High Lane Project: Sustainable Kitchen Design

Image: Lived In 365

It’s always a pleasure to finally get round to photographing a completed project.  The nature of interior design is that there tends to be quite a lag between consultation and initial design and the final reveal meaning it’s not for the impatient (which is unfortunate as I’m extremely impatient).

This one in particular I have been looking forward to seeing in person as there was a big focus on sustainability which is a subject that is very close to my heart, not to mention the blue kitchen and very willing cat model.

The project was principally focused on an open plan kitchen, living and dining area.  The owners originally considered a small extension to make the space work better but ultimately decided for a simpler reconfiguration with new kitchen and crittall-style (but actually aluminium rather than steel) glazing.

Image: Lived In 365

From the first meeting, one of the main themes of the brief was sustainability.  This was music to my ears as something I’ve written about a lot in the past and also incorporated into other kitchen designs I have done over the last couple of years.

With that in mind I thought I would share some thoughts about things to consider when you are considering a new kitchen with sustainability high on the agenda.

Suppliers

This kitchen, with its splendid mix of Air Force Blue and Royal Navy units was constructed by Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens, one of a growing number of kitchen companies with a focus on sustainability in the kitchen industry.

SSK are focused on kitchens with sustainability at their heart, considering materials, design and culture when putting together a new design.  Following my initial design, the client worked closely with SSK to finalise a design that delivered on the sustainability front without compromising on style or quality.

There are a range of other similar companies out there including Bristol-based Sustainable Kitchens and Zero Kitchens based in Sussex.

That said, it’s eminently possible to put together a sustainable design with other suppliers, particularly if you consider the elements below in your brief.

Materials

A key consideration at the outset of any sustainable project must, of course, be the materials used.

One feature of this particular kitchen was the Resilica worktop used in the main preparation area.

Resilica is a bespoke worktop and surface material fabricated in the UK from 100% recycled glass waste.  The glass is mixed with a solvent-free resin system to create a product with similar durability and resistance to stone products like quartz.

Resilica use around 700 recycled bottles in a typical kitchen and clients have included The National Trust, London Zoo and The Crucible Theatre.

With the option to create completely bespoke designs and its Terrazzo-style appearance, this is a worktop option which I expect to see more of in kitchen design and there are other companies out there producing similar products to Resilica.

Wood is also a good option for a eco-worktop, particularly if sustainable woods including oak and maple are used.

Another kitchen that I recently completed (but am yet to photograph) utilises plywood doors, an option that is increasingly popular but also highly sustainable due to the wood sourcing and manufacturing process.

Also look out for companies and products with the Foresty Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) accreditations and consider paint finishes that have low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds), releasing less harmful vapours into the atmosphere.

Manufacturing

Although going to a supplier like SSK with a particular sustainability focus is a good start, many other bespoke suppliers can incorporate sustainable products and you may also find that they are very used to working with local suppliers rather than importing materials from overseas.

If you are working with a supplier who has historically been less focused on sustainability it is important to ask questions around the manufacturing processes.  For example Sustainable Kitchens recycle materials, including water, wherever possible and plant and maintain trees in the UK to offset the sustainable wood used in their designs.

Also be prepared to ask questions around the origin of materials and if something seems too good to be true, question if this is because questionable manufacturing processes have been used.

Appliances

When updating your kitchen it can also be a good time to replace old, inefficient appliances with those that prioritise low energy and water use.

Fridge freezers in particular account for a significant proportion of your annual energy bill (around 7%), so choose a model with a good energy rating (A++ at the highest level), particularly if your current model is more than 10 years old.

Also consider buying the smallest model that you really need – for example many of us are powering half empty freezers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – keep it at least 10cm away from the wall and also away from your cooking area to keep it at its most efficient.

Dishwashers use the same energy rating as fridge freezers and many also have an eco setting.  Run a cycle only when the dishwasher is really full, bearing in mind that one cycle costs the same in energy as heating six washing up bowls of water.

 There are other areas to consider in kitchen redesign including energy efficient lighting, enhanced ventilation and flooring materials but also think carefully about where parts of your existing kitchen can be used or at least recycled rather than sent to landfill.

My own kitchen, from Ikea, came with the house when we moved in over 7 years ago and we repurposed it when we knocked a wall down between our kitchen and playroom, and also repainted it a few years later to get a fresh look.  I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming blog post and some other examples of not quite new kitchens that look anything but second best.