1. Introduce classic kitchen style
For the archetypal country kitchen look, choose generously proportioned pieces made in solid timbers with distressed and painted finishes. Freestanding items, such as butcher's blocks and wall-hung plate racks, are also key ingredients.
2. Decide on off-the-peg or bespoke
It's likely that your budget will dictate this choice. The possibilities with a bespoke kitchen are endless. Choosing from a standard kitchen range will usually be less costly than bespoke. Off-the-peg retailers offer a computer planning service, creating a design using your kitchen measurements and standard units.
3. Employ a kitchen designer
A professional kitchen designer will bring fresh ideas and suggest appliances within your budget, plus alternative choices that may save you money. Ultimately the designer wants a happy client, so although they may come up with different or unusual kitchen solutions, be open-minded and consider all their suggestions carefully before dismissing anything out of hand.
4. Work to scale
Whatever kitchen style you choose, it has to sit well within the architecture of the house. A key point is proportion. Standard fitted cabinets will look lost in a large, high-ceilinged space; equally, large-scale dressers and chunky butcher-block islands may overpower a small cottage kitchen.
5. Ensure your kitchen suits the style of your home
A more streamlined look may work better in new-builds and conversions as opposed to traditional kitchen designs. If handled sensitively, the contrast between modern and traditional can be stunning.
6. Add a modern touch
If you love country kitchen styles but don't want it to look too 'period', go for a more modern kitchen design with simple lines. This gorgeous kitchen mixes warm country-style oak cabinetry with sleek, modern worktops and appliances for a fresh update.
7. Get the flow right
Large and small kitchens alike need to provide different zones for different activities. The journey between those zones needs to be easily accessible so the whole room is safe, easy to use and practical. A curved or angled island unit can help enclose the cooking/preparation areas, and can be a good design solution in a busy family kitchen - especially if it guides children away from the 'hot' zone.
8. Invest in a kitchen island
If the kitchen is in a completely new room, it can be economical to put all the services - sink, dishwasher, hob, oven and extractor - in the island unit. The walls are then free for storage cabinets. An island can also become the focus of the whole kitchen, and may include a raised breakfast bar or lowered table creating a dining area.
9. Plan kitchen storage
Plan for adequate storage from the start, as well as space for gadgets and utensils. Assess your food storage needs carefully - fully-extending drawers, for example, provide more useable space than cupboards. Use pegs to hold crockery, and go for compartmentalised drawers for dried goods or utensils.
10. Choose the right worktops
The look of your work surfaces is as important as the colour of the cabinets. Laminate worktops are a good budget choice and can mimic many materials. Granite work surfaces are pricey but add value to your kitchen. Marble is less hardwearing than granite so use in a small area, such as a pastry surface. Timber work surfaces tolerate a lot of wear and tear, and age gracefully.
11. Use an easy-care splashback
These essential panels protect kitchen walls from water and cooking splashes. Range cookers are often sold with the option of a matching stainless-steel or enamelled splashback to fill the wall space between hob top and wall-mounted extractor.
12. Get practical kitchen appliances
You'll need a quiet dishwasher, especially if your new kitchen is to be open plan, and an effective extractor to prevent cooking smells drifting through the house. Drawer dishwashers allow economical half-load use, which will save you money in the long run.
13. Consider what appliances you'll need
The basic decision to make is whether you want freestanding or built-in cooking appliances. If you have a cast-iron, heat storage range cooker that you will need to turn off in the summer months, consider a build-in hob and multi-function oven as well to provide alternative cooking facilities.
14. Get the right kind of fridge
A large fridge with plenty of efficient cold storage means fewer shopping trips and economical cooking for the family. Choose A, A+ or A++ rated models for maximum efficiency - you could save in electricity charges if you're replacing a less efficient model. Make sure the design fits in with the style of your kitchen, or make a statement with a colourful model.
15. Include the latest kitchen techonology
If you plan to use a computer and/or laptop in the kitchen, as well as having a TV, hi-fi, phone and broadband, it's important to get all the wiring in place while other kitchen services are being planned. It's also vital to consider the positioning of any gadgets, and the type, as they will need to withstand heat and moisture in the kitchen.
16. Buy a range cooker
A range cooker is a fantastic addition to a country kitchen and can be used as the focus for the whole design. This room was built around the sleek black appliance. The chimneybreast was built to accommodate the range and to house an extractor above. The finished kitchen has bespoke cabinets in a hand-painted finish, solid oak drawer boxes and worksurfaces and upstands in Brass Blue granite.
17. Create the perfect lighting scheme
A fabulous lighting scheme can transform an average kitchen, and a poor one can kill it. Lighting can be creative, colourful and eco-friendly, so don't just settle for a couple of spotlights. Lighting schemes should be planned at the same time as the kitchen.
18. Get the latest extras in your kitchenThere are plenty of new appliances to choose from that are perfect for making your kitchen as practical as it is stylish. Why not install a built-in coffee machine alongside your cooking appliances? Or avoid waiting for water to boil with a built-in boiling water tap? For a large family, and American-style fridge freezer is a welcome addition.
19. Add a utility room
As kitchens become more like family and/or entertainment rooms, it makes sense to keep some functions separate. The utility room is the best place for the washing machine and tumble dryer; a boot room is a bonus in a busy household, and can double as a drying off area for wet dogs as well as boots; and a pantry can be walk-in size or simply a cupboard with a stone slab for keeping food cool.
20. Don't forget the kitchen sink
Sink prices vary dramatically - solid surface designs (such as Corian) can be many hundreds of pounds, but there are stylish designs in stainless-steel available for under £100. A Belfast sink, as seen here, will add extra rustic charm to your kitchen, and its size makes it a practical choice for large families.