A random collection of tips on kitchens that may come in handy

20th January 2017

by Helen Parker

I’ve been designing kitchens at deVOL for over 14 years, I’ve had no formal training but in my defence I’ve always wanted to make things look better than they need to be and as good they can be. If it’s brown packaging on a parcel or my kids pack lunch, I never want ordinary, I want something better, prettier or just plain different. Now this could conjure up images of going over the top with crafty add-ons, but I have to reassure you that this is not what I mean and you are going to have to take my word for that.

I think what I’m trying to say is, I have the desire and keep gaining more little bits of experience and inspiration as the years tick by to make me feel slightly better equipped to offer advice on kitchens.

My biggest kitchen design challenge and ultimately my biggest success was designing our St. John’s Square Showroom. This shop in Clerkenwell is a mixture of lots of things that should and shouldn’t work all mixed together and it has become more than just a kitchen showroom but a warm, welcoming and thoroughly unique place.

So when it comes to your own home and your own kitchen, I have a few things I always feel are worth considering. It’s difficult to know what to put in and what to leave out of an ‘advice blog’, I don’t want to assume you may know certain important points and then go and miss them out, similarly I don’t want to assume you are lacking in any type of common sense and talk about the obvious, so for either of the latter worries I apologise in advance for forgetting or assuming!!!!

The St. John’s Square showroom in Clerkenwell


1. Look at a plan – it sounds a hassle but it’s really worth it!!

Before you begin a new kitchen project take a look at your kitchen on paper if you can, maybe measure it all up and draw up a rough plan. I know it sounds like a boring, maybe pointless job, but maybe someone could do it for you or maybe you have an architects plan.

It’s a busy place a kitchen and probably the most used room in your house, so it’s worth getting the space as right as you can. A floor plan is a great start, as it simplifies your spaces and may bring up some unexpected options. It may not!! but it’s worth a play about, you may find you can knock a wall down simply and easily and have space for a big table, you may find you can do without part of your cloakroom and move your laundry chores out of the kitchen, giving you lots more space. Who knows what you might find, but it’s worth a look and a head scratch.

This beautiful pantry and loo used to be a long dark corridor with no purpose, a little thought and it has become the most useful and pretty space in our St. John’s Square Showroom


2. Splash out on the important stuff – no buts!!!

Spend your money on really good cupboards, better to have less cupboards but really nice ones. I can hear people saying ‘that’s all very well, but I need a full kitchen and can’t afford lots of expensive cupboards’ and yes that’s one way of looking at it, but I prefer things to be beautiful even if a little more minimal. Adding a few vintage pieces can help with costs, finding a quirky pantry cupboard could save you money and add individuality to the overall look of the room. It’s the hardest thing for us English folks, doing with a bit less in the name of style.

This deVOL Kitchen from a long time ago is just a few beautifully made cupboards, this kitchen will never age or go out of style


3. Less baggage – go on you can do it!!!

The age old piece of advice, but a must!! Get rid of stuff and do with less, try to have really nice things rather than just everything you have ever been given since you left home!! If you feel guilty then have a car boot sale or take a trip to a charity shop. We all do it, we think ‘well I may need it one day’!! chances are we won’t, especially if its 20 old tupperware boxes without lids, or a selection of crappy saucepans that may come in handy if you have 100 people over for Sunday lunch!!

Clean, well organised things that you need and use every day, no clutter, no excess baggage in our Cotes Mill showroom fitted cupboards


4. With a caveat – there’s always an exception!!

Never throw away or get rid of things with style and memories, an old and beautiful serving dish, a battered basket from a holiday in Provence or an old pine plate rack, these are what take ordinary to special in your new kitchen. When I go on photoshoots I often have a rummage in people’s kitchen cupboards (I do ask first!) and find something really unusual that makes for a much more interesting image, in fact it really can make a lovely photo into a really special and memorable one. So don’t throw away or even hide away your treasures they are unique to you and they are so much more important in so many ways than buying something new and mainstream even if it is cool and expensive. Something unusual catches people’s eye and adds interest and a little more mystery to a room. I love people who have cupboards and shelves with memories, this image below was from a beautiful house in London and it was the special collections of antique and vintage items the lady had collected that has made this image so very popular with our customers and Instagram followers.

The perfect situation, storage, great cupboards, great view, great place to sit and precious memories in everyday items


5. A Pantry = best thing ever!!

I think one of the most important, best and life changing things to have in your kitchen is a pantry, if you have a specific room then lucky you, if not then find space for a big pantry cupboard. It could be an old vintage piece or it could be new and part of your kitchen order, but try to get one. Having all your food in one place makes life so much better and if it’s big enough for crockery and linens, that is envy inducing. Random cupboards with a mixture of contents scattered around your room is frustrating and not for grown-ups, good organisation is good for the soul and your inner peace. Sounds a little heavy but if you keep the simple things in life like food well organised then you have more time to worry about the big things. Honestly, when we go on photoshoots, our Instagram followers love beautiful photos of incredible kitchens, but they love photos of organised pantries more!!!

Pantry heaven in our St. John’s Square showroom


 6. How many reasons do you need to have a kitchen table!

Is it just me? I get on so much more efficiently and do so many more jobs when I have someone else around, I want to cook more, clean more and get organised more. So for me having a big kitchen table is an absolute must. Family, friends whoever wants to drop by has a spot to sit, chat or just be there. Having a family meal at a kitchen table together is something we should never stop doing. Preparing a meal and sitting down to eat and chat about your day is one of the most important things you can give your kids, teaching them to eat well and enjoy the time of day dedicated to nourishment of body and mind. I was absolutely passionate about this when my kids lived at home and it has gone on to be an integral part of my relationship with my kids, chatting over food with no distractions, it makes us feel connected and open and personal. I always adore the parts in a foreign film when they eat long lazy lunches, hours of preparation, laughter and memories in the Mediterranean sunshine. I think we should make our kitchens little havens of happiness where people hang out, we don’t do enough hanging out.

This little spot in our Cotes Mill Shaker showroom looks so inviting, flowers, fresh eggs and an open window


 7. “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.”

 I love this quote from Coco Chanel and I think it works not only for your wardrobe but for your home too. Stand back and hold back when designing all the elements of your kitchen and don’t be tempted to buy things to fill every space. People often try too hard to get a ‘look’ they have seen on Pinterest and to theme their kitchen with all the things they love and want to show, but hold back. You can easily tire of statement pieces and of large bold themes that dominate your room, lighting is a big one! We see so many lighting schemes and it’s always the discreet and understated ones that catch our eye and that we don’t tire of. Having said that, a statement light can look stunning if carefully chosen, chandeliers are about as bold as you can get but they look great because they have some character (go for faded glory not bling!). It’s usually the pendants over islands where people go crazy and buy three huge pendants, then some wall lights to contrast and then a few different pendants over the dining table and it feels more like a lighting showroom than a kitchen. The picture below is from a couple years ago and we never tire of it, the vintage porcelain lights are a triumph in their simplicity.

The Queens Park Kitchen, these customers were so confident in their own style that they didn’t need to make any statements with their lighting


8. Catches and knobs are really important

‘You can tell a man by his shoes’, classic, well made and expensive is the golden rule for a gentleman, this doesn’t have to extend to his clothes, it’s the shoes!!  Similarly, in your kitchen, the catches and handles, although the last thing to put on, are just as important as everything else, if not more so. They can lift a simple cupboard and give an air of quality to the whole room, make sure they are really well designed and really well made.

We love good hardwear so much we started making our own, the Boho cuphandle is my favourite here in the wonderful Mill House Kitchen


9. Commit to a look and don’t be shy

 I think this is a good one to think about!! If you like something enough then go for it big style, don’t be a dip your toe in type!! The kitchens that have the most impact and wow factor have a certain something that sets them apart, it doesn’t have to be brash or bold but its a commitment to a look. When we first visited our deVOL Bloomsbury Kitchen we understood this sentiment, they committed to one colour everywhere, cupboards and walls in deep dark grey, it’s what absolutely made this room and took it from a beautiful kitchen into a wow kitchen, with attitude. Tiles too, if you like a tile, then use it to the max and you will create a much more striking look, a wall of tiles from floor to ceiling is bolder and better than a few around your cooker. Now I’m not talking about doing this with everything in the room just certain elements like colours and tiles.

The Peckham Rye Kitchen is full of commitments and its what makes it the most talked about deVOL Kitchen ever and what took us to another level of bravery here at deVOL


10. Make it personal

 This is the hardest bit for many people to get right, it’s all of the above rules rolled into one finished and hopefully very beautiful kitchen. A good room well designed with good cupboards is your starter, then filling it with everything you need to make it friendly, functional and a place to spend lots of time is second on the list. Making sure it’s subtle in lighting and accessories but big on quality and style in all the small things like catches and flooring, next on the list. Then being bold with your choices in certain areas will lift it to another level of coolness, which is always a good thing and finally adding your own touches of personality. It could be collections of your crockery and linens neatly stacked on Shaker shelves for all to admire. It could be your treasured array of copper cookware, collected over many years all hanging around the ceilings and used every day, or it could just be a jumble of organised chaos that works perfectly and tells a story of you and your family’s passions and life. Pearl Lowe’s kitchen was all of the above in spades, it needs no explanation, you can see in every tiny detail, her personality and her love of her family and life.

All the above advice rolled into one image, simple, classic and personal


Well I hope this helped and please feel free to email me personally for any general questions on kitchens helen@devolkitchens.co.uk or for more specific kitchen design enquiries then do email enquires@devolkitchens.co.uk