Kitchen Design Guide


At WoodLiving we appreciate that designing your dream kitchen is a very personal process. Alongside functionality and cost factors, we believe that your new kitchen should be the heart of your home - you’ll be the one that sees and uses it on a daily basis, so naturally it needs to be an environment you’re proud to look at, as well one that’s comfortable and practical to use.

Whilst we do offer the services of our own professional designers, we are also more than happy to accept your own designs  and build you the kitchen of your dreams – whether it be made from a collection of our own modular units or one tailor-made to match your own tastes and requirements.  

If you do decide you would like to go it alone, we thought the following design guide (available to download as a PDF here) created by Better Homes and Gardens magazine (BHG) with the added input of our own design team, may be of real use to you:

Effective Planning of Space:

One of hardest parts of designing your kitchen is logistics. Where will everything fit in? Starting with a clean slate to work with can be overwhelming, with limitations including square meterage, existing location of electrical wiring, water pipes and drainage (nb reinstallation of plumbing is not usually a cost-effective option).

The first step when designing your new kitchen will involve getting your tape measure out and taking precise measurements of the floor space available. Once this is done, start by placing the basic elements using the following tips:

  • Doorways and walkways: Any doorway leading into your kitchen should be at least 820mm wide – take into account that swinging doors might hit appliances and your new cabinets. In smaller kitchens, we advise that you hang doors so they swing outwards, rather than inwards, to avoid potential problems. Passageways through the kitchen itself should be at least 920mm wide. For walkways in the work areas, BHG recommend a space of at least 1070mm wide for a single cook or 1220 mm for others.
  • Consider the ‘work triangle’: An important concept often used by professional kitchen designers, ‘the work triangle’ improves your kitchen's functionality by minimizing the distance between the sink, refrigerator and your main cooking surface. To increase comfort, practicality and safety, the sum of the three distances between these appliances should not exceed 8 metres, and any individual stretch between two appliances in the triangle should ideally measure between 1.25 to 2.75 metres. If more than two cooks will be regularly using the kitchen, allow a work triangle for each (one leg can be shared, but crossovers of the triangles should be avoided so that you won't constantly be getting in each other’s way).
  • Allow for ‘landing areas’: A landing area is ‘a countertop space that allows you to place (or ‘land’) items from sink, refrigerator, cooking surface and oven service areas’, so an appropriate 'landing area space' should be made available nearby to each. It’s important that sinks should have a landing area of at least 600mm on one side and 450mm on the other (for secondary sinks, allow spaces of 80mm and 450mm either side, respectively). The nearest edge of your dishwasher should be within 900mm of the closest edge of your sink (ideally this should be your primary preparation sink).
  • Counter top space: Professional designers recommend a minimum total of at least 4 metres of usable countertop space in any kitchen, if space allows of course. This takes into account any worktop area, including kitchen islands, that is at least 600mm inches deep and, we suggest, with a minimum space of 450mm between countertop and the base of wall cabinets. Furthermore, BHG recommend: a minimum 600mm-wide stretch of countertop next to your primary sink for prep work; 380mm of countertop space on the handle side of your refrigerator (or either side of a two door fridge); and 300mm of countertop space on one side of your cooking surface and 380mm to the other. When two of  the above 'next to appliance' countertop areas overlap, take the larger of the two, as suggested, and add 300mm.
  • Seating space in your kitchen: If you intend to also use part of your countertop space or kitchen island as a seating area, research shows that a 700 to 760 mm wide space, per person, is needed to ensure optimal comfort. Allow for 380mm-deep knee space for standard 800mm-high countertops and a 900-mm clearance behind your chairs or stools, measured from the edge of the counter/table top to the nearest wall or cabinet behind the seating area. If there is a walkway directly behind the seating area, allow 1 meter for comfortable passage.

Standard Dimensions of WoodLiving’s Classic Modular Kitchen Range:

The following dimensions, by type, relate to our classic kitchen range and are true at the time of writing (you should always double check measurements align with the original plans you submit, at time of ordering). Please note bespoke items from WoodLiving are always available on request:

  • Base Cabinets: The standard height for our base cabinets is 890mm (not including the worktop). The standard depth of base cabinets is 580mm, which includes a 50mm service gap at the rear to allow for pipes, wires, utilities and other protrusions.
  • Wall Cabinets: The standard heights of our wall cabinets are 820mm and 630mm (+35mm for cornice if required). The standard depth of the wall cabinets is 350mm (external) and 307mm (internal). All wall cabinets have a 32mm recess underneath to allow for hidden light fittings. 
  • Housing Units & Integrated Appliances: It is advisable to inform us of the make and model of any appliances for which housing units will be required . We also advise that you provide your fitter/installer with these drawings prior to confirming them with us. The standard internal depth for our housing units is 558mm. This will also allow for an integrated door to be attached. For free-standing appliances which require a covered door, a deeper cabinet is often required, in which case the cabinet will need to be a bespoke item. Please note that this may affect the depth of the worktop and any adjacent cabinets.
  • Tall Cabinets: When using our standard cabinets, the tops are designed to line up with any adjacent wall cabinet when the space between worktop and underside of the wall cabinet is 450mm. This is important when lining up the cornice, should you chose to incorporate one in the design of your kitchen. To ensure a uniform finish and look, take extra care to ensure that your wall cabinets are the same height as that of your tall units.

The dimensions shown on any drawings provided to or by WoodLiving will provide an accurate representation of the finished cabinets to within a 2mm tolerance. Please consider the dimensions of cabinets to allow for access when delivering and installation – it is advisable to always check doorways are wide enough for larger items (eg Larder cupboards, Island units etc).

Electrical and Ventilation:

Your kitchen should have at least one wall-switch controlled light, with this light switch easily accessible at the entrance. BHG suggest that ideally 8% of the total square meterage of your kitchen should also be taken up by windows or skylights, whenever possible. It’s also recommended that task lighting is available over every work surface and, to allow for this, WoodLiving have ensured that every standard wall cabinet it produces has been designed to incorporate such lighting, should you wish to adhere to this advice.  

For each and every cooking surface appliance, an outdoor-venting ventilation/extractor fan system/cooker hood, ideally with a suitable exhaust rate (see below) should be installed. Cooker hoods or microwave-hood combos should be fixed at least 600mm above your cooking surface, or according to the manufacturer's instructions. If a microwave is placed below the countertop, the bottom should be at least 380mm off the floor, with 380mm of clear space allowed above the refrigerator.

How to calculate what extraction rate you’ll need to ventilate your kitchen:

To calculate the appropriate extraction rate for your kitchen, you should multiply the volume of your kitchen by 10.  For example, if your kitchen is 2.7 metres wide, 5 metres long and 3 metres high, your calculation will be (2.7 x 5 x 3) x 10 = 405 . This would mean that an extraction rate of approximately 400 m3/h would be appropriate to achieve a good level of ventilation in the room.

Safety Issues:

The kitchen is a potentially very dangerous area, with a risk of injuries (or worse) due to the danger of fires, scalding, cuts and falls. Ideally you should plan for the worst case scenario and ensure your family’s safety by keeping a fire extinguisher visible and/or easily accessible, yet slightly away from cooking equipment and surfaces.  The extinguisher should be rated for Class B fires (minimum) and tested every six months - make sure everyone in the family knows how to use it. A fire blanket makes a good substitute and is the minimum we’d recommend to help keep your new kitchen safe.

Cooking surfaces should never be kept directly under an open window and flammable window treatments should never be used near or above a stove top or oven. For families with younger children we’d recommend corner protectors are used on any sharp edged corners , but we can also make the edges of our wooden countertops more rounded, if you so wish (please let us know at time of ordering).

Storage and Accessories:

Although there are no definitive guidelines in terms kitchen storage or accessories, these are nevertheless important factors to consider when designing your own kitchen.

Our professional designers recommend a rough minimum of 25 metres of shelf and drawer frontage, for a regular kitchen, and at least 45 metres for a larger one (greater than 30 metres square).

If you have corner cabinets, it's advisable to consider accessories that will maximise internal storage (such as a lazy Susan, pull-out shelving or other usable storage device). Finally, don’t forget to include space for at least one bin in your kitchen – ideally one should be located under each sink or near to the primary prep area. If possible, include space for a second bin in the same area for your recycling.

A final point to consider…:

We will always do our best to analysis your drawings and point out potential errors when you submit your designs to us and before we start the manufacturing process. However, we can't always guarantee that we’ll spot a potential mistake or design flaw (especially considering we don’t know your kitchen space and floor levels as well as you do!). Be sure to pay extra close attention to the alignment of units and their fittings at the design stage. Handles, panels and tops of units which are not in line with each other another can ruin the unified look that you should be striving for.  This is especially worth considering for bespoke units in kitchens, such as ones with a central drawer.

If in doubt, please give us a call or drop us an email and we’d be more than pleased to give you some free advice or answer any questions you have about the process.   Good luck!