Creating a stir in the kitchen

IF there is one thing the public can say it has learned from the plethora of property and DIY shows on TV - apart from the fact it always pays to get an expert in rather than having a go at electrics yourself - it's that the kitchen is definitely the heart of the home.

Given that so much time is spent here, it's no wonder that consumer spending on kitchens has become a national pastime.

Indeed, up until 2007 the fitted kitchen furniture market in Britain was worth a staggering 1095.1 million. And while that has dropped off in the recession, growth is now projected again.

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Indeed, just two months ago, Ikea's UK operation reported a one per cent increase in sales for the last year, and the underlying growth across its 19 stores was rooted in sales of kitchens and storage units, which rose by 11 per cent.

However it does seem that the trends for kitchens for 2011 prove we're rather more cautious in our choices. Recession-thrift is not yet being thrown out with the recycling.

While there was a certain element of bling around in recent years - sparkly black granite worktops, high gloss units, bigger and bolder US-style fridge freezers, extractor fans which looked like chandeliers - next year the emphasis on more natural materials, organic shapes and appliances once again being hidden away. Kitchens are getting conservative.

Paul O'Brien, business development director of Edinburgh's award-winning designers and retailers, Kitchens International, says: "The 'natural look' is the key kitchen trend at the moment, with customers favouring natural materials such as wood or textured lacquered materials which give depth and character.

"When times are tough customers tend to look for a more traditional timeless look, either by opting for classic furniture or choosing ageless colours such as beige, cream and white, enhanced by an accent colour perhaps in the splashback." According to Kitchens International - which has stores on Westfield Road and Dundas Street - the "living kitchen" idea is still growing in popularity and as a result handle-less furniture is increasingly in demand.

However at Andrew Stout Kitchens on Dalry Road, store manager Paul Nightingale believes timelessness has never gone out of fashion. "Our biggest seller has always been a solid timber door unit and we offer that in natural wood or painted

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"Gloss doors are also popular, but always in white or ivory. I think this will continue, because if people are using their kitchens for more than just cooking they want to have kitchen furniture which is easy on the eye - no-one wants to be replacing their kitchen every year to keep up with fashion."

Of course it's not just units and worktops that make a kitchen, it's all the little incidentals. Kitchen preparation trolleys are apparently set to be a major trend for next year as we take the "grow-your-own" message to heart, and bakeware is also enjoying a nostalgic renaissance, especially in soft pastel colours.

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However for next year, while the pastel colours continue, the more vintage design is set to be replaced by a more minimalist look.

No doubt the cakes will taste the same, though.