be safer

Lines get boring, don’t they? Of course, boxy kitchen cabinets are typically more budget-friendly than curves, but high-street kitchen retailers are increasingly including curved units in their ranges, to be used, say, at the end of a kitchen island.

And what you end up with is a softer, more organic kitchen – an unexpected departure from the cookie-cutter kitchen design ideas that your guests have seen time and again. 

Another upside to curves is there are no nasty corners to bump into – which is great news for any little ones in your care and those with mobility issues.  

17. Find a bargain

Forage for a secondhand kitchen

Credit: The Used Kitchen Company

Some affluent buyers have a tendency to rip out and replace kitchens in a new property – even if it’s brand new – while kitchen brands need to offload their spotless ex-display stock. That’s brilliant news for the gourmand in the know, because, if you work out where to shop, you can enjoy a champagne kitchen lifestyle on a lemonade budget. 

You can expect a realistic discount of 50% off the list price on ex-display options at seasoned outfits like The Used Kitchen Company. You’ll also find secondhand kitchens and surplus units listed on the likes of eBay and Gumtree.

Of course there is an element of the luck of the draw. Most kitchens will have been designed to fit a particular space, so there may be an element of reworking the layout to suit your own space. You might even need to buy further units, or incorporate freestanding furniture and shelving to make it work. But that’s all part of the fun.

The secondhand market is certainly worth keeping an eye on, because it really can be possible to find your perfect match. If you do, you might end up with a kitchen worth far more than your typical price point. You’ll also be doing your part to reduce unnecessary waste into the bargain. 

Written by Joy Archer she/her