There’s change afoot in kitchen design, as manufacturers move away from traditional timber and embrace bold metallics, concrete, porcelain and even leather.
Ar’Chic Architects (020 7277 0464; archic.co.uk)
Traditionally, kitchens have come in a choice of wood, laminate or high-gloss lacquered or acrylic designs. Recently, however, a trend has emerged for utilising exciting, innovative and new materials such as concrete, metallics, porcelain and leather to help homeowners create a unique scheme. Concrete is proving popular in urban settings, while metallics can inject a touch of glamour to a modern interior. For something smoother, look to porcelain, or for a touch of luxury, choose rich dark leather. Read on to learn how to make these new materials work for you.
For that raw, urban look, consider concrete as a new kitchen material. Keith Atkins, director of design at DesignSpaceLondon (020 7228 8088; designspacelondon.com), advises that natural stone can be unpredictable in terms of markings and colour, whereas a concrete-resin cement finish is lighter, less porous and far more interesting.
‘I think concrete is something that architects in the recent past have pushed through in quirky designs,’ adds David Hingamp, owner of Ar’Chic Architects (020 7277 0464; archic.co.uk). ‘This has helped people to accept it as a modern, versatile material. To me, it’s like a living thing, with its faults, variations and texture surprises.’
Concrete can be waxed, oiled, stained or left untreated and is extremely heavy and hard-wearing, so you need to ensure the floor below can take the weight. It’s not a low-cost option, but when you compare it with high-end Corian or composite stones, it works out about the same: around £3,500 for an island, or in the region of £20,000 for a whole kitchen. ‘It is versatile, though,’ adds kitchen designer Neil Lerner (020 7433 0705; neillerner.com). ‘It can be shaped for walls, floors and worksurfaces.’
As concrete is colour-neutral, you can add interest to your scheme with bold, bright accessories and appliances, or keep it simple with sophisticated neutral shades and traditional timber accents.
Kitchen Architecture (020 8785 1960; kitchenarchitecture.co.uk)
One of the biggest surprises in kitchen design of late is the use of leather as a new kitchen material, whether in an accent piece or fully-clad cabinets. This high-end look is likely to be costly – a kitchen with accents of leather will start at about £25,000. Your designer should give you details on cleaning and caring for the leather, as it will need regular re-sealing or re-waxing to keep it in top condition.
Leather can have eco benefits, as shown by kitchen design company Mark Wilkinson (01380 850 007; mwf.com), which used salmon leather in its Shan Gara kitchen. ‘Salmon leather is highly sustainable and versatile,’ says communications manager Richard Moss. ‘That such a beautiful material is discarded as a by-product of salmon farming is a shame. The skins are tanned like any other hide, and given a much tougher finish.’
Domus Tiles (020 7458 4005; domustiles.co.uk)
As well as creating a luxury look, a metallic kitchen in silver or gold also has practical appeal – reflective surfaces are a good way to make a small room appear more spacious. What’s more, Graham Robinson, showroom manager at Halcyon Interiors (020 7486 3080; halcyoninteriors.com), explains that because the trend has filtered down from the fashion industry through to soft furnishings, using metallics in the kitchen can help to blend the culinary area with living and dining zones – great for the continuing popularity of open-plan social spaces.
If you’re after a more industrial style statement, opt for stainless steel or anodised aluminium. Reminiscent of a professional kitchen, metallic designs are robust and easy to clean. However, metals can work well in a variety of styles: ‘The joy of mirror-polished stainless steel is that it can sit comfortably in both ultracontemporary and traditional homes,’ says Miles Hartwell, director at Splinter Works (01420 538 835; splinterworks.co.uk). ‘Flooring that will complement this material ranges from very minimal poured concrete or resin to stone tiles or a warmer wood floor.’ As a guide, expect to pay from £10,000 for a metallic kitchen.
La Cornue (0870 789 5107; lacornue.com)
It may sound odd to use a material such as porcelain for a hardy cabinet finish or worktop, yet it’s surprisingly strong, and great for high-traffic areas. It also looks incredibly sleek, so it's ideal for creating a contemporary-style kitchen.
‘Porcelain is completely non-porous, 100 per cent stain-proof and impervious to heat, making it perfect when used for kitchen furniture,’ says Sara Wells at Doca UK (020 3603 8835; docauk.com). ‘Admittedly, it’s slightly less favourable on the pocket than some materials, but the positive benefits and quality design aspect definitely win through.’ Prices start at approximately £12,000 for a complete kitchen.
Consider a smooth, natural-coloured design for a minimal, modern look, or a more rustic, coppered effect to create a classic, traditional scheme.
Words: Hayley Gilbert