How to give your kitchen a clever makeover: top storage solutions, hands-free gadgets and adding worktop space

Lockdown has turned the kitchen into the room that works hardest in our homes.

Research by supermarket giant Tesco shows the average person has been cooking up to 20 meals a week — four times as many as before the restrictions came in.

“Families are taking time to sit down for a meal or baking with the children,” reports Rupert Thomas, food and cookery director at Waitrose. “They’ve been sharing video meals in home ‘restaurants’, or trying out cocktails over Zoom.”

In many homes, the kitchen is now multifunctional, doubling up as a home office and/or a homework base, or maybe even a gym.

“Work surfaces are now at a premium,” says Richard Ash, buyer at John Lewis. “So we will see more islands, with pop-ups that combine a power point with USB ports and a wi-fi extender. We’ll have pull-out shelves, fold-down tables and covers for sinks.”

The kitchen table is back in fashion, says specialist Neptune, with stores in Chiswick, Fulham and Wimbledon. In demand are kitchens as “real rooms” with furniture and this brand has a huge selection, all paintable, from wall shelf units to dressers and tables that extend from six- to 10-seaters.


London made: Brockwell Moss laminate/sweet chestnut wood kitchen, designed and made in Brixton by Pluck, £10,537 (Malcolm Menzies)

Materials to keep your kitchen safe and clean

Inevitably now, hygiene is a pressing concern, so “hands-free” is the aim.

Push-action cupboard doors can be opened with an elbow or your foot, while ovens and “smart” lighting are controllable by phone.

Sensors can operate Autotaps, and Grohe has taps that turn on and off with a small touch of a wrist.

Simplehuman does a voice-activated waste bin, £250, and a sensor-operated rechargeable soap dispenser, £79.

“Antibac” materials and coatings most likely won’t kill a virus but thorough cleaning will — and smooth, dense worktops of granite or quartz are easiest to disinfect.

Multifunctional ovens have touch controls, temperature probes and cooking programmes from proving dough to turbo grilling and moistening steam. A fashionable bank of appliances might include two ovens, a warming drawer and a coffee machine.


Pick a perfect pantry: from the Leckford range in oak and country shades of painted ash (

The rise of the baker

Sales have soared of plug-in gadgets. “People have been trying new recipes and making bread,” says Martyn Lee, Waitrose executive chef.

“Everybody’s been baking,” agrees Jill Ashford of Smeg. A stand mixer is a must, she adds, with accessories to make ice cream and pasta. Slow cookers have been flying out at Lakeland. But bread makers are generally out of stock.

For less frequent, bigger food shopping, we want more storage. Floor-to-ceiling larders come with space-saving pocket doors and flexible shelving.

Smeg sold about 400 fridge freezers in a day at the start of lockdown.

New tech keeps food fresh longer, with temperature/moisture-controlled zones.

And the boiling water tap is quick and quiet, and saves worktop space.


Pluck kitchen: Kingshall Road, Bonnington Green and Ritzy with London Plane wood, £20,800 (Malcolm Menzies)

Increasingly, shopping for the home is something we do online, visiting a store to inspect and for advice.

Savvy brands including Neptune have honed “virtual” consultations, following up with in-store appointments.

Ikea has a sophisticated online tool for 3D drawing, with free two-hour online sessions with a planner. Brandt, in Hampstead and Stevenage, also has a good online planning tool.

British brands to watch

All over London are showrooms for British brands.

Try John Lewis of Hungerford; Roundhouse; Holloways; Martin Moore; Smallbone; Ledbury Studio and British Standard.

Sleek plywood kitchens are designed and made in Brixton by Pluck. Jack Trench has a workshop and studio in N17.

John Curwen of Harvey Jones, another British kitchen specialist, with six London showrooms, says: “Kitchens are replacing holidays as this summer’s big spend.”

Which is likely to set you back around £10,000 according to website design forum Houzz. This will buy an assembled kitchen.

However, a flat-pack kitchen could cost about £5,000. Find free design sessions at Wickes and also at Magnet.

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