Kitchen furniture comes in countless styles and materials these days — from simple wooden chairs to cutting-edge plastic and steel tables. Cost, comfort and looks will obviously be high on your agenda when choosing what to buy, but dont forget to think of the practicalities, too.
Breakfast chairs need to be at the right height for eating (you should be able to rest your elbows on the table); bar stools, ideally, need back and footrests. Curvy plastic seats may be trendy but its your tender back may not be able to cope with them.
Spills are unavoidable in a kitchen so the ideal furniture should be sturdy, non-fussy and easy to clean (wood, metal and plastic are all suitable). If you opt for soft furnishings (for the seat of a chair or a stool), make sure the fabric is washable.
In large kitchens, the table is always the focus. In addition to dining, we may use it for working or use it for stylish tabletop displays. What we need these days is a multi-functional piece of furniture. While being sturdy and stable, it must be big enough for your needs.
Wooden tables: Wood can be scrubbed for an old-fashioned washed-out look, waxed for a subtle sheen or lacquered to give a luxurious polished surface. You can use the affordable beech veneers or the expensive solid oak and hardwoods.
Metal tables: Zinc makes a good tabletop but will mark easily, which is, after all, part of its charm. Stainless steel will be strong, flat and hygienic but will also show grease and may scratch, so needs to be cleaned regularly.
Glass tables: Hard and slippery, a glass table won't make for a quiet kitchen but can look cutting-edge modern.
Combination tables: You can mix two materials. An oak table with a steel inset, for example, can look chic. Glass and steel are a classic combination and will give any kitchen avant-garde standing.
Kitchen seating comes in a vast range of styles and materials, from high-backed wooden chairs to curvy plastic ones. Choose a look that fits in with the rest of your kitchen and opt for designs that are simple, sturdy and comfortable.
Chairs: Tall chairs can overcrowd a small kitchen. So if space is limited, stick to low designs or go without chairs altogether.
Benches: A long, low bench will give you plenty of seating without the visual clutter of chair backs and legs. Buy one off the peg or get one made to measure to match the contours and material of your table.
Stools: These are an alternative but they wont give you the comfort of a conventional seat. Also, a mass of legs can make a room seem cluttered. Breakfast bars usually demand tall stools. Choose ones with footrests and backrests if possible and, as always, try before you buy.
If you have chairs with fabric seats and backs, choose a design that lifts the rest of the kitchen. Opt for a bright colour or an extravagant pattern. To make life easier, substitute standard material for waxed cloth or PVC, which can be wiped down.
In a tiny kitchen, you wont have much space for furniture. So rather than making rash purchases that you might regret later, spend a little time planning exactly what you actually need.
Built-in: Fitted furniture is far less obtrusive than free-standing pieces and takes up less room. Existing structures, such as a windowsill or a counter-top, can be subtly extended to create integral sitting or eating areas. Making them moveable will give you even more flexibility.
Flat-pack and foldaway: The worktop that swings out to form a kitchen table, the foldaway chairs, the vegetable rack that can be pulled wherever you need it, and the flat-pack stool — such adaptable furniture is ideal for a tiny space. Dont forget, however, that you will need a place to store it when not in use.
Doubling: The best furniture for a small space is that which does two jobs at once: the stool that turns into a table, the hollow chair that conceals storage space, the bench that doubles as a shelf. Many such dual-purpose designs are available in the market these days.
See-through: Lighter pieces seem less obtrusive. Choose materials that let the light through (glass, Perspex, wire mesh) and opt for fluid shapes that wont dominate the room. They are available in various designs, from top-of-the-range classics to inexpensive mass-market plastic tables.
Every kitchen needs a spot of display space to make it personal. A small wall unit with shutters and drawers can be complemented with some open shelves for showing off your possessions. But smaller, more subtle pieces, such as a corner shelf or a tiny cubby-hole in a row of units can make all the difference — even if you just use them for a bunch of flowers.
Add the unexpected
Dont let your kitchen turn into a bland utility space; add a quirky piece of furniture to the mix. An antique walnut armoire (a table built within a large cabinet) is a great off-beat option to hold your crockery, for instance. Industrial pallets can be stacked up to create an eccentric ad hoc vegetable rack. Think laterally and give your kitchen a good dose of individuality.
(The author is an interior design consultant, specialising in the design of corporate and residential interiors. As a senior faculty member at a Calcutta institute, she has delivered lectures, guided research and conducted projects in the field of Housing & Interior Design for over two decades. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )