Interiors writer CAROL BURNS offers some timely tips on how to make that most important kitchen of your home spaces a proper showstopper.

The hub of the home, the centre of any decent party – the kitchen has become the star of every house, big or small. And if the kitchen is the king of the house (it is), the kitchen island is its throne. Done well, the kitchen island can serve for cooking, eating, cleaning and even catching up on a bit of paperwork (the lighting is perfect).

When it comes to fitted kitchens, we’ve moved on from wall-to-wall and floor to ceiling pine cupboards (and the endless searches for condiments). As kitchens have opened up, so has its storage. Shelving, racks and work tables have created a more work-a-day look, adding a sprinkle of the feel of commercial kitchens. Soften the look by combining stainless steel with solid oiled wood (bamboo is proving popular).

High on my wish list is a String shelving system ( This oh-so-clever storage system was designed by clever Swedish designers in the 1950s. It employs vertical wall brackets and an endless combination of shelves, cupboards and storage solutions that can be arranged at any height or combination. It’s the antidote to the white soft closing cupboards and fake marble-veined granite tops that were so in favour.

Benjamin Moore kitchen paint in silver gray.

Chances are if you have invested in a kitchen (the average cost now tops more than £10,000) you expect it to last beyond the current trend. That’s perhaps why whites and off-whites remain so popular – and it’s not a bad idea. You can add colour and liveliness with interchangeable kitchen accessories and a few framed prints on the wall. A Kitchenaid mixer in a vibrant colour (they look so good, you don’t need to use it) and a chrome-encrusted coffee machine will add some bling.

If you are going for a classic simple look, make sure it is made from materials built to last. And ideally one with surfaces suitable to paint if you get bored. Cupboard doors can also now be wrapped, in a heat-treated type of shrink wrap in a choice of colours which is becoming available. You can get a DIY version, but only attempt this if you have a proven skill at getting the bubbles out of wallpaper.

Lighting in a kitchen is often overlooked, with just a few retina-burning spotlights in place. Add some fun with under cupboard lighting that gives it a soft glow. Or go for motion-sensitive lights. You don’t need an expensive electrically fitted system, you can use some of the simple lighting options from your DIY or decorating store and choose string lighting that simply plugs in.

Original BTC Phane Pendants.

Elsewhere you should invest in lighting where it is needed. Where you cook needs to be brightly lit, where you eat, doesn’t. Think of your kitchen as made up of zoned areas with each zone having its own lighting needs. Don’t forget to make the most of natural lighting. Most people have window dressings, even if it’s just a roller blind, but as the house usually sits at the back of the house, it’s worth asking: do I need them? You’d be amazed how much extra light comes from removing window dressings entirely. Give it a try and make the most of all that coastal light.

Looking for coastal inspiration for interior design? Check out our article here.