Storage stars: How to level up your kitchen designs

How clever storage solutions and fittings can maximise space, add the wow factor to your designs and increase margin opportunities. Francesca Seden reports…

Storage is an integral element of kitchen design, but it’s probably fair to say that,  most consumers have taken this category for granted in the past – paying it less attention than they would to the overall aesthetic. What once sprang to mind when that word was uttered, was probably just, ‘cupboards’, ‘drawers’ and maybe a utility room, if the homeowner’s house was big enough to accommodate one.

Nowadays, things are quite different, with #beautility, #shelfie, and #shelfiegame trending on Instagram. Social media has played a big part in the beautification of the kitchen, and impeccably designed practical and attractive storage is at the very heart of that.

The latest trends and innovations includes both clever hidden storage — with mechanical and wirework wizardry behind the doors — and display storage — both fully open and glass-fronted — which has seen a resurgence in recent years.

In addition to these simultaneous trends, Lisa Robinson, marketing team leader at Blum, notes another “two-fold trend”. On one hand, space is becoming more of a premium, with living spaces shrinking, but paradoxically, people are opening up their downstairs living areas into one big space. So, it pays to have flexible options. 

When it comes to out-of-sight storage, manufacturers are devising clever ways to maximise underutilised, or otherwise unused space — incorporating tech behind doors, such as lighting and plug sockets.

Some particularly noteworthy recent innovations include Poliform’s Deep Shaker Move System, Blum’s REVEGO pocket doors, Hettich’s LightTower, Kessebohmer’s TurnMotion III and Blanco’s under-sink storage solution, Multi Frame.

Cassie Jones, brand manager at Masterclass Kitchens, points out the trend for integrated electrical items behind neatly concealed doors within kitchen furniture. She also mentions dedicated storage for utility room items such as ironing boards and vacuum cleaners, because “customers want to be able to accommodate miscellaneous utility items that otherwise normally end up falling over.” 

Hidden helpers

In addition to storing the usual items, like pots, pans and crockery, feature bars continue to be popular, as well as walk-in pantries, and hidden breakfast areas. 

Josie Medved, design manager at Symphony, adds: “Another fairly new feature is the bi-fold dresser. This can be adapted to form a small appliance station, because large items such as toasters, food mixers/processors or bread makers can be placed on the worktop and then hidden away. There is also a great interest in breakfast, coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks stations within pantries and bi-fold dressers. These can easily be tidied away behind doors, so they’re ideal for kitchens and other areas of the house. The broken plan trend is helping to drive interest in some of these solutions.”

In terms of open storage, a mix of totally open and glass-fronted options can be considered. With these, homeowners can display their best crockery or create ‘statement shelves’ allowing them to really  express themselves. Open shelving is a great way to personalise a kitchen, and reeded, or fluted glass cabinetry, last popular in the 1970’s, has made a comeback, offering visual interest and sophistication.

Open cabinetry is also a great way of ensuring the space never feels too claustrophobic, and can be used in the form of open storage walls or shelving, to divide the kitchen from other parts of the space. 

Some nice recent examples of open storage include Hettich’s FurnSpin, which made its UK debut at the kbb show, Rotpunkt’s illuminated wall solutions and Schüller’s vertical storage range. There’s also the next125 multi-purpose trolley, which is equipped with wheels for easy mobility, and can be used to store anything from drinks to stationery. This final product has been around for a while and is certainly a bit of an outlier, being that it’s freestanding, but it  demonstrates the innovations that designers have at their fingertips to maximise opportunities.

Learned layouts

When it comes to how designers can best utilise storage solutions to maximise practicality, there were a few standout points from this month’s contributors. Firstly, it is about getting to know your client’s needs, and gaining an understanding of their lifestyle and what they need storage for.

Danny Wood, CEO at Arbor Lane, suggests presenting these solutions in relatable contexts to clients, illustrating how each layout addresses their specific storage requirements. 

Next, it is a case of working out how you can best maximise the space itself — going vertical with tall cabinets, for instance. Fabiana Scavolini, CEO of Italian furniture brand Scavolini, recommends choosing full-height wall units, and to alternate the design with some covered and some open, to put the contents on display. She says this use of vertical space can be particularly useful in smaller kitchens 

It’s worth considering including some form of display storage, even if it is only a solitary shelf. This will help break up the space and allow the client to inject personality into the design.

Additionally, kitchen shelves help to create an open and accessible space for storing kitchen accessories and supplies, says KBBG managing director, Bill Miller. “Containers, hooks, and shelves work together to create an optimal storage solution.”

Element of surprise

A couple of brands are playing with the concept of utilising the wall space. Rotpunkt incorporates LED lighting integrated into its solution, while Schüller’s option features herb boxes and potting boxes, which can be hooked on to create a herb wall.

Lighting is another highly important consideration  helping to highlight both open elements and also within cabinets, to easily see what you’re looking for.

Rotpunkt’s head of UK operations, Matt Phillips says it’s important to recognise the interplay between lighting and storage, to “boost hazard perception and efficiently prepare and cook food”. He says that people over 65 might require double the light levels compared to those in their 20’s, so lighting in the kitchen needs to be a key consideration at the concept phase.

Outside of product solutions, innovations designed into the furniture itself, such as benches or window seats with hinged tops, are another way of incorporating storage, also adding a helpful multifinctional touch.

David Milner, senior business development manager at PWS, notes that innovative food storage can “more than pay for itself” by reducing food waste, as people are much more able to see what they have and items are less likely to be pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten.

For more effective selling of storage solutions in the showroom, our contributors’ key message was about dressing displays with items you would naturally find in the kitchen — to help customers visualise how the solutions will work in the home. Masterclass’s Jones adds that storage options should be presented as integral components of the kitchen design story and made essential at the design stage, so nothing is overlooked. Finally, adding in wirework and other internal fittings is an easy up-sell, according to Symphony’s Josie Medved, because it is so useful and looks attractive.

Hettich UK’s head of marketing, Jonathan Hunt, meanwhile, notes the importance of giving customers a “ta-da!” moment. For Hettich this is provided by its LightTower, but anything that offers an element of surprise will have a similar effect.

WHAT'S IN STORE: We hear from a selection of designers about how they’re maximising opportunities in this sector

This element of surprise is something that it used to great effect by Regal Kitchens in Chelmsford, where its hero display is a Schüller design with a hidden door leading to a secret utility room. “Customers love this!” showroom owner John Martin explains. “A lot of our customers haven’t seen this sort of hidden door before so it really offers the ‘wow’ factor, and people love stepping through to the utility.” Additionally, Martin tells us, when we interviewed him for our Showroom of the Month feature, the retailer tries to set itself apart through its attention to detail – with the internal elements and dressing that makes a kitchen pop.

Similarly, at Rugby Fitted Kitchens, is a Next125 gin and cocktail cabinet display that is an excellent example of how proper dressing can make a design come to life. Owner Trevor Scott adds that one of the main principles of good storage design is that of invisibility! It should be concealed behind cabinet doors or drawers until opened in a ‘Grand Reveal!’

He adds that customers are also most interested in products that make access to corners easier, such as Magic and LeMans corners, followed by pull out or Tandem style tall larders. “Wide deep drawers also feature heavily as aesthetically they are very attractive but practically speaking, especially for more elderly or physically infirm customers, bringing the back of a bottom cupboard out to the front makes this otherwise difficult to access space so much more user friendly.”

Finally, Elizabeth Pantling Jones of Lima Kitchens says that her clients are sometimes “caught in the idea that a larder/pantry unit will resolve ALL of their issues, and do not consider the full accessibility of all of their investment. Creating storage plans and flow charts can help with this and prevent their investments prematurely aging and becoming problematic and frustrating.”
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