Don’t underestimate just how important good kitchen design is. If designed properly, your kitchen has the potential to be the heart of your office.

We’ve all worked in an office with an awful kitchen. It can be irritating and make you feel bitter. Does my boss expect me to eat at my desk? I don’t get paid enough to eat out every day. The good news is that designing a functional and easy-on-the-eyes kitchen isn’t difficult.

Not everything needs to be open plan

Have you ever noticed how much heat and steam the dishwasher generates? Or how quickly the smell of burnt toast wafts into the adjacent workspace? It’s impractical to treat the kitchen the same as other parts of the office.

Keep in mind that stale air doesn’t only mean disruption for employees; it means they aren’t getting the oxygen they need to keep alert. You simply have to have the proper number of vents for the size of the space and electronics in it. For AMC Networks, we built a kitchen that's situated away from the main breakout lunch space. This lets staff heat up, chop up and organise their lunches away from the open plan workspace. Plus, you can give a separate space its own distinct visual identity.

Often we’re asked to build a kitchenette at one end of the open plan office. Our advice is to use these smaller kitchenettes as teapoints, and that a larger purpose-built kitchen is provided elsewhere in the office.

Make sure it's hard-wearing

Don’t skimp on quality. Hardwearing, easy-to-clean and stain-resistant surfaces may be pricey at the outset of your fit out, but they’re worth it in the long run. Don’t be tempted by fixtures and fittings designed for domestic kitchens, you’ll need catering quality to ensure longevity. Your family is a lot smaller than your team!

Check out Superdrug’s canteen for a great example of a functional but funky catering-style office kitchen.

Give the design purpose

Towers of cereal boxes, a fridge door overloaded with condiments, a counter crammed with tea canisters. If your kitchen has lost its way, it’s time to get back to basics. Don’t get so carried away with colourful splashbacks and trendy metro tiles that you forget to provide practical storage and food prep areas.

Ensure that you have plenty of storage, not only for crockery and cutlery but for personal food items too. As far as possible, keep counters clutter-free by using accessible cupboards or storage boxes. These should be easy to clean and wipeable.

We recommend keeping appliances on wider counters too, so they don’t interfere with people preparing meals. Lastly, ditch the kettle and install an instant hot / cold Zip tap instead. We did this in our own office; what a lifesaver for big tea rounds!

The (noisy) lunch club

Kitchens are natural gathering spots, whether you’re chatting over lunch or a cup of tea. Your design and fit out can keep noise from travelling by using partitions to create a physical boundary like the glass used in Taylor Wimpey Central London’s office.

Your furniture choices can help too. Selecting dining booths with a high backs and made with noise-absorbing fabric can be a huge help. Positioning your kitchen away from contemplative areas is another design consideration that can help keep distractions to a minimum.

Set the ground rules

To make sure your kitchen design and fit out works for everyone; ensure employees know what’s expected of them. Will you chuck out leftover food in the fridge every Friday afternoon? Do employees need to pack the dishwasher as they go? Is a food cover mandatory when using the microwave? Will you have a daytime cleaner and what can staff do to help?

Without being a damp dish towel, all common areas need to have a communal rule book that’s communicated in a respectful manner. Your employees are adults with common sense so don’t be overbearing but do make sure that everyone can equally enjoy the space.

Let there be light

Kitchens clearly need good lighting. Install lighting that’s bright enough for people to see what they’re chopping but that doesn’t add any eye strain.

For EUSA Pharma, we added down lights to create a more domestic feel – this is becoming more and more popular in office design. Many of our spaces now include ambient lighting like these under-cabinets lights, but you may also consider spot lighting or even in-cabinet bulbs.

Remember even if you have a naturally well-lit space, you’ll need to install brighter lights so your kitchen doesn’t become gloomy in winter months.

Space for everyone

A crammed kitchen is an unhappy one. Provide enough space for your employees to eat and relax without feeling rushed by others using the space.

Mix up different tables and seating areas and avoid the dreary school lunchroom look. Some of our favourite kitchens have dining areas, café style tables and long benches. This is what we did for Lane4 and the result is a buzzing atrium kitchen kitted out with funky furniture that looks good… and does the job!