Getting the kitchen right is important; the quality of kitchens is one of the non-negotiable aspects for most people (usually the people who will do the cooking whilst there) booking holiday lets. Poor quality kitchens, along with doubtful bed linen and question mark sofas, are three key ‘red flags’. These aspects are usually non-negotiable however much else appears desirable in a holiday let.
Style does not necessarily mean the highest cost but it is worth trying to keep things fairly neutral. Similar arguments that apply to the bedrooms apply here. If fashions change, a sound, neutral approach to key items such as work tops, walls, chairs and tables etc: will leave you the flexiblity to move with the times without major capital costs by tweaking or changing accessories as they require replacement or just because a new edge to the overall impression is needed.
A kitchen should be designed and arranged starting with an understanding of how it is to be used and how it can be made to appeal to potential guests. Once the contents are settled on and the required look established, then plans can be made to acquire and arrange items to create what will appeal to the market by producing the effect of a well planned and thought out kitchen at a glance. It is easy to spent too much in the wrong areas but spending too little on key items can end up costing too much. Robust, easy to use, sound, quality contents are a good starting point.
Main things to consider
Location, size, built in cupboards(storage), work tops, white goods, furniture, electrics, lighting, plumbing, heating, contents, optional items, niche markets, pets, children, local variations, instructions, waste disposal, safety, accessories, curtains/blinds, doors and door furniture, quality and the process of construction.
Once the design is ready, remember to also design what is unseen. This includes all plumbing, electrical conduits, outlets and lighting as well as preparation of the floor before tiles or other chosen covering. This can be quite involved but getting things sorted out before any fitted items and the rest arrive is essential.
Some things are not so obvious. For instance, if a TV is to feature, it is a good idea to arrange electric supply close by as well as to ensure a suitable terminal for an arial and a wall or surface strong enough to take the weight. The conduiting can, at an early stage, be arranged on the hidden side of the plasterwork. The same applies to sockets throughout the room and is particularly important, of course, for the high current terminals for electric cookers. There is nothing more annoying than to find sockets in not quite so easy places to use. Some kitchens are designed with sockets under table and work top overhangs. Lighting cabling should, also, be installed at this early stage after carefully planning the best arrangements to ensure good lighting of work surfaces, the table area and so on.
Necessary wiring for heat detectors should be arranged.
The drains from the sink, dishwasher and washing machine should be planned and checked at this stage and suitable outlets for hot and cold for the sinks, dishwasher, washing machine should all be in situ. Many holiday lets, especially larger ones, have a separate utility area which will also need water supplies, drains, ventilation and electrical arrangements.
Many owners inherit kitchens and convert buildings from domestic to business use. This conversion is often awkward because the ideal arrangements for holiday letting differ from the ideal for residential or other uses. Where an open plan kitchen/diner/sitting room may be okay for a holiday, such an arrangement for residential purposes, excepting cases of ‘grand designs’, is often unacceptable. When planning the kitchen and organizing its creation it is important to be sensitive to the differences and to try to make cooking in someone else’s kitchen enjoyable and easy. The aim should be to make it easier than at home so adding an extra to the holiday, largely unappreciated by those who do not usually do the cooking.
There are some key questions to consider before going ahead:
Are the units to be free standing or fitted? (For the vast majority of holiday lets, fitted is the choice).
How are you going to arrange the cupboards: wall and/or floor? If the ceiling is quite low it is worth considering bespoke cabinets floor to ceiling to avoid dust and unused “in-between” space.
Choose between bespoke or off the peg.
Is it to be a stand alone cooker like a range, or a hob and oven?
As mentioned elsewhere, the location of the washing machine and dryer needs to be decided. Sometimes people even put dishwashers in utility rooms. (This is rare and not recommended for holiday lets)
Will there be space for a breakfast bar or table?
Ventilation needs to be sufficient. If an extractor hood is not enough this needs to be arranged and is particularly important in open plan arrangements especially those extending to dining and sitting areas.
Storage has to be adequate for all kitchen equipment and worktops need to be the right size.
Electric outlets need to be planned for permanent items like kettles as well as for temporary ones like food processors and juicers.
A heating radiator needs to be considered.
Certain items cannot be left out such as Fridges, Freezers (or fridge/freezers), cookers and microwaves. More optional depending on the size, location and space available are washing machines and dishwashers. A useful rule is that for a sleep 2, a dishwasher is normally more welcome than a washing machine, but as numbers rise the balance tends to towards washing machines (especially when children are around) and above, say, sleep 6-8 both a dishwasher and washing machine are best made available.
There is some argument for a separate utility room where possible, so making space in the kitchen and banishing the noise in the process. As numbers grow, the attraction of open plan kitchen/diner/sitting rooms grows. This is because large numbers benefit from generous kitchen space and the necessary space for all three can be created by simply doing away with the walls. It is worth trying to avoid separate dining rooms as these tend to be dead space for most of the day. By incorporating them into the same area as the kitchen you ensure the dining table is used for most, if not, all meals and do away with any need for a kitchen table as long as there is sufficient worktop space.
Dining rooms are often out of tune with the modern world and, particularly when people are on holiday, they tend to be a little over formal. Managing space in this way can open up room for kitchen appliances, larger working areas and create a much better flow in one large area. A combined kitchen, dining and sitting area is a formula common to many modern holiday lets. The choice and location of things like washing machines can be determined by apparently much larger decisions, like wanting to keep down the noise of utilities going about their work, when people are eating or relaxing in the sitting area.
Makes and types.
If you can afford it, choose robust fairly simple mainstream products. In some sleep 2 lets it can be an idea to buy more fashion led items such as Smeg fridges. When you buy keep all the paperwork in a file, just like bathroom plumbing fixtures, if you have the part numbers and all the other bits to hand when something needs attention, it can be 50% of way to sorting out problems.
Fridges should err on being larger than needed, where space permits, and the same goes for freezers. For any holiday let over sleep 6, it is an idea to consider one of those larger American style fridges. Many families need quite large freezer space with modern habits of eating, reinforced by perhaps, a wish not to do too much serious cooking when on holiday. Microwaves can get some heavy use, so again, think simple and robust.
Many owners fall for the temptation of putting in Aga or Esse stoves. These are not economic except for top drawer high rental holiday lets except where a separate charge is made for their use. The purchase price represents a large chunk of what could be top of the range more mainstream cooking and other facilities. Such stoves take up quite a bit of space and are more suited to the dual purpose of cooking and providing a warm heart to a home. The draw they offer is limited because the vast majority have never cooked on one and so are unaware of the way, for instance, they can roast a leg of lamb. Most people are used to using a gas or electric oven, although they struggle to get the same superior culinary results. In general, however, unless you really, really want to, it is not economic to provide an old fashioned range stove.
Cookers should be competent, easy to clean and robust. Every so often, owners will find cookers will need a thorough cleaning. It is counter-productive not to insist on good quality cookers.
The current fashion is for built in cupboards, but it should be remembered that they can radically reduce the feeling of space when ceilings are lower than usual. Good quality carcasses are essential but doors can be changed with fashions, however it is a good plan to stick to simple designs, whenever possible. It is not necessary to go overboard on spending to get a feeling of soundness and quality.
Work tops should be robust and capable of a degree of abuse. If you choose oak, for instance, it will need much more maintenance than other types of wood. A spill of some types of cleaner on a waxed oak surface can produce instant black staining that requires removal of the wax and, often, some sanding down to remove the mark before re-waxing. It tends to be a better idea to pick an oily wood so removing the need for waxing. Stone or concrete worktops can be highly attractive but it is worth avoiding black unless a style statement is important to the look of the room. Black shows up water stains, particularly in hard water areas and needs to be polished to bring out the best.
In general, it is an idea to go for light colours in kitchens as they tend to offer easier maintenance and lend to the impression that the room is a little larger. Consider practical things such as cleaning, robustness, cost, and ease of fitting. Drilling holes in a wood worktop is easy compared to drilling into a granite surface.
However well you arrange and provision a kitchen it is almost inevitable that you end up providing some things which are not used that often and leaving out one or two things that will immediately draw the attention of guests. When a holiday let settles down this sort of thing is ironed out but the list, below, may help to reduce any difficulty. It is not supposed to be definitive and may contain some items that are not needed.
(Eating and other items multiplied by the maximum number to stay)
- Large and small knives forks and spoons. It is worth supplying double the number of small spoons
- Carving knives, large serving spoons, large and small flat plates, ditto pudding bowls
- Cups and saucers. Mugs. One teapot + cosy and one coffee pot/cafetiere
- Water glasses. It is worth having several extra, some tall glasses. Wine glasses per number of guests
- Egg cups, one water and one milk jug. Sugar bowl. Butter dish
- Large meat platter, gravy jug, vegetable dishes, salt and pepper, place mats for the number of guests
- Other serving dishes
- Microwave, robust toaster, bread bin, sharp knifes & holder
- Drawer tray to hold set of good quality knives, forks and spoons, knife sharpener
- Bread knife, large and medium sized ladles, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets
- Dish cloths, chopping board, scrubbing sponge for sink
- 2 large sauce pans, 2 medium and 2 small plus lids, frying pans medium and large (non-stick)
- Casseroles (ideally one glass plus two or three others all with lids), baking (non-stick) and roasting tins
- Pie dish, trays (suitable for eating in the lounge if needed), mixing bowls one large, one medium, measuring jug, large cooking spoons (metal and wood)
- Wooden spatula, masher, scissors, weigh scales, oven gloves (keep spares as these usually suffer a bit)
- Sieve, can opener, bottle opener, peeler, garlic press, grater, strainer for tea
- Electric kettle, list of local shops to buy food including farm shops
- Plastic sink bowl, sponge and pot scourer. Fire extinguisher and fire blanket
When planning the kitchen the overall look should be established before going shopping for this and that. When buying, for example, a microwave or kettle, if you have chosen a chrome look, these items should either have a chrome or a brushed steel finish. I have seen some excellent kitchens missing out on that finished look where a generally chrome accessory/cupboard furniture look has been disturbed by a kettle standing out with a cream plastic finish.
Detailing can go right down to ensuring the cruets fit into a planned ‘look’. Sometimes simply replacing knobs on cupboards and doors can make a major difference; these detailed items are significant because the eye tends to scan a room and pick up on handles and knobs intuitively before other items are considered. Such items tend to get early scrutiny so getting them right will prejudice people to be positive about all the rest they spy afterwards.
The general design should, of course, take note of the classic sink, cooker, fridge triangle and its relationship with the work tops. If the kitchen is large enough to have a breakfast table and chairs you need to allow enough room for people to walk around, to and from the table and, of course, make sure that access to key kitchen items is not blocked when someone sits down. All the details add up to create a really useful room. If not attended to, they can add up to an inefficient and wasted space.
Surprisingly, many kitchens are not designed with pets in mind. Ideally there should be a separate area for pets to feed perhaps in the utility room or elsewhere. However, if space is in short supply, it is worth trying to think where putting out the food for pets will be most convenient. Some storage for pets bits and pieces near-by would be useful and most appreciated by guests.