The Zero Stress Guide to Kitchens


What You Need To Know Before You Buy a Kitchen

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Top tips

  • Choose a design you’ll be happy with for some time
  • Stainless steel and glass can be high maintenance
  • Use knobs and handles for stylish accessorising

Clever planning and a layout that works ergonomically are ‘must haves’ in the kitchen but the ‘wow factor’ will come from the room’s appearance and the kitchen units will be a dominant feature.

Kitchen units

Kitchen cabinetry installed and primed ready for painting

Your choice of units depends on personal taste, budget and lifestyle. Hard-wearing, easy-clean surfaces like wood, veneers or laminates are a boon for busy people and families with young children. Higher-maintenance glass and stainless steel are for those with enough time and patience to care for them – or those with a daily help!

Unless you have money to burn you should choose cabinets you’ll be happy to live with for a number of years – you can always ring the changes economically with a coat of paint and/or new handles.

As most standard cabinet carcasses these days are made of chipboard, the only thing you have to worry about is the finish of the cabinet doors. It is important to choose a finish you will be happy to look at for some years, avoiding something that is currently high fashion but which will quickly ‘date’. Whichever material you decide on, durability and low maintenance will almost certainly be a key factor in your choice.

Possible finishes include:


If you favour the look of wood you must then decide whether to go for solid wood or veneer. The latter is cheaper and less vulnerable to humidity and temperature than solid wood. Veneer will also give more uniformity of colour and pattern although that in itself can be a disadvantage to those who prefer the look of natural timber.

Wooden cabinets are available in a wide range of types, styles and colours but they can also be painted, colour-washed or waxed to achieve your preferred finish.


Laminate cupboard doors have even more possibilities than wood when it comes to colour and texture. They range from creamy shades and a matt appearance to bold colours and a high-gloss finish.

One of the biggest advantages of laminate cupboards is that they are virtually maintenance-free apart from an occasional wipe. While not generally hard-wearing enough for worktops, laminate cupboard doors get a lot less wear and tear and will stay looking good for years.

Laminate cupboard doors

Stainless steel

For a clean, shiny and professional look it is hard to beat stainless steel but it can give the kitchen a clinical air unless it is softened with other materials. More often used on worktops than cabinets, it is extremely durable but can be very costly. Combine with wood or a warm colour on the walls to avoid an institutionalised feel.

While wood and laminate are the most popular basic materials to use for kitchen cabinet doors, it can be helpful in a large kitchen to break up a long row of identical doors with, for example, plain or frosted glass doors.

Before you make your final decision, look at showroom cabinets and inspect areas that receive the heaviest wear, such as around the edges, hinges and seams, to ascertain any possible signs of weakness in the materials. Fully fitted showroom kitchens also give you a good idea about whether you will like certain finishes and enable you to look at different door handles, colours and materials.

If you are working to a tight budget and need to choose very basic units remember that you can ‘lift’ the appearance and add a stylish twist with carefully chosen knobs and handles.



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