Designing a multi-function kitchen: ‘Don’t be tempted to cram the walls with cupboards — the biggest luxury is some free space’

Vicki McCarthy, designer at Tom Howley, on multifunctional kitchens.

Has lockdown accelerated the move towards multi-functional kitchens?

Definitely. Spending more time at home has encouraged us to consider how our spaces can be improved, especially the kitchen, where so much of our living at home takes place.

Increasingly, the kitchen is the space for working, family dining and socialising (when we can) and for relaxing, perhaps with a sofa and television.

How do you design with several functions in mind?

Begin by identifying zones for each specific task. Protect the cook-prep zone and avoid getting it mixed up with areas for socialising or a through route, because it is not a good idea to be attempting to drain a boiling pot of pasta as children are running past.

For this reason, we are seeing a shift towards double islands in larger rooms (such as in this Hartford kitchen pictured here, from £20,000). One island can be used for cooking and prepping, the other for socialising.

What other requests do you receive?

Sometimes, we’re asked to build apertures in cabinetry to house a pet bed (no more tripping over the dog by the Aga). Power and USB sockets in islands make useful charging stations for phones and laptops; wine storage, a cocktail bar or a coffee station are also popular. Some keen bakers want a dresser with bi-fold doors to house a ready-to-use mixer, ingredients and specialist equipment.

But don’t be tempted to cram the walls with cupboards — the biggest luxury is some free space to display art, which will help the room feel less claustrophobic and more like the living space we want it to be.