I got a chance to chat with Lee Smiles the owner of A&L Interiors based in Rochford, Essex.
A&L Interiors built and installed the kitchen and utility at My Claybrick Home which I will share some pictures later in this post. Lee has owned the business for over 4 years and not only designs, builds, and installs kitchens but any bespoke joinery in the home – think wardrobes, awkward under stairs cupboards, office set ups. You name it he can put his hand to anything.
So, lets get into the questions.
What is the most common kitchen layout that you build and install?
It really does depend on the space, but an L shaped kitchen is a good shape with allows more design input. A lot of customers are wanting islands, which continue to be on trend, but often do not have the space and access needed for a good-sized island.
What are your top tips when planning a design?
Tip 1 - Its important to understand what the most needed items and use for the space is – will there be a lot of baking? Microwave dinners? – and build these into the plan.
Tip 2 - As we are not getting any younger, I always encourage customers to opt for a wall mounted single or double oven. Bending down and picking up hot trays from a low, hot and steamy space can be a challenge at any age, but think about how long you want to be doing this for. A wall mounted unit provides space for trays and pans close at hand.
Tip 3 - Identify if there is a separate utility space for laundry and even the main fridge/freezer. This will allow more cabinet space in the kitchen with a undercounter fridge for daily/weekly essentials.
Should we follow the triangle rule when planning a space?
Yes, as a rule of thumb if space allows. But if you only have one wall for kitchen space it cannot then be a triangle.
I look to create a wet and clean area, with the wet away from the cooking area.
What is the optimum space between cabinets to get around easily? (without bumping into each other)
A standard UK door is 726mm, just to give you some scale, and I like to give at least 900mm between cabinets. It stops the arguments when someone is trying to open one cupboard opposite someone else. It also provides enough space to fully open doors.
What is the best solution for a corner cabinet?
There are 2 types of corner cabinets – L shape and rectangular. The L shape allows you to put a carousel unit in, but my view is that these are expensive, and take up a large part of the internal cupboard space. I would always advise shelves in both types of corner cupboards.
Everyone has those once a year items they need to store that can be pushed to the back of the corner cabinet and then pulled out when needed.
Can you refurbish an existing kitchen?
Absolutely yes, and I do a lot of refurbishment work. If the cabinet carcasses are in good shape, I can change the look of a kitchen at a much lower price that a fully fitted new one.
I can replace doors, side panels, handles, and worktops to give a whole new look to a kitchen.
I would always recommend that if worktop is being replaced, and it houses the sink unit, a new sink and tap is included in the budget.
We finished with a five-question quick fire round.
Integrated or Standalone appliances?
Ideally integrated as it produces a much cleaner look, but it does come down to budget as they tend to be more expensive than standalone.
Gas or Electric?
Lee chose Induction as easier to wipe down. I got the impression he only spends time in the kitchen building and not cooking.
Free standing or Wall mounted oven?
Wall mounted, for all the reasons we spoke about earlier.
Stone or Composite worktops?
Composite as it can be sanded and repaired easier. Stone looks great but feels cold and will chill a mug of tea if left on top very quickly. Also, once damaged stone is tricky, almost impossible, to repair.
[I can confirm this as I managed to chip the underside of my compostie worktop. Lee filled and sanded the chip and you would never know it had happened]
Island or Peninsular?
Island if space as it’s a great sociable space for friends and family get togethers (when we can)
A huge thanks to Lee for giving his time to kick start this Ask an Expert series. If you are thinking about a new kitchen, or just want a refurbishment please contact Lee here.
My Claybrick Home Kitchen
Check out these photos of my kitchen built and installed by Lee and his team.
If you'd like a copy of my free kitchen design checklist drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pop you one over.
If you'd like help planning the layout of your kitchen then why not book a free call with me on a day and time that works for you. You can grab a slot by clicking on this link.
If you are local to Essex please look up A&L Interiors if you are consider a new kitchen, or even looking to refurbish. You won't be disappointed with the service.