SUSTAINABLE KITCHENS - THE ULTIMATE GUIDE.

Updated: 3 hours ago



THE HEART OF THE HOME


I think we all agree the kitchen really is the heart of any home. It’s where we come together and celebrate the ritual of preparing and eating food. And, don’t we all love to hang out when food is being prepared, there is something comforting and deeply connecting when we cook.

I know I would love to help my Mother in the kitchen, tasting and picking the remnants out of the mixing bowls seeing the meal come together. This ritual of preparing, cooking and eating food takes us back to the roots of who we really are as human beings.




A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT KITCHENS.

All animals eat, but we are the only animal that cooks. So cooking becomes more than a necessity, it is the symbol of our humanity, what marks us as different from the rest of nature. Food is more important to us than anything else we need, yes, even sex!


For the sake of this blog, let’s start at the middle ages. Food was cooked in cauldrons over an open fire, the smoke from them was pretty awful, but it was where people congregated because of the warmth, light (from the fire), and of course the food.


The kitchen was becoming quieter, cleaner, better organised, and easier to work in; a source of pride, and slowly a place worthy of entertaining guests.ovens were widely used in domestic kitchens with electric ovens also starting to become popular.


Ovens were mainly wood-fuelled, then coal and finally a Brit created a gas oven in 1826 - unbelievably that’s nearly 200 years ago! By the 1920’s gas ovens were widely used in domestic kitchens with electric ovens also starting to become popular. the latin coquina, became kichens without a 'T' and then kitchen. Cook also derived from a similar latin word ‘coquere’. I'm sure you're gripped by this information! But, we do learn something new every day!


Ovens were mainly wood fuelled, then coal and finally a Brit created a gas oven in 1826 - unbelievably that’s nearly 200 years ago! By the 1920’s gas ovens were widely used in domestic kitchens with electric ovens also starting to become popular.


Post war, we start to see walls being removed to create a more open plan layout this was driven by new technology, smarter looking kitchens and people wanted to show them off.

The kitchen was becoming quieter, cleaner, better organised and easier to work in; a source of pride, and a place worthy of entertaining guests.


A 1950's kitchen. Image credit The Daily Meal

By the 1980’s, the idea of a completely open kitchen, with appliances designed to be shown off, came into being and a lot of us have not looked back since.


Some might say this move away from separate dining rooms to an open plan layout is a loss, but it depends on how you live your life, if you don’t entertain much then perhaps an open plan layout works for you.


PRO'S AND CON'S OF AN OPEN PLAN LAYOUT


Pros:

  • A spacious feeling

  • Physically more space, if you have an extension built.

  • The kitchen needs to be kept tidy open-plan spaceon with the addition of roof lights etc.

  • Promotes conversation between family and guests

  • Inclusive to family and visitors

  • Continuity of finishes in the open plan space

  • Harmony and flow between spaces

  • Casual and modern way to live your life

  • Freedom to move around.


Cons:

  • Lack of privacy when cooking

  • Smells from the kitchen area can be strong

  • Kitchen needs to be kept tidy

  • Can be noisy

  • Might feel you need to spend more money on a kitchen especially if it is seen all of the time.

  • No dedicated dining room for special occasions

  • Natural light might not be as good (depending on architectural configuration)

  • A dedicated dining room could sit there for months, unused.


Open plan kitchen and dining area.

LET'S REMIND OURSELVES OF WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO ACHIEVE WITH A SUSTAINABLE KITCHEN.


  • A heathy home which we create by adopting certain design principles, not dissimilar from how we would approach the design of any interior.

  • The biggest difference is the products that we use. We can make a positive difference by using products and materials that help reduce the use of chemicals, pollution, waste and energy consumption and do not have a negative impact on us and the planet during the manufacturing process and after.

  • Long term value added onto our homes.



SO, WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS IN DESIGNING YOUR SUSTAINABLE KITCHEN?


Source some images of kitchens that you really like, this will help establish, style and colour, you may see different elements from separate kitchens that you would like to see used together.


We use Pinterest to source these images and create private boards of designs you like, this helps you form a clearer picture and can be shared with anyone helping you to create your ideal kitchen, by collating all of these ideas, loves and dislikes in one place. Let me know if you need help with how to do this?



Let’s look at the questions you need to be asking yourself - it's handy to jot the answers down .


  1. What is your budget, be honest and realistic with this number. Your project can then be tailored around this budget, saving you time and money.

  2. Is it in the perfect location for you in the house? Note, changing locations might not be possible and could be expensive depending on where your utilities are located.

  3. What do you not like about your kitchen and what would you like to change.

  4. Would you consider keeping your kitchen units and re-painting them?

  5. Open plan or separate dining area

  6. Incorporate an island unit?

  7. Re-use or replace appliances

  8. Wine coolers, double ovens or a range?

  9. Fridge built-in, free-standing with or without water dispenser?

  10. Materials you like the feel of.

  11. Would you like to incorporate the latest technology for lighting, heating, appliances and sound?

  12. Underfloor heating with or without supplemental radiators? Your BTU requirements would need to be calculated.

  13. How important is sustainability for you, how much are you willing to adopt?

  14. Is it important for you to use UK products and manufacturers?

  15. What are deal breakers for you?


Do you want to save some time, money and a lot of stress? Invest in a professional designer to help manifest the visions for your space and manage the project for you.


When you have your list, I highly recommend a construction package to be produced and hire a professional to do this for you, it will be worth the investment on the front end knowing what you are getting along with a well thought out plan. Once you have a layout you like, the next step is to pull together the products and finishes for your kitchen. Once you have this information and you’re happy with it, the package can then can be sent to builders, a cabinet maker or kitchen manufacturer for pricing.



LETS' LOOK AT THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS THAT MAKE A WELL PLANNED AND SUSTAINABLE KITCHEN



1. LAYOUT.


Maybe you aren’t changing the layout at all, which is fine. Is the ‘TRIANGLE’ relationship of sink, fridge and oven working for you. This age old tried and tested principle kind of makes sense and if your layout doesn’t reflect this then now might be the time to tweak that?




Sinks are nearly always located under a window, I guess it makes sense to do this, standing there dreaming of a sandy beach and blue skies….but there is no hard or fast rule, it’s up to you, you are in control of your final kitchen, a professional can only advise.


Please make sure you clearly communicate to your designer or builder what you what like to include in your design to achieve a stress-free cooking heaven. Communication is King.



2. LIGHTING.


Natural light is important, perhaps the most important factor in any room in the home. If we don’t have it then we need to replicate it as best we can by using energy saving LED lamps; there are still a lot of homes that don’t have them, so a refurbishment is the perfect time to change over, the initial outlay is worth the savings you will make, if you have spot lights the electrician may be able to re-use the fittings.


If you are considering an extension this is a wonderful opportunity to create more natural light with roof lights and large glazed sliding doors.

Delicious Devol Kitchen for a client in the Cotswolds.


I’ve mentioned Circadian rhythm before, as a reminder, this is the natural day to night cycle that tell us when to wake up and when to sleep. We can replicate this in our homes, with some adjustment of course.


A warm white lamp or bulb should be used in kitchens and bathrooms, you will find them classified between 2700k-4000k which is the lamp heat output, and has a yellow tint to the light. I would recommend to put your lighting on different circuits with dimmer switches to control the light levels, create task lighting or layers of light when needed.


Smart systems can be integrated if you would like another level of control by using Nest which can be retro-fitted or an electronic system such as Lutron which has to be hardwired, meaning you can only fit this into extensive refurbishment work where it’s okay to chase walls and repair them ready for decorating.

3. HEATING.


I would definitely recommend underfloor heating in your kitchen area. If it’s a relatively small space, then install an electric system as it’s straightforward to retro-fit this, unless you have zero floor void available. If it is a new build or extension then consider the possibility of installing a water fed system that can be connected to the radiators and can be timed on and off with them. If you are using very thick stone, underfloor heating may not work at all. Ask your builder for recommendations.


  • Even though underfloor heating will cost about 30% more to install over radiators, your longer-term energy costs over the year could be halved.

  • This is also a more natural form of heating and requires lower flow temperatures due to its increased surface area.

  • The air that is circulated from underfloor heating is cleaner than the air pushed around by radiators. Along with warm air, radiators push around moisture.

  • Having moisture in the air can result in damp and mould forming, reducing the air quality of your home environment.


The BTU output for your radiators or underfloor heating will need to be calculated by your heating engineer/builder. BTU means: British Thermal Unit. Radiators can be quite discreet nowadays, or, they can be a feature, your final decision should be based on the overall style you are trying to create.


Stelrad and Myson manufacture their radiators in the UK and offer a cross section of styles for every interior style.












4. KITCHEN CABINETS.

I don’t need to tell you there are thousands of kitchen manufacturers to choose from all at different price points. To buy kitchen furniture that ticks the sustainable box we should consider a kitchen that’s manufactured here in the UK from FSC approved timbers.




FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council and guarantees the woods you are purchasing come from well managed forests helping to ensure our wonderful forests are maintained and alive for future generations.




I believe our kitchens should be designed and built to last, the style should be timeless but with lots of personality added to it which can be achieved by accessories and hints of colour which can be easily changed if desired. We need to move away from our throw-away society and look forward to longevity and lasting interiors.

THE WAY CABINETS ARE MADE.


Unless you are purchasing a solid wood kitchen, which isn’t always recommended because of potential shrinkage and expansion from the varying temperatures in a home, most kitchens cabinets are made from chipboard or MDF and then veneered in timber or spray painted.


Of course the construction and final finish depends on your budget and the style you want to create.


To be honest, there are not many kitchen companies that we can find that are using materials and products that limit the use of chemicals and use earth-friendly manufacturing processes. If you're out there let me know!


A company called Sustainable Kitchens based in Bristol, do. They produce modern, classic and timeless kitchens, using FSC timbers, water based paint, and are committed to making the planet greener by offsetting as much carbon as possible. I particularly like their formaldehyde free plywood cabinets. Their kitchens begin at £35,000, upward.



Any colour and combination of finishes is possible and you can be as creative as you would like. I would recommend that if this kitchen refurbishment is not in your ‘forever’ home, then keeping to finishes and colours that might appeal to most people is prudent. (perhaps not with a polished brass worktop or backsplash!) But, you need to love it and live with it.




An interesting finish that can be applied to the face of the cabinets is linoleum - yes, you read correctly! It can look really very good giving you a contemporary, sustainable and hard wearing surface. Years ago we used it for floors with inlaid patterns. It's only re-surfaced (forgive the pun) recently as an interior finish again. Available in a good selection of colours, this material can be creatively used. Also used for floors, which I've mentioned further on.


Forbo Nairn manufacture a product called Furniture Linoleum this is a solid core colour and has many positive benefits.


These points are taken from the Forbo Nairn website.

  • Made from 97% natural raw materials, 72% of which are renewable and will grow back within 10 years

  • The flax plant is Marmoleum's key ingredient, linseed oil.

  • Marmoleum is made with 43% recycled content to reduce the need for virgin raw material

  • Marmoleum is 100% biodegradable

  • Of all the electricity used in making the flooring, 100% comes from renewable sources.

  • Marmoleum performs well from the minute it's installed, but it also becomes stronger over time, making it more durable. And because it does not mark, any cuts will join together again and is easy to clean.

  • Topshield2 finish, which, together with naturally antibacterial ingredients, means it is hygienic and needs less cleaning with fewer harmful chemicals.

The images below are credited to The Drawing Room, a Danish design firm who have used lino on these cabinets to provide a very smart modern look with clean lines.

Linoleum used on the front of kitchen cabinets.

Very Scandinavian in style. Linoluem fronted cabinets.


5. STORAGE:


There are many fancy and clever options for storage you can include in your kitchen. Different companies will offer different solutions for you based on your requirements.


One of my most favourite super useful devices is the Lemans corner unit, this piece of equipment cleverly optimises those tricky corners that one can never access properly, well now you can.










A cost-effective and plastic free option for food storage are these containers by IKEA, made form glass with hardwearing and versatile bamboo tops. They’re also very reasonably priced, dare I say - cheap! IKEA has gone a long way in recent months to dispel their reputation as fast furniture manufacturers for a throw-away society, to re-invent themselves as concerned stewards of the planet. By 2030, they are committed to only using renewable and recycled materials and to reduce their climate footprint by an average of 70% per product. Let's hope they stick to this commitment.




6. WORKTOPS AND BACKSPLASH


Natural stone, mainly, granite, has dominated kitchen and bathroom design for around 20 years. In the past 5+ years there has been a widely spread use of quartz as a material. Natural stone suppliers get really angry with misinformation about quartz because a lot of it is made in China or other countries, Turkey as an example, where they use plastic based resins which is a pollutant, so it's important to do the right research into a company if its available.


Quartz has become a real contender for many home refurbishments. I have created an ‘at a glance’ list of ket facts about what it is, performance and environmental impact.



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QUARTZ - AT A GLANCE FACTS


  • Quartz is the second most abundant mineral on earth.

  • Most people think that quartz is a stone, but it actually forms as a crystal. It has been mined for years and commonly used in applications outside of kitchens, notably watches and electronics.

  • Quartz is widespread. It forms in all types of rock. When rocks are eroded over time, quartz is turned into sand or deposited in the soil as well. Most white sands are composed of quartz.

  • This means quartz is not usually shipped from great distances, (Although can be!) which reduces the environmental impact and boosts sustainability.

  • It endures longer than many other materials, and this means that it does not need to be replaced as often. It is very dense and therefore incredibly heavy.

  • Quartz never needs to be sealed, and it is not prone to cracking or staining.

  • It is a low maintenance option that has superior durability over granite and other natural stone.

  • The surface is not porous like natural stone. Therefore, it will not stain, and it is very easy to clean.

  • Quartz can be made with recycled materials such as glass and broken ceramics, mixed with non toxic binders it can then be coloured to replicate marbles with veining.

  • The material holds up well with heat, abrasive cleanings, oils and more.

  • It is available in 20 or 30mm sheets or slabs.

  • Quartz is so durable that many manufacturers offer warranties on their quartz products.

  • Silica dust is a by-product of quartz in the fabrication process. That is why it is important for those working with this material to be protected as it is known as a carcinogenic.


Quartz crystal - a highly abundant mineral.


You will need a good fabricator for the worktop who will come and template your top for you.


To template the worktop you need the following in place.


  • Your base and wall cabinets fitted.

  • Either your actual sink or the DVF file supplied by the manufacturer so the fabricator can cut the hole in the workshop.

  • The same for the range or hob so accurate measurements can be taken.

  • Items such as tap holes and socket outlets (backsplash or pop-up) can be drilled on site.

  • Polished edges are normally completed in the workshop but (small sections) can also be done on site when fitting.

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YOUR BACKSPLASH.


What you use for your backsplash depends on the style of kitchen you are going for. If budget allows, I would continue the worktop on the wall to the underside of the cabinet, in the same materials or thinner, if your supplier can do that, otherwise it would need to be in 20 or 30mm thickness. This looks elegant and luxurious.


I suggest the junction between the back of the worktop and the wall is not left as a line of silicone as this will get dirty and look unsightly after time. It is better to finish this with a small upstand of 100m less or more, in the same material as the worktop, then either paint the remainder of the wall or tile it, the ideal material is a washable and durable surface like a tile.

Full height quartz backsplash with small upstand.



Image, Sustainable Kitchens, using a metro tile and small upstand.

6. FLOORING.

You might like to consider underfloor heating in your new kitchen especially as most of us want to use a tiled flooring surface as a practical solution, but, it's cold underfoot, although I would not recommend going barefoot in the kitchen, too many opportunities for broken bones to occur!

I would suggest a porcelain floor tile. Depending on your floor depth around door thresholds, it should be easy for you to use a 10 or 12mm tile, many of them replicate stone is an authentic way and don't look like cheap copies. Make sure your floor is flat, this is more important than being level, although that helps too! A self-levelling screed will be used to form the sub-floor in preparation to take the tile.


A large format tile laid in a broken bond (very popular) or stacked pattern is widely used. Again this is dependent on your chosen kitchen style.


Broken bond pattern using a stone effect porcelain tile by Mystonefloor.com


I would recommend to choose a tile in a large format, minimising the grout lines, easier to keep clean. This combination will provide a floor that is simple, elegant and practical, creating a timeless backdrop for your kitchen.

If you would like a wooden floor, then I’d suggest a BAMBOO floor as it’s sustainable and repels water better than a timber floor.


Bamboo has been hailed as The sustainable alternative to wood. Is this true? Yes, it is to an extent.


Here’s a list of pro’s to using bamboo.


Pro’s

  • It is a grass and not a tree.

  • It grows rapidly virtually anywhere, cutting encourages regrowth and it fully replenishes in only 5 years.

  • In the time it takes a Douglas Fir tree (commonly used in plywood production) to grow to harvestable size, several species of bamboo could have yielded between 25 and 40 harvests

  • Bamboo absorbs excess carbon in the air.

  • It is 30% harder than oak.

  • It is naturally resistant to mould.

  • Better water resistance to other wood and plywoods.

  • It can be used horizontally or vertically, for furniture, worktops, walls and flooring.

  • Natural bamboo plywood is light in colour. Although it is possible to apply a non-toxic steam treatment to allow the natural sugars in the bamboo to "carbonize" and create darker, almost amber colour tones.


Con’s to using bamboo.


  • Although bamboo can be grown almost anywhere on earth, most of the stock is grown in Asia, meaning it has to be shipped long distances resulting in a higher carbon footprint.

  • Less flexibility in receiving water based decorative finishes due to its water resilience.

  • Visually uninteresting grain, unless used in this herringbone pattern floor.




LINOLEUM.


Following on from the use of Lino on kitchen cabinets...There is one more floor material you may be shocked to even think I might mention because it’s seemingly old fashioned, and that’s Linoleum - god forbid!


Quite honestly, I like Lino, I thinks it’s had a bad rap and been completely overlooked for years now and amazingly, it’s a very healthy and sustainable product. As for looks, you can be as creative as you like with it and it has a great retro vibe about it.


So what is it?


I grabbed this info from the Forbo Nairn website to share with you here. FYI, in case you were wondering, Linoluem is the same a Marmoleum.


How it's Made: (Posted above)


• Made from 97% natural raw materials, 72% of which are renewable and will grow back within 10 years

• The flax plant is Marmoleum's key ingredient, linseed oil.

• Marmoleum is made with 43% recycled content to reduce the need for virgin raw material

• Marmoleum is 100% biodegradable

• Of all the electricity used in making the flooring, 100% comes from renewable sources.

• Marmoleum performs well from the minute it's installed, but it also becomes stronger over time, making it more durable. And because it lasts for so long, and is so easy to clean, Marmoleum has a very low cost of ownership

• Topshield2 finish, which, together with naturally antibacterial ingredients, means the floor is hygienic and needs less cleaning with fewer harmful chemicals.

Approved by Allergy UK, you can relax knowing that Marmoleum contributes to a healthier indoor environment.

I would consider using this product for a kitchen, playroom, studio, home office or any commercial property.




8. PAINT.


A hard wearing and washable emulsion paint for your kitchen walls is a smart idea. Even with good ventilation your walls will become marked and dirty with general wear and tear. A good water based paint with low or zero VOC’s should be used.


Farrow & Ball paint image.

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9. APPLIANCES.


Many of the appliance companies have adopted sustainable practise and policies. This drive for environmental, social and governance (ESG) are expectations from those people that invest in large multi-national companies. This demand for companies to be held accountable is somewhat due to international climate policy commitments from countries around the world, to achieve zero carbon offsets by 2050.


Appliances for our homes are or should be designed and built to last. The investment we make is one where we do not expect to throw away these appliances after 5 years, I know I would like mine to last a lifetime.


One of my go-to appliance manufacturers is Miele, they are beautifully designed products with state of the art functionality. Other strong contenders are:

Gaggenau - Established in 1683. German engineering and manufacture. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Miele - German engineering and manufacture. Some products made in China. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bosch - Parent company is Gaggenau. German engineering and manufacture in Germany, China and the US. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Neff - German engineering and manufacture, some units made in Turkey. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Siemens - German engineering and manufacture, some units made in China. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lecanche - French engineering and manufacture. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sub Zero - American engineering and manufacture. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wolf - American engineering and manufacture. Cost and quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


It depends what level and quality of appliance you are used to and if it’s important for you to have the very best.


It is quite astonishing the technological advances that have been made with many of the higher-end products. Appliances are all most definitely energy saving because they have to be, but also the cooking, cleaning, heat extraction and operation is incredible.


There is an ethical shopping guide that rates the sustainability of the top companies and their products. https://thegoodshoppingguide.com/subject/kitchen-appliances/






Thank you for having an interest in keeping our planet and our homes healthy, you care about making conscious choices for your health as well as our environment. Stay safe and keep well.

😊🙏🌏



I am passionate about helping homeowners to live their B.E.S.T life in their best ever homes. B.E.S.T represents the four pillars of my business and is what I set out to achieve for my clients. This is what it means.


B = Beauty

E = Empowerment

S = Sustainability

T = Transformation


These four pillars can be applied to every aspect of home design, making it clear what our end result objectives are.


If you'd like more tips and updates on healthy and earth friendly products and design, join my private facebook group here I look forward to catching up with you soon.




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SVM Interiors Ltd, 7 Henrietta Street, London, WC2E 8PS.

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