The kitchen is the heart of any home. It's a place where friends and family gather, both for daily family life and weekend entertaining – an informal place to chat, eat and relax. So important is the kitchen, an increasing number of homes are designed around an open-plan living space, with the kitchen as its centrepiece.
Within the busy kitchen, it's the humble sink that handles most of the chores, making the tap the hardest-working piece of equipment in the home. So when planning a new kitchen, it's vital that your new sink and taps look fabulous and are built to last.
But choosing the right equipment can be an overwhelming experience, so where do you begin? Here's a complete guide to help you on your way.
The first consideration when designing a new kitchen is how to organise the layout to make the most of the space available. If you're on a tight budget, or are looking for ways to save so you can splurge on your dream countertops, you may want to leave the plumbing alone and install your new sink in place of your old one.
If you can afford to move your sink, make sure you do so for a good reason. Let's face it: washing up is a chore that most people don't particularly enjoy, but place your sink by a window with a view and you may be fighting over the dishes. If you have an open plan living/dining area, you may prefer to place the sink so it faces into the room. That way you can keep an eye on the kids or continue chatting with your guests while you work.
Wherever you place your sink, ensuring that it's paired with your dishwasher is a no-brainer. This enables you to scrape and rinse dishes easily before loading the dishwasher, and it's useful to be able to pour away any water that's pooled on your crockery when emptying the machine.
Next, it's all about design. For the traditionalist, Belfast or farmhouse sinks are a nod to the past that are making a very fashionable comeback. These solid, old-fashioned sinks resemble those found in historic farmhouses, and add a timeless appeal to your home.
Undermount sinks are becoming a favourite for the contemporary, minimalist kitchen, as they offer a seamless look and are easy to clean up. However, for the ultra-minimalist effect, look no further than a fully integrated sink that will give your kitchen the ultimate in sleek lines. If you're after a tried and tested design, a self-rimming sink will never go out of fashion.
Once you've decided on the overall style of your sink, you need to think about the practicalities. Choose between a single large sink, or a double sink, perfect for the keen cook who likes to wash and drain food at the same time.
If you're short on space, you have a number of options. A corner sink is a great space-saver and fantastic if you have an unusual shaped kitchen. Another option is an accessory sink – you can find them with built in chopping boards, draining racks or even colanders, allowing you to make maximum use of the available space.
It's essential to choose taps that match the overall design of your sink. If you've opted for a farmhouse sink, then a mixer with two separate crosshead taps looks striking, and the fine detail of the tap heads complements the traditional look. However, if you're after a contemporary style, the possibilities are endless with a wide range of simple and stylish taps on the market. For the ultra-minimalist approach, a single-lever tap, which allows you to control the temperature and flow with one hand, is the latest in-thing.
As with sinks, there are a couple of practicalities to consider when deciding on your taps. A swivel head is useful for filling the sink then moving to the side for rinsing when washing glasses or tackling pots and pans, and, with a choice of spout heights available, opt for a high spout if you use a lot of large items. Moreover, for the keen cook or design enthusiast, choose a professional style tap with a 360-degree swivel head and pull-out spray.
Finally, there is a wide range of materials to choose from when designing your dream kitchen. Depending on your choice of sink, the decision may be made for you: Belfast and farmhouse sinks are generally ceramic, whereas integrated sinks will be the same as your countertops – usually quartz, or marble if you've gone for the high-end option.
Stainless steel is by far the most popular sink material, being heat and stain resistant and excellent value for money, however a composite granite sink is durable and won't show watermarks like the stainless steel option. If you're in the market for something different, try a copper sink, which is big on charm and rust-resistant to boot.
The finish of your taps can go a long way towards achieving the desired look for the heart of your home. Opt for a warm bronze or gold finish for a traditional look, in keeping with your farmhouse or Victorian kitchen. Chrome suits all styles of kitchen and is durable, whereas stainless steel or nickel taps will perfect your minimalist, contemporary kitchen.