We all know the kitchen is the hub of the home. If you have friends over, you congregate in the kitchen. If you're having one of 'those' discussion with your partner, they often begin in the kitchen - this is so we can appear busy and act like we don't care but my god, have I got some thorough cleaning done during one of those moments!
Anyway, I digress. The kitchen is the hub of the home and as such has taken on an importance way beyond functionality. It is one of the most important rooms in the house where it is essential to keep up with the latest trends and to have the latest gadgets.
As with all interior design, fashions come and go but the kitchen is ultimately the woman's domain and in most households she will have the final say. My sister always preferred the old country style and this creates a warm, homely looking fitted kitchen. Whereas I, in my desperate need to create some order in my chaotic life favour the contemporary streamlined minimal look where I can, in theory, push everything away behind doors.
Designs in the fitted kitchen have taken a laid back turn of late. In fact, they are now so laid back they are virtually horizontal. Horizontal, that is, in the latest trend for surface decoration.
Wood is, surprisingly, very popular in fitted kitchens. It has a depth and warmth to it that no glossy formica surface could ever achieve. With the hard woods, you can achieve a beautiful surface for worktops and door fronts that is both hard wearing, water resistant and beautiful as well as being unique. However, with our ever-present reminders about looking after the environment we have to be responsible about our choices.
Coming up this year is the leaning towards replicas of exotic woods. Namely, Cocobolo and Zebrano woods. Cocobolo is a hardwood from Central America that grows up to 25m in height. The greatest attraction of this wood is that it changes colour after cutting. The colours range from orange, reddish brown and rich, dark reds with hints of purple and pink also running through.
Because of its popularity, this tree is facing extinction but the demand has seen manufacturers creating a replica to satisfy demand and save the tree from extinction. They are using it in fitted kitchens for door fronts in a horizontal fashion to invoke the look of colourful waves flowing through the kitchen.
Also being applied to fitted kitchens in the same fashion is the Zebrano wood. Another rare and beautiful wood this time hailing from the rainforests of the Congo, this comes with the unusual design of black and white stripes, creating a very unusual looking fitted kitchen.
It seems strong patterns can be carried in a fitted kitchen. Even when looking for minimalist designs, it is important not to skimp on style but one tip worth remembering is that if you are going to go with this type of heavily grained wood look, keep the rest simple with neutral colours and fitted appliances to prevent the room looking cluttered.
To achieve the non-cluttered look, when planning your fitted kitchen, allow a portion of your budget for these great space saving and innovative ideas I found when surfing the net. The latest washing machine from Smeg comes with a smooth, slightly rounded door front that entirely covers the washing machine making it look like a cupboard. This door front houses storage space for that messy soap powder and fabric conditioner which is a brilliant idea.
If you don't want a freestanding fridge or to break up the line of work surface, try drawer fridges. Looking sleek and smooth with any front you desire, these drawers slide out to reveal all your food products chilled to perfection.
The same design has been applied to dishwashers, these can also be hidden away in drawer designs.
And for that ever annoying problem in any fitted kitchen of oven access comes a new offering in wall mounted cookers. With the press of one button, your cooker door will slide down leaving you with both hands free to do the necessary.
Interior design expert Catherine Harvey looks at new styles for fitted kitchens and how to use them responsibly.