Kitchens and Bathrooms | The Low Down

From key brands to the latest ecotechnology, Berkshire-based interior designer and presenter Julia Kendell shares her top recommendations for your kitchen and bathroom.

Kitchen design is definitely changing, with less clutter and more emphasis on specific ‘workstation’ areas. Bread and cake making-specific cupboards have been inspired by the huge success of TV baking programmes. Wall units are being replaced by open shelving and the old-fashioned larder, as a separate entity, is making a come-back. There are trends towards dark exotic woodgrains this year, painted woodgrain and combinations of these with tactile, satin-finish plains for contrasting texture.

Bathrooms are moving away from the clinical spaces we have become accustomed to. Patterned wallpaper and colour can transform ‘the smallest room’ into a spa-like and homely space. Luxury materials such as marble are becoming the norm and warm metallic finishes are growing in popularity after decades of chrome!

Smart appliances are becoming more commonplace with voicecontrolled fridges, the latest smart gadget. Whether there will be an appetite for these by the buying public will be determined by whether they actually offer anything other than novelty value. My phone chargers tend to ‘disappear’ at home, so wireless charging for phones and tablets integrated into work surfaces is an exciting development and one I would invest in.

Remote controlled showers allow you to turn on the shower from your bed, ensuring the water temperature is perfect as soon as you are ready. Streaming music into the bathroom using apps and inbuilt speakers, combined with smart-controlled dimmable lighting, are the latest must-haves to create a relaxing environment.

We all get excited about the largest possible range oven, fridge, walk-in shower etc., but it can often be at the expense of the overall experience. I recommend editing your choices to maintain a feeling of space. Lighting is also often left to the last minute, but should be of prime importance and considered from the outset.

I tend to choose products that are reliable,  robust, simple in styling and have a sense of permanence. Aga is top of my list for cooking appliances. Falcon, Miele and Siemens are also great brands. Although I’m a purist and love natural materials, practicality must be top of the list for work surfaces and I always advise clients to consider quartz stone. There are some beauties now by Silestone and Caesarstone that combine the look of marble with a practical finish. Duravit, Sottini, Romans and Matki are bathroom brands I have successfully used for many years.

Water saving is an increasing feature in homes and there are plenty of new shower heads and WC flushes that save water without compromising the experience. Always look for FSC certified timber for new cabinets/ flooring in your home and consider recycled glass worktops (from Granite Transformations) which tick the eco-box while maintaining design cred. Re-purposing pieces within a vintage-style environment is also a great way to be eco-conscious.

I always advise to steer clear of latest ‘fads’. It’s almost impossible to design a kitchen or bathroom that won’t at some time look dated, but choosing a classic style sing the best quality products and finishes will have longevity. It’s always worth investing in the best quality brassware in the bathroom to avoid a leaky tap situation, and check for quality drawer-runners and door hinges in prospective kitchens to prevent disappointing collapse.

I’ve been lucky enough to design kitchens for many well-known names and celebrity chefs. My favourite was for a client who lived on the ground floor of a converted Edwardian hotel. His kitchen had extremely high ceilings and an unusual angled corner resulting in the kitchen layout becoming triangular. The hand-made cabinets were solid cherry and look as good today as they did when they were first installed 17 years ago.

I live with my partner, James, in a beautiful converted barn in Berkshire. We are looking for a plot of land to build our own home but in the meantime the barn is perfect for us with an open- plan kitchen and large living area. My favourite feature of my kitchen is a vintage cabinet I picked up from Home Barn in Bourne End ( that sits on my work surface. I use it to display and store glass bottles of nuts and seeds and it softens and adds personality to an otherwise quite ‘bland’ kitchen.

Julia Kendell is a spokesperson for The National Homebuilding & Renovating Show, 23-26 March 2017, NEC, Birmingham

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