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How to make sense of kitchen design jargon

While we’re all wowed by beautifully painted cabinetry and hi-tech cooking gadgets, if you’re after your dream kitchen, you need to get to grips with the terminology, so you know exactly what to look for. After all, knowledge is power, so get your notebooks and pencils at the ready and prepare for a lesson in essential kitchen catchphrases…


Jargon bust No 1: Butler and Belfast sinks

In truth, there’s not a lot of difference between a butler and a Belfast sink. Both are wide, deep, square sinks made from hard-wearing fire clay, and were originally used by the butler of the household for washing glasses.

Some sources suggest Belfast sinks had overflows, whereas those designed for use in London didn’t, as water was in shorter supply, but there’s no firm evidence for this.

Today, these big, beautiful designs have been updated in slate, steel, concrete and even copper. Their shape and depth are what make them distinctive.

Discover more kitchens with Belfast sinks on Houzz.

Family kitchen

Jargon bust No 2: Monobloc mixer tap

Taps have come a long way since the days of simple hot and cold spouts. The monobloc mixer is a fancy name for a kitchen tap that dispenses hot and cold water from a single spout, so it can be mixed to the desired temperature and flow.

The mixer is operated by a single lever or two levers, and it can come with a range of add-ons, including a cold filtered water option and a handy pull-out spray. 

In search of the perfect kitchen tap? Here’s what to look for

Private House, Cotswolds

Jargon bust No 3: Seamless sinks and surfaces

Seamless sinks and surfaces are sinks that are moulded into the worktop while it’s being manufactured.

An all-in-one sink and surface is sleek and sophisticated for a 21st century kitchen. There are no joints or seams to harbour dirt or bacteria, and the designs can be thermoformed (heated and moulded) and cut to include moulded, one-piece splashbacks and drainer grooves. If you’re after this look, try an acrylic-based worktop, such as Corian.

The Loft Shaker Kitchen by deVOL

Jargon bust No 4: In-frame doors
An in-frame door is a door that’s crafted separately from the carcass and sits just within the frame, so some of the frame is visible. The door is then fitted into the frame using good-quality hinges to create a robust and solid unit that will last for years.

Barn conversion

Jargon bust No 5: Appliance bank

An appliance bank is just another way of saying ‘a group of appliances placed together’. It means everything is accessible when you’re cooking and, if the bank is at eye level, you won’t have to do any bending or reaching for things.

It also means you can make a feature of your appliances or tuck them away discreetly, depending on your preference.


Jargon bust No 6: Induction hobs

Induction hobs may look the same as glass-topped ceramic ones, but they function differently.

Glass ceramic hobs provide heat through electrical heating elements under the surface. An induction hob uses circular copper coils beneath the glass. Electricity is passed through the coils, creating an electromagnetic field, which creates heat energy within the pan itself upon contact rather than heating it from the outside. It basically turns the pan into a cooker, rather than just heating up the pan.

Induction hobs are quicker and more energy efficient (and so cheaper to run) than glass-topped ones, but they’re also pricier to buy.

Contemporary white gloss kitchen

Jargon bust No 7: Composite worktops
Put simply, a composite worktop is made of ‘engineered stone’ – a mix of natural quartz particles, additives and pigments to create a beefed-up, man-made version of stone, which is hard-wearing, easy to care for and available in a huge range of colours and thicknesses.
Different brands, such as Silestone and Caesarstone, have their own formulas, which contain different ingredients in different ratios, but as a benchmark, a top-quality composite will have a very high percentage of natural quartz, usually more than 90%.

Open Plan Kitchen with Peninsula
Jargon bust No 8: Peninsular unit

A peninsular unit is an additional worktop that juts out from a run of wall units, or simply from a wall. It can be kitted out with appliances, extra storage and dining facilities, and it can also help to create a practical and ergonomic L or U-shaped layout. Think of it as a kitchen island that’s attached to the wall units or wall.

Is your kitchen in need of a refresh? Check out these easy DIYs

The Silverdale Shaker Kitchen by deVOL
Jargon bust No 9: Cornice and pelmet
More commonly found in traditional or classic kitchens, a cornice is a horizontal, decorative moulding that runs along the top of a cabinet. A pelmet is the smaller trim that goes around the bottom of a wall unit.

Task lighting, which is designed to help you perform tasks better, is important in a kitchen, but don’t forget about accent lighting, too. Accent lighting focuses on a particular area or object to highlight it and create an inviting atmosphere.

Teddy Edwards Brooklands

Jargon bust No 10: Accent lighting
Task lighting, which is designed to help you perform tasks better, is important in a kitchen, but don’t forget about accent lighting, too. Accent lighting focuses on a particular area or object to highlight it and create an inviting atmosphere.

About our expert View all posts by this expert

Houzz Experts

Houzz is the leading platform for home renovation and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world.

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