By Zoe Dare Hall
So what’s your feeling about islands (the kitchen rather than the Caribbean variety)? Essential family hub or irritating obstruction when you’re trying to cook? What about your Quooker tap – could you live without it? One oven or two?
There is little that inspires debate in Nappy Valley more than the question of what makes the perfect kitchen. You need only look at Nappyvalleynet.com to see that when someone who is about to embark on a kitchen redesign casually asks for tips, they are deluged by suggestions and the wisdom of mothers who have battled too often with the saucepan cupboard and cursed every time the oven tray refuses to fit in the sink.
How you design your kitchen is, of course, entirely a matter of taste: it’s about what you and your family need and want. Except it’s not when you have one eye on the end prize too – the valuation of your house when you come to sell and the knowledge that the kitchen could be the clincher in the deal.
“Kitchens certainly sell a property. Whenever we are offered a really top-end price for a property, we always think it must be because of the kitchen,” says Charlie Streatfeild from Marsh & Parsons in Battersea (0207 228 9292; marshandparsons.co.uk). But testament to the insane pulling power of a certain kind of kitchen, he adds: “We’ll often then drive past the property a week after the buyer moves in and the kitchen is in a skip as they want to build their own.”
There will always be differing views over the details – wood versus granite worktops, neutral palette or splashes of character-adding colour, waste disposal or not. But there is general agreement over what constitutes the must-have kitchen (in other words, the kitchen that will also help sell your property).
Everyone wants the big, open-plan kitchen extended every way possible. About 60% convert the side return, 30% do a rear extension and 10% go for both, resulting in a wrap around extension, according to The London Kitchen Extensions Company (0208 672 5200; thelondonkitchenextensions.co.uk). And family homes in Nappy Valley that lack the must-have kitchen extension will command significantly less than those that have them. “You don’t just knock the cost of the kitchen off its value but the hassle factor of having to install a new one too,” says Charlie Streatfeild.
It’s telling that there are relatively few properties on the market in SW London’s prime areas with amazing kitchen extensions. “Everything super good goes under offer quickly. What’s left is nice but not extended,” says Andrew Snell from Hamptons International.
There are a few to show off, though, starting with a family home whose kitchen is clearly the centre of their lives. The ground floor of the six-bed house on Mortimer Close, next to Tooting Bec Common, is dominated by a huge (30ft x 25ft wide) kitchen and dining area whose bifold doors lead to the garden. The house is on sale for £1,799,950 (020 8618 2013; Hamptons.co.uk). (click here).
For a modern take on the classic side return extension, see the five-bed house on Broxash Road between the Commons that Rampton Baseley (0207 228 5111; ramptonbaseley.com) are marketing for £1.695m (click here).
Does this mean that for a kitchen to pack a punch it has to be the size of the Albert Hall? Definitely not, judging by this gorgeous two bedroom house from Marsh & Parsons, in the popular Shaftesbury Estate. The kitchen has been extended by the current owners to provide an open plan dining area leading directly to a well maintained private garden. The location is just around the corner from Lavender Hill with Northcote Road within easy walking distance (click here).
And if you did wander over to Honeywell Road you’d reach this traditional ‘between the Commons’ five-bed terraced house within the “virtually guaranteed catchment for Honeywell School” – on sale for £1.695m through Hamptons, with a kitchen extended into the side return and an “oversized back door” leading to the garden. (click here).
Only two streets away, Marsh and Parsons are marketing a 2300 sqft property on Bramfield Road featuring handmade Italian marble worktops, bifold doors, five bedrooms and even a basement on the lower ground floor which would make the perfect playroom. (click here).
And for a lovely example of a rear extension check out this Park Hill property from Douglas & Gordon. Marketed for £3.85m the five/six-bedroom Victorian semi-detached house has been lavishly remodelled, including the aforementioned extension that stretches the entire width of the house. (click here).
You may wonder whether it’s worth losing some garden to create a bigger kitchen. The answer is almost certainly yes. “As long as the kitchen extension doesn’t put you out of kilter proportionally, inside space holds more value. If the garden is on the small side, big glass bi-fold doors and matching floors to patios creates the inside/outside living space that works,” comments Alix Stuart Bruges, director of Douglas & Gordon in Clapham.
This five-bed house in Keildon Road, on the market for £1.8m (0207 228 5111; ramptonbaseley.co.uk), has a small patio garden, but it is displayed to its full potential through the kitchen’s concertina doors that open up entirely. (click here).
Similarly, the owners of this four-bed semi-detached house on Battersea’s Belleville Road – on sale through Hamptons (0207 411 9965; Hamptons.co.uk) for £1.575m – have made the most of their extra-wide property compared with some on the street and extended the kitchen sideways and into the small south-facing garden.
“If you’re bored with bifold, Critall-style steel-framed windows with a New York industrial look are becoming a popular alternative,” says Joel Baseley from Rampton Baseley, who recent sold a perfect example in Battersea’s Grandison Road – a five-bed house that had an asking price of £2.25m. “This kitchen and extension was designed by the award-winning architects Minale and Mann and combines hand-built bespoke units with a carrera marble work surface,” Baseley comments.
With a kitchen extension, spend more on the build than what goes in it, advises Rosie Caley, design director for Oxford and London Building Company (0208 877 0526; olbc.co.uk). “A good quality extension will always pay you back,” she says. “Invest in getting the extension done as well as possible with frameless skylights rather than velux the minimum steel column and beams visible, good quality folding or sliding doors, good lighting design and underfloor heating.” Caley’s clients typically spend £50,000-£120,000 on the kitchen alone, but it can be done more cheaply.
Helen Wood from design and build company Simply Extend (0800 917 7571; simplyextend.co.uk) quotes “our average side return extension starts from approximately £40,000 + VAT which includes building the extension, sourcing and fitting bi-folding doors and skylights as well as fitting the actual kitchen. If a client is really looking to add a “wow” factor, then rear or wrap around extensions are great for maximising space and adding a fabulous kitchen and entertaining / family area. Extra features such as special glazing panels, feature kitchen lighting, continuous flooring to marry up the outside with the inside will all contribute to making it a special space both for your family to enjoy and future purchasers. These extensions start anywhere from £60,000 + VAT upwards.”
Simply Extensions (simplyextensions.co.uk) put the average price of building and fitting out a kitchen with new doors, flooring and kitchen at £55,000-£85,000.
If you intend to stay put for at least five years, build the kitchen
for you – however quirky that might be – rather than for the
next owner, says Caley. “A prospective purchaser is unlikely to
decide against a house because they don’t like a bright red glass splash back, but a cheap building job will push you further down a buyer’s shortlist.”
An island will help this flow as it can accommodate some of the appliances. The sink works best, advises Rosie Caley, as an island hob will need an extractor, which is tricky to fit. “You don’t need a hob facing into the kitchen so you can talk to guests. Most cooking is about preparation, not hovering over the hob,” she adds. “This four-bed house on Balham’s Dagnan Road – with exposed brickwork and modern island with a sink – Marsh & Parsons recently sold it for £1.225m, but it gives an idea.”
“Islands are still “huge”, says Julian Sehmi from Ocean Home Designs (020 8543 5100; oceanhomedesigns.co.uk), referring to popularity rather than dimensions, though they can be pretty impressive too. “People are expecting more design-led features from their islands now such as wooden butchers’ block solid wood slabs for breakfast bars to break up the clinical lines. Also, slab ends to carry the worktop down to the floor are very eye catching when you’re looking for that “wow factor” people are often searching for,” Sehmi adds.
Where to splash out and where to save money is fairly clear cut too. Buy the best you can afford when it comes to appliances and worktops. Gaggenau or Wolf at the top end and mid range, Miele, Siemens or Bosch are the key names. Then make some savings on the units. “It’s all about the quality of installation. I’ve seen better looking kitchens from B&Q than Boffi where they’ve been crowbarred in by a fitter without an eye for detail,” says Rosie Caley.
The kitchen must-haves that rank highly among those on the NappyValleynet forum include big American fridges, loads of power points, a tall, ideally walk-in larder and big drawers for saucepans. Wine fridges also get the thumbs up and getting the lighting right is crucial; plenty of spotlights over preparation areas and on different circuits for ‘zoned’ lighting. “Pendant lighting over islands,” recommends Sarah Squire from Simply Extensions (020 8392 9505; simplyextensions.co.uk).
Steam ovens are becoming a popular addition in family homes “as everyone has become so health conscious now”, says Sadia Afghan from Lifestyle Design + Build (0207 720 3082; lifestylebyasq.co.uk), whose clients spend around £25,000-£40,000 on their new kitchens. But you can avoid the high price tags on such “luxury items” as a steam oven, Julian Sehmi advises. “Siemens, for example, produce a great range in the IQ300 and 500 ovens, hobs and fridges where you get excellent build quality and beautiful design without paying the huge price tags for top of the line versions.”
When it comes to decor – and you’re thinking about end value – Andrew Snell from Hamptons International in Clapham suggests you look at what the “expected demographic” wants. Currently that involves “shaker-style creams, greys and light greens for the family market and an edgier loft-style industrial wood and metal look for high-end flats”. He adds that the trend for slick, handless white kitchen with corian worktops has been overtaken by the desire for a look “more redolent of a Parisian brasserie/modern farmhouse hybrid”.
Linear London (0208 675 3605; www.linearlondon.com) still see high demand for the handle-less look, though, along with seamless porcelain worktops and grey units with push-touch cabinets. People are also straying away from neutral colours. “Alno have just launched a bespoke service offering a range of six styles in any colour you want – and we have had a good few orders of kitchens whose colour will match their favourite Farrow & Ball paint,” comments Linear London’s spokesperson Clare Hipwell.
So those are the must-haves. What about the must avoids? Time-limited trend items such as integrated coffee makers or TVs tend to date quickly and are difficult to repair. Pale grout for pale floor tiles is also a “no no nightmare” according to Rosie Caley. “There is no protective coating that can save pale grout so you will spend forever on your knees with a toothbrush trying to remove all the ingrained dirt”.
One of the overwhelming favourites among Nappyvalleynet.com members and kitchen designers is the boiling water tap. New mothers say they couldn’t do without it for the baby milk – and some can be combined into a regular tap, while other brands can supply boiling, hot, cold, filtered and sparkling.
Also on the wish list for many now is two dishwashers. “It’s a justifiable luxury for people with young children. Put one on either side of the sink,” advises Caley, mother of two under-twos.
She also has a valuable tip when it comes to heating. The right flooring is generally considered to add value to the property – and water-fed underfloor heating the most desirable way to provide even heating to a room with exposed walls and roof. But don’t put pipes under cabinets, islands or the bin. “Think walking into the kitchen the next morning with nappies and yesterday’s fish supper warming gently in the bin overnight,” says Caley. “Heat spread throughout the tiles so you can leave a good 100mm around the outside of units to minimise this problem.”
That kind of advice is precisely why you pay the experts.
Top tips for the must-have kitchen:
1. Extend where possible: it’s the best use of a side return and, even if it eats up a chunk of an already compact garden,
it’ll be worth it.
2. Don’t cut corners on the design. If your budget is running out, spend it on the build, not the kitchen.
3. If you have space, (almost) everyone loves an island.
4. Everyone loves a boiling water tap too. And you don’t need space for that.
5. Remember it’s all about the flow – the ease with which you can move from hob/oven to fridge to sink.
Make sure that works for you (not for your imaginary next buyer).
6. You can’t have too much storage – huge drawers for pans, walk-in larders, tall cupboards for ironing boards…
7. Go with what works for you. If that means two ovens and two dishwashers, great. You won’t be the only one.
8. Go for good quality brand names for your appliances. You get what you pay for.
9. If you want to save a bit, economise on the cupboards. No one will know once they have pretty doors on the front.
10. If you’re staying in the house for less than five years, look at the lifestyle of the demographic who might be your buyer.
They’ll probably want all of the above.