Kitchen Not Kitchen

Ideas for your kitchen with a design style that bucks the fitted kitchen norm.

Kitchens are mostly designed to maximise the space for both storage and worktop preparation around the fundamental components of cooking, cooling and cleaning. Add in your preferred style and finish, be that MFC, painted or natural. The result is a purposeful space that fits wall to wall, corner to door jam and conforms to the typical working kitchen triangle design with an island unit or peninsula if budget and space allow.


With the ongoing trend for open plan kitchen and living spaces, designing the fundamental kitchen components within a space that looks stunning but not traditionally fitted, is what I class as Kitchen Not Kitchen aka the Unobtrusive or Anti Kitchen.


I am clearly going through a rebellious phase, instigated by a client requesting feedback on a kitchen design and specification by another studio.

The layout ticked all the boxes on the desires list but was predictably dull.

Although the room was snug and had awkward doors and windows, the opportunity to make the kitchen special was right there with some considered design thinking – it's remarkable how a simple change of door hinging can transform a space – and for very little cost.


There is a plentiful supply of fitted kitchens for all budgets, from Wren to Plain English, and this has resulted in a uniform selection of cupboard sizes and styles. However, your kitchen is uniquely yours and probably the most frequently used area of your home, so ideal for enhancing with your style and personality.

Many beautiful kitchens featured in magazines, the ones we "Oo and Ah" about, those that get pinned and shared multiple times, are clutter-free with matchy-matchy worktops and splashbacks and on-trend handles. They also have the feeling of being more than just a kitchen; these kitchens feel welcoming before functional because the design does not conform to the normal fitted kitchen rules. Achieving this style is not hard, but it may make your showroom kitchen designer frown as they work out how to meet your needs from their standard list of components.


Here are some great Kitchen Not Kitchen styles and my explanation of how you can recreate a similar look in your own kitchen, be that a part room update or a necessary new kitchen.

Pleasingly Easy Three Tone Style

In this divided kitchen space, the cooking, cooling and cleaning are concealed by the substantial peninsula with worktop overhang.

Cabinets are sleek handleless touch open and close, enhancing the Kitchen Not Kitchen look, and storage is abundant with three metres of cabinetry under the peninsula alone.

The surface-mounted sink has a short height understated tap - a key element that shouts 'I am a kitchen!'

A neat part of this kitchen is the downdraft extractor which noticeably replaces an overpowering extraction hood on the wall, leaving the simple floating shelves and mini subway tiles as centre the of attention instead.

Look out for my 'Hoodwinked' future blog post which will expand on the extraction conundrum.


The simple wooden worktop colour is picked out with the internally bronzed pendant lights which subtly warm the off-white painted cupboards and wall palette.

  • Colour Scheme: White, Bronze & Black.

  • Design steals: Plain panelling to the rear of the peninsula means no scuff prone ledges where the stools are naturally going to generate shoe marks.

  • Oddities for the design team to facilitate: None.

Film Set Glamour

This room connects the living, dining and kitchen areas of this home.

It maximises the property features within the Kitchen Not Kitchen style with super tall floor to ceiling open display shelving behind the rail ladder (loving all those high up, fitted cupboards). This balances with the bookshelves on either side of the concealed extractor on the right-hand side of the room.


The tall corbels cleverly frame the tiled splashback area and connect the colour scheme from worktop to wall cupboards. The few visible cupboard knobs are small and discreet against the dark painted kitchen cupboards, as are the cupboard frame hinges so aiding the subtleness of the fitted cabinetry. The large central, solid island with its skinny, same stone worktop conceals wine stores and even more cupboard space. Ok, so the tap is very 'kitchen' but is blanched out by the wonderful light coming in through those windows and fades away on the pale stone worktops.


I love the two-tone palette of white ceiling and walls that cleverly meet the dark graphite green painted cabinetry, mimicking the ceiling beams and complementing the expanse of dark floorboards. And those awesome over table lights, wow.

  • Colour Scheme: White and Graphite Green with Golden Jute accents.

  • Design steals: Framing the splashback area with corbels neatly contains the tiles. Painting the kitchen cupboards the same colour as the windows, architraves and room features.

  • Oddities for the design team to facilitate: Few, with standard height wall cupboards it will be possible for a designer to arrange a combination to custom fit to a higher than average ceiling with a filler panel scribed to finish. Or for a higher cost, you can commission bespoke cabinetry for a perfect fit.

Contemporary Sleek and Practical


In this modern open plan space, the working kitchen is hidden by a taller, tiled and beautifully curving wall that houses the cleaning and wet areas and shields the rest of the room from the kitchen activities.

With tall cabinets concealing cooking and cooling, and neatly containing the hob area, this is a very on-trend style. The rear wall frames the Kitchen Not Kitchen with touch close upper cupboards, set to meet the ceiling exactly.

The recessed lower level, Oak veneer cupboards over the hob integrate extraction and add a natural texture to an otherwise smooth scheme. I love the very slim beautiful handles on the tall cupboards only, and appreciate the practicality and benefit of the higher wall shielding my preparation and cooking, and wine.

  • Colour Scheme: Quite Complex. Pale satin painted cupboards (think Kitchen Cupboard Paint - Westbury) French Grey glazed tiles with White Glass worktops. Gold Handles, waxed Oak wall cupboards and black accents picked out from the window frames to the pendant lights.

  • Design Steal: The nook created by full depth cabinetry with overhead cupboards, allowing standard depth wall cupboards to be recessed beneath. The side cladding panels neatly add a finished frame.

  • Oddities for the design team to facilitate: Bespoke curved wall – a good fitter will do this. Plumbing consideration and planning.

Seamless Worksurfaces and Art Love


deVOL have totally nailed the look of the homely artsy kitchen space with their Peckham Rye kitchen. This kitchen image has been shared widely since it's launch in 2016 and remains as the deVOL Pinterest profile image. It ticks so many boxes for Kitchen Not Kitchen despite it being clearly fitted left to right in the room.

The simple shaker style cabinetry is totally transformed with the amazing, bold Marble worktop and splashback choice. It makes this room look more like a working larder from Downton Abbey than the family kitchen space it is.

It's the details that make this so different and unique. The gas hob is recessed into the worktop, the drawers beneath are probably aesthetic only as a result, but it's flush mount along with the sink, again flush and formed in the same marble, both seamlessly flow without breaking the worksurface line.

Picking out the brass from the door handles onto the taps, shelf rail, brackets and power points completes the finer details on what is really a simple luxe green scheme.

  • Colour Scheme: Dark Emerald Green with white, grey and gold. Broad planked floor and lime boarded pitch roof cladding.

  • Design Steal: Recessed hob and sink. Big money for a formed sink but an under-mounted sink would produce the same uninterrupted worksurface.

  • Oddities for the design team to facilitate: I would hazard a guess that the window has been tweaked somewhat to make this design work so perfectly, but otherwise the design is very straightforward.

Contemporary Colour Clever

As with many town and city properties, the courtyard space to the rear of the ground floor is prime for a rear or side return (or both) building extension, creating a larger kitchen dining and living area.

As this example shows, a change in ceiling height can be used to influence the kitchen design.


This meets my Kitchen Not Kitchen style with the combination of contrasting colours, different cupboard heights and the simplicity of the single lever, retractable wall mounted tap set onto the full-length glass wall panel.



The block design peninsula with over floating worksurface breaks the kitchen lines, shielding the fundamentals from the rest of the room.

This clever design matches the change in ceiling height with the wall cupboard and deep drawer heights. The super-chunky Polyrey® worktops complement the style, and of course, the combination of bold juxtaposed colourful cabinets, worktop and glass make this kitchen a work of art on its own.

  • Colour Scheme: White walls, pale soft grey, teal, dusty aquamarine and pillar-box red.

  • Design Steal: Shelf thickness matching the worksurface thickness is a great way to balance the lines and different height wall cupboards break up the horizontal lines, allowing you to play with colours. Using just short wall cupboards may also save you some money.

  • Oddities for the design team to facilitate: None

Reclaimed and Reloved

If you can make time to hunt out vintage furniture and know a carpenter with a penchant for adaptation, you can create an amazing and eclectic Kitchen Not Kitchen with a fitted furniture arrangement, and feel smug about your eco-credentials too.

In this delightful example kitchen room, the substantial galley peninsula tucks away the washing, cooling and bins and conceals the large range cooker. The simple tiled splashback panel aligns with the taller armoire neatly, and everything is to hand from the sink area. It is a simple layout that utilises the fantastic original construction qualities of reclaimed materials.

Resellers like @themalthousecollective, @vinterioruk and salvage yards around the country like @beechfieldreclamation local to me here in Devizes, will provide some unique pieces that can be combined to create your kitchen.

  • Colour Scheme: Plaster pink, white and natural waxed pine. Painted distressed white floor boards.

  • Design Steal: Armoires can become fitted larders or dressers, and pews can be adapted to create peninsulas or islands. Old haberdashery cabinets make wonderful drawer packs, and some have glass drawer fronts which help an island unit look less chunky.

  • Oddities for the design team to facilitate: This is not the kind of solution a high street kitchen showroom designer can produce. Aim to find your key elements then commission a freelance designer to make it all function together – ask me!


To summarise, these Kitchen Not Kitchen examples and ideas can be easily transferred into your home, and while they all are 100% working kitchens, they are also very lovely places to hang out within.


Spending time in a kitchen cum living cum dining room is very social and enjoyable, having the kitchen fundamentals integrated into a less fitted design inspires a more homely ambience. Don't be constricted by the boring left to right fitted kitchen layout, dare to make your kitchen space yours.


Yep, I think I have got that off my chest now!


Ask me about my kitchen design and specification services, with 1000's of designs completed and installed, I can provide an exemplary service just right for your needs and budget.


Stay safe and keep following for my next kitchen design style blog, Hoodwinked.

Best wishes from Charlotte

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by Charlotte Hill-Baldwin

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