DIY Kitchen Survival Guide - Designing The Layout (Step 3 of 10)

Hola. I’m back with step three of my DIY Kitchen Installation Survival Guide. You can read about step one here (creating an inspiration board), step two here (working out your budget) and about the general concept of the guide here (including an overview of all ten steps).

Step three is to design the layout of your kitchen. This is a pretty big task, and will probably take you a good few weeks to plan and fine-tune.

First of all, draw a floor plan of your space. This will involve measuring every possible distance in the room - wall to wall, floor to ceiling, floor to window ledge, top of radiator to ceiling, and so on. Work out exactly where all the doors, windows and radiators are.

Here's the floor plan for our kitchen that I drew as part of the preparation for our kitchen installation:

I find it easier to do these things by hand, but you can go tech if that works for you. In terms of the scale - I usually use a rule of 'divide by twenty'. So if your room is 400cm long, you would draw a 20cm line to on your plan. If your door is 83cm wide, you would draw a line of 4.15cm (or as close to this as you can) on your plan.

Next up, decide on a basic layout. This should be based on the classic triangle of sink, oven and fridge. There are various styles to choose from - including galley, L-shape, U-shape and island. Do you want a kitchen-diner, or just a kitchen? The inspiration board you created in step one will be very helpful in making this decision. As a reminder, here's the inspiration board for our kitchen:

We decided on a simple galley layout. At 4m x 3m, our kitchen wasn't big enough to incorporate both a good-sized kitchen and a good sized dining area. So we decided to focus on the kitchen element - our longer-term plan being that if we ever want to turn the kitchen into a kitchen diner, we'll knock down the current kitchen extension and build a larger, glass extension that would fit a dining table and lounging area without requiring any change to the current kitchen layout:

By this stage you also need to decide who your main supplier will be. We choose Ikea - if you're looking for a cost-effective contemporary kitchen then I really don't think anyone does it better than Ikea. Personally I can't tell the difference at first glance between an Ikea kitchen and a Poggenpohl kitchen - can you

The reason you need to have decided on your main supplier is because first if all you need to do plenty of research on your supplier's website and figure out exactly what kind of units are available to you - and secondly because your supplier will more than likely have some good, free, 3-D design software that you can use for the next step.

So, download the 3-D design software from your supplier, and start playing around with various combinations of units. Refer back to your inspiration board, and this will help you to incorporate all the important elements.

Looking at a blank canvas can feel a little daunting. So break it down into steps. First of all, work out what size units you need. When you do this figure out the size required for the base cabinets before you look at the wall cabinets. Secondly, work out what type of units you need:

Here's how I worked out the design for the units along the cooker-side of our kitchen.

  • I knew from having created my inspiration board that I wanted a range cooker.
  • I knew that the range cooker I had my eye on was 90cm wide.
  • I knew that I wanted a fridge-freezer along the same wall, and that pretty much every fridge freezer is 60cm wide.
  • I knew from my floor plan that our kitchen was precisely 394 cm along that wall.
  • I knew I'd need a gap of at least 1cm on either side of the cooker and fridge-freezer (4cm total).
  • So, 394 minus (90 plus 60 plus 4) = 240. Therefore, I needed base cabinets to cover 240cm. 

Usefully, all Ikea units come in measurements of 10cm - I think the smallest is 30cm, and the largest maybe 100cm. After much experimentation with the software, I decided on the following base units, from left to right along the wall:

80cm unit + 60cm unit + 1cm gap + 90cm cooker + 1cm gap + 60cm unit + 40cm unit + 1cm gap + 60cm fridge + 1 cm gap = 394cm.

So that was my base cabinets all sorted out. Next up, I looked at the wall cabinets. Here's what I ended up with, from left to right:

60cm cupboard + 80cm cupboard + 1cm gap + 90cm cooker hood + 1cm gap + 60cm cupboard + 40cm cupboard + 1cm + 60cm fridge + 1cm gap = 394cm.

Ikea wall cabinets come in two heights - I chose the larger height for two of the wall cabinets, and the shorter height for the third cabinet, because I knew this particular cabinet sat immediately below a beam, and the larger height wouldn't fit.

You may notice that my base cabinets and wall cabinets do not actually align. For example, on the left hand side, I don't have a 60cm wall cabinet hanging above a 60cm base cabinet - I have a 60cm wall cabinet hanging above an 80cm base cabinet.


OK, so I needed a 60cm wall cabinet to hide the boiler, which was about 55cm wide. So, why didn't I put a 60cm base cabinet below it? Well, it wouldn't have fitted. We have a whole bunch of pipes on the wall at around the 60cm mark, and they couldn't be moved because they feed into (and out of) the boiler. So I needed an 80cm base cabinet to fit around them. You can see the pipes in this photo:

The message is - always remember to go back to your actual room and measure, measure, measure again to make sure that what you've designed virtually is going to work in real life.

Here are the original Ikea designs:

They're basic, but they do give you a good feel for what the space will be like.

Having worked out your sizes for the base and wall cabinets, you need to figure out what type of units you want. I knew that I wanted drawers for every single base cabinet -  I'm very much a 'have your gadgets hidden away' kind of gal. I like a simple, uncluttered, streamlined feel in the kitchen - I find that having juicers and glass jars of pasta sitting around on worktops and open shelving just takes up space, and everything ends up getting greasy and dusty, and I'm just too lazy to keep it all clean:

So I needed drawers and cupboards to put everything in - but did I want 2 drawers, 3 drawers, 5 drawers, a pull-out larder, wire baskets...? The way to make this decision is to figure out what you want to put in your drawers (or cupboards).

Make a list of everything you need to store in your kitchen. I mean everything. Count your saucepans, your crockery, cutlery, utensils, gadgets, typical amounts of pasta, tins, spices - the works. I printed off my Ikea design and tried to match all these items to a cupboard by scribbling all over it:

Think about what needs to be stored where. For example, I knew I wanted all my spices in a drawer on one side of the range cooker, and all my cooking utensils in a drawer on the other. I knew I wanted a cupboard to store all our booze (yeah, we drink a lot of cocktails) plus our ice-crusher, cocktail shaker, and ice bucket. And that this should all be close to the fridge-freezer so the fruit juice mixers and ice would be on hand. To give another example - I also knew it would be sensible to keep our crockery and glass-ware above the dishwasher, as this would make it easier to unload.

When my design was finished, I had matched every single culinary item we possessed to an appropriate type of unit - and I'd worked out how I could store similar items together in a way that would maximise efficiency when actually using the kitchen:

Finally I worked out where all the new plug sockets needed to go.Our original kitchen had something like 3 plug sockets in it, and we were gonna need a lot more. So I drew out the finished design, and marked where the plug sockets for the toaster, washing machine, coffee maker, dish washer, fridge, cabinet lighting, cooker and so on would go:

The best tip I have here is to include more sockets that you think you'll need. We ended up with around 20 sockets at ground and worktop level, and we use all of them (especially when we installed our garden lighting, and decided to have it permanently plugged into the kitchen sockets).

So, let's sum up:

  1. Draw a floor plan
  2. Decide on a basic layout
  3. Decide on your main kitchen supplier
  4. Download the 3-D design software from your supplier
  5. Work out what size base cabinets you need - and then work out what size wall cabinets you need
  6. Make a list of everything you need to store in your kitchen
  7. Think about what needs to be stored where - what needs to be close to the oven, the dishwasher, the fridge, the toaster....
  8. From this, work out what type of base and wall cabinets you need
  9. Figure out where your plug sockets need to go
  10. Go back to your actual kitchen and measure up again to ensure your virtual design is gonna fit.

And you're done! But don't go rushing off to Ikea to order everything just yet. Re-measure everything. Double-check the heights of your cabinets. Print off your designs and scribble on them. Keep them in the kitchen with you while you cook a meal, and see if anything comes to mind that you may not have thought of.

Go to Comet and have a look at that range cooker or fridge freezer you've seen on the internet to make sure it's definitely the one you want. If you don't like it so much in real life - you may need to choose a different appliance, which may be a different size - and that may throw your unit sizes out.

Most importantly, don't buy your units until you are absolutely ready to begin work on your kitchen installation - otherwise you'll end up living for several weeks with a kitchen-within-a-kitchen, which, if you make this foolish mistake, could look a little something like this:


And there you have it - that's how we designed out kitchen layout. I hope you have found this helpful! If you wanna see the finished article, you can check out our kitchen here and here.

I'll be back with step four over the coming weeks - where to buy everything you need (also known as, don't buy a fridge from the Comet store cos even the Comet assistants admit that their products can be found online for mucho less dinero). 

And of course there will be more lovely Nestage coming up tomorrow - in the form of our bedroom inspiration board. Stay tuned :-)

Psst! If you liked this, you may also like...

DIY: The big kitchen DIY renovation

Decorating: How to fill your house with flowers

Before & After: Round-up of our kitchen, bathroom and garden before and afters