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Glossary: Kitchen Design Terminology

Hello again! I hope you've had a great week.

So all this talking about how our homes can improve our wellbeing (or at least be a source of comfort and support, rather than an additional stress!) got me thinking that it would also be worth looking at the renovation and decorating process. It's all very well focusing on the end result but if you've been through any home updates, I'm sure we can all agree it's very rarely a smooth and stress free experience!

Beautiful kitchen by Laura Butler Madden

And therefore I've come up with the idea to create a series of glossaries that uncomplicate some of the design or technical terminology that people within the trades can sometimes whiz through and expect you to understand! And I thought I'd kick off with Kitchen Design Terminology, as before I set up Happybeams Interiors, I spent a year & a half at a kitchen design company, and could totally empathise when clients didn't know the difference between an undermount or overmount sink, or where cornice goes versus pelmet.

Let's face it, a kitchen is one of the hardest rooms in the house to get spot on, and also one of the biggest investments you're likely to make in your property so we want to get it right from a functional and aesthetic point of view. With all these words & terms being thrown around, it can get confusing so I'm here to help make a bit more sense of it all, and hopefully allow you to focus on the important bits!

As I was pulling together this list, I realised I could probably include over fifty different definitions and so, I have decided to create a FREE downloadable PDF which I will share with you very soon. Here are the most common top five confusing terms you might come across when designing your kitchen, so I hope this is helpful and look out for more details on the free downloadable coming soon.

Image from Living Etc

1. Let's start with your appliances. You will be asked whether you would like integrated or freestanding appliances quite early into the design process, and once you've established this there'll be a bunch more questions to follow!

But in case you're not sure, an integrated appliance will have a door over the front which will keep it neatly hidden among the rest of your cabinets, whereas a freestanding appliance will stand separate and on show.

For example you might want a freestanding American style fridge/freezer because you've always dreamt of having an ice dispenser! Or you might prefer an integrated fridge freezer where you can choose to have a full or half height fridge, or a different split (80/20, 70/30 or 60/40) with a combination of freezer drawers in the lower section.

A dishwasher can be freestanding, fully integrated or semi-integrated - just to confuse things! So instead of the buttons being on the inside edge, you will be able to see the controls in a panel on the front, but the bottom section of the door will match the rest of your kitchen.

Semi Integrated Dishwasher from Neff

2. Following on from integrated & freestanding appliances, you have lots of options for what type of oven you'd like (and how many!). It can get quite confusing if you're opting for built in or integrated ovens, rather than a freestanding or Range style cooker, as you can now choose to have a single, double, combi or steam oven, and these can be fitted below worktop height or in a tower unit at eye level.

One of the most common decisions to be made here is between a double oven and a stacked single & combi oven. I won't go into all the different functionalities of the actual appliances, but essentially they will create a similar look, however a double oven requires around 900mm in height, whereas a single + combi will need around 1050mm (600mm + 450mm) so if you're looking to update your double oven to a stacked option, bear in mind you're going to be 150mm short.

With a double oven you'll tend to get a standard oven with a decent capacity and a smaller grill above, whereas with the single & combi option you can get a microwave and oven/grill in the combi over a single oven - with whatever additional features you choose such as steam or if you go with Neff, the infamous 'Slide & Hide' door that we know & love from the Great British Bake Off!

Double Oven from Neff

3. Next up we have sinks. I will go into more detail about the different materials and types of sinks in my FREE downloadable PDF but for now, let's talk about the difference between an undermounted sink and an overmounted sink.

Your preference here will also have an impact on what worktop you can choose, so it's important to look at your budget when you are considering your choice of sink. An undermounted sink will be fitted underneath the worktop to give a seamless finish, and you can opt to have drainer grooves or a recessed drainer cut into the worktop to one or both sides. Therefore your worktop will need to be water tight (such as solid stone or even solid wood, if you are up for the maintenance).

A laminate worktop won't work with an undermount sink because if/when water gets into the sealed edge, it will blow or swell. You can look at compact laminate worktops however, as these are water tight and you can have drainer grooves cut in as well - a cheaper option to solid stone like quartz or granite if you are restricted with budget but don't want an overmount sink. Likewise I will go into the different types of worktop in the downloadable.

An overmounted sink on the other hand will come in a single piece with the sink and drainer in one, and this will be fitted on top of the worktop so this will work with any type of worktop - however, if you are investing in your worktop, particularly a beautiful piece of stone we would always advise you don't cover it over with your drainer! So an overmount sink would usually work best with a laminate or solid wood worktop.

Overmount Sink from Tap Warehouse

Of course there's also the Belfast sink option to consider as well as a one & a half bowl or double sink! And that's all before you've thought about taps - more on that in the, you've guessed it, PDF!

4. Speaking of worktops, you'll also need to think about upstands and splashbacks. One option you have is to order a length of upstand to match your worktop, which will generally be around 100-150mm high - although you can sometimes choose a specific height to work for your design better, for instance if you need it to finish just below a windowsill.

Or you can put your splashback right down to your worktop - whether you're opting for tiles, glass, acrylic or a different material. Of course, your splashback might also match your worktop, and therefore you may want to have upstands around the majority of your kitchen, but a taller splashback behind your hob and/or sink.

And another option with your worktop is a downturn, sometimes referred to as a waterfall edge. This simply means where your worktop drops vertically down the side of a kitchen cabinet or island all the way down to the floor, thus creating a ‘waterfall’ effect. This can look amazing around a breakfast bar for example.

Kitchen designed by Studio McGee

5. And last but not least, let's talk about cornice, pelmet and plinth.

The easiest way I found to remember this is: cornice goes closest to the ceiling, and pelmet hangs from underneath the wall units. Plinth (or skirting) connects the bottom of the base units to the floor, hiding the support legs - of course you can go for a freestanding kitchen without plinth but for the purpose of this glossary, we'll stick with fitted kitchens!

You can of course go without cornice & pelmet, and there will likely be different styles and thicknesses to choose from too so it's helpful to look at similar kitchens and see what you prefer.

Hopefully this diagram will help - I have shown where a pelmet would go, but as you can see this particularly kitchen is pelmet-less!

And I'm going to leave it there. As you can tell, I could talk about kitchen design all day! So if you have any questions feel free to get in touch or if you have a project coming up and you'd like to know more about my kitchen design services, send me an email on I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for reading,

Jess x

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