Kitchen unit design ideas, inspiration & pictures

How are kitchen cabinets installed?

If installing a new kitchen sounds like a task that you simply aren’t up to, you might be better off hiring a team of professional fitters to carry the job out for you. But, it is worth knowing the process, just in case you do have enough rudimentary DIY skills to have a go yourself. Once you have selected your new kitchen cupboards and taken delivery of them, this is how you go about hanging them:

Start with your first cabinet, in order to give you an accurate pilot hole in the wall. Drill and insert a wall plug, then check the cabinet will be level, before hanging and screwing in place. Repeat along your whole wall, checking that each cabinet is level and that each door can open and function properly.

As well as attaching your cabinets to the wall, they need to be screwed together, to form a cohesive and weight-bearing system.

In the case of bottom cabinets, you’ll need to add kick panels, to hide the legs that support them.

Which materials make for good cabinets and how much will they cost?

We are living in an age where convenience is king, which means that bespoke carpentry is no longer your only option for new kitchen units, as built-in varieties are freely available now. A number of shops now carry ready to buy cabinets and doors, but which material will work best for you, your needs and budget?

Commonly-used woods, their properties and costs

Red Oak (Strong, durable, mid-cost)

White Oak (Durable, stronger than Red Oak but also more expensive)

Hard Maple (Light in colour, medium density, expensive)

Hickory (Lighter than oak but with similar properties and has a natural finish)

Cherry (Very hardwearing, contemporary and darkens with age)

Birch (Durable, light in colour, expensive)

Ash (Strong, durable, light in colour)

Pine (Soft, pale and inexpensive)

Exotic woods, their properties and costs

Mahogany (Red in tone, stains well and is very hard)

Walnut (Dark brown with beautiful grain, expensive)

Ebony (Exceptionally dark wood, best suited for decorative inlays)



Laminate units are a little bit different, as they are made of multiple layers of sheet materials, sealed with a plastic coating (the layers are pressed together under high heat). The finished result is a material that is stain resistant, easy to maintain and relatively cost-effective, but it is difficult to repair, if damaged, as the layers will be exposed.

Laminates can be accessorised with real wood or even metal trim.

Stainless Steel

Contemporary kitchen design has seen stainless steel kitchen units really coming into their own, in terms of stylish, beautiful and hardwearing additions to a practical space in the home. They contribute to a hygienic and sleek finish that is reminiscent of professional kitchens and are non-toxic, recyclable, therefore sustainable, and work in any setting.

The downside of stainless steel units is that they have a tendency to show any and all scratches and fingerprints. They can also be a little expensive, due to them being so fashionable right now.

What kind of kitchen units should I use in my small kitchen?

Professional kitchen planners are adept at coming up with new and innovative ways to make more of a small kitchen, but if you want to try and design something yourself, there are some guidelines to take into account. Naturally, you don’t want to drown out any and all usable space with a slew of cabinets, so you need to think about placement, materials and, where appropriate, alternatives to standard cupboards.

When starting your small kitchen design process, bear the following ideas and tips in mind:

Small cabinets always work best in small kitchens. It’s a case of keeping everything proportional.

Use smart designs, so as to open up more potential in the cabinets you do install. Keep items such as larder cupboards in mind, when trying to design with innovation and clever solutions in mind.

The best idea is to build up, not out, in a small kitchen, as the available space will quickly get swallowed up. Installing cabinets up to your ceiling will help to create a seamless and integrated aesthetic.

Where possible, combine appliances, storage and cabinet space into one. This means that integrated appliances are a must!

To add to your floor cabinets, you can think about using shallow complementary units, to create a proportional freestanding island.

Adding racks to the back of your cabinet doors will add serious functionality, while also doing away with the need for more bulky cupboards than you need.

Use pale colours on your cabinet doors, to contribute to a lighter and more airy feel in your kitchen.