The Rise of ‘Broken Plan’ – The Kitchen Tech You Need for a Truly Integrated Living Space

As the trend for open-plan living grows ever more popular, so too does the demand for high-tech kitchen gadgets.

We’re beginning to evolve the open-plan living craze – leading experts to coin the phrase ‘broken plan’ – a clever use of design trickery which borrows the relaxed, sociable atmosphere of open-plan, and lends itself into carefully segmented zones.

So what exactly does that mean?

Basically, that we prefer our open-plan living to feel a bit more cosy.

Sliding partitions and folded doors are great tools to separate cooking and dining space. So too, are lovely sweeping drapes and elaborate room renovations, with ornate pillars and glass panels.

We love this grand kitchen extension, which snuggles an island unit between two beautiful room dividers. This clever design offers separate spaces with a clear division, but still provides a relaxed and easy environment – which allows the homeowner to move seamlessly between cooking dinner and catching up on a TV drama.

Credit: Home Stratosphere

But a more subtle way to introduce a new zone is to use lighting and technology in a clever way.

Flexible and adaptable, our Duoflex strip lighting can be applied under cabinets and along plinths, to highlight food preparation areas and provide ambient lighting to a dining area.

LED’s offer a choice of cool, warm and natural white light – which can be chosen in accordance with your chosen room colours.

For example – warm whites work well with marble work surfaces and heavy oak cabinets, while cool white provides a lovely accent to granite worktops and ashy tones.

I love this idea. But where do we start when creating zones?

Think about the sort of things you enjoy doing in your open plan living space. The kitchen area itself has various ‘natural’ zones – food preparation, cooking, waste disposal – perhaps even somewhere to work through the laundry process.

Credit: Homedit

But away from the kitchen itself, open-plan living encourages somewhere to sit and enjoy your meal after cooking, a space to relax and pour a drink afterwards – perhaps even a dedicated area to do homework, or play with the children before bed.

If you’re a keen cook, and prefer to make the most of your cooking space, our Power System & Shelf offers a useful complement to a broken-plan kitchen. This wall mounted kitchen accessory allows you to browse recipes from an easy-to-see vantage point.

Slot your tablet into the ergonomic shelf compartment, and you’re free to access thousands of recipes from the world-wide-web – much more efficient than flicking through a recipe book with floury hands.

There’s power outlets integrated too, plus USB ports and two mini speakers – handy if you’re watching a video recipe demonstration and have your hands full.

And what if I like to host dinner?

Remember all those parties which ended in the kitchen? There’s a reason the kitchen always becomes the hub of the party. Dinner guests enjoy having easy-access to the contents of your fridge.

Credit: Bread & Olives

Whether you start off the evening with canapes and nibbles served on an island unit, or you spend the day slaving over a three-course-dinner – your guests will always hover where the drinks are flowing, and within easy reach of a late-night cheese board.

So why not make the space more lively?

Our Pull Up Power Pods are integrated into your work surface and are easy to tuck out of sight when they’re not needed. But they’re great little tools to have, and really benefit your broken-plan arrangement.

Ideal for ambient dinner music or to blast out the party-starters, simply plug in your tablet or iPod and press play.

Pull Up Power Pods include power sockets and USB ports, with selected models boasting two miniature speakers too.

Great! But what about my chill-out space?

If you move away from the kitchen, possibly through a glass partition door or an archway framed with linen drapes, and into your living space – what would you expect to find there?

Seating arrangements, floorspace with beanbags and a dedicated dining space are good staples to have. We love this leather sofa and tucked-away dining area, with feature lighting to signal the start of a new zone.

Credit: This Place I Call Home

Ambient and feature lighting allows the mind to easily adjust to the mood of each zone.

Our Illuminated Bluetooth Speaker Light offers a soft glow and gentle background music. Ideal to fit under wall cabinets or in alcoves, this versatile speaker light can easily change the mood of your room – and offers the perfect escape when your dinner party gets too much.

Find out more about our kitchen tech.


Industrial Kitchens – Work This Smart Trend the Easy Way

Industrial kitchens are a huge trend in the current climate. Many restaurants and bars are taking on the popular urban look – but this is fast moving into residential renovations too.

Open shelving, exposed pipework and copper accents all work well to create an industrial feel – but more subtle details can also pull the look together, such as feature brickwork, rustic woods and raw-edged furnishings.

Four Steps to an Industrial Kitchen

Play around with handles

A full kitchen renovation can be a costly and time consuming task. If you’re already happy with the condition of your kitchen, and feel there are many more years to enjoy from your sturdy cabinets and soft-close doors – consider playing around with accessories to achieve your industrial goals.

Mix & match kitchen handles to create a whole new look to your room

Kitchen door handles can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your finished room. Try a copper effect or chunky rose gold handle. Our Black Copper T-Bar Handle pulls two trends together, with a matt black finish and copper accents. One to try if you prefer a subtle nod to the working world.

Take a working lunch

A chunky wooden dining table, with visible knots and grains, is a perfect addition to an industrial kitchen. The Borough Wharf Carwill Dining Table, from Wayfair, offers a rustic appearance with all the brute strength and raw aesthetics of a steel girder.

The feature A-frame is finished in a heavy iron-like material, and contrasts perfectly against the wooden top. Polished just the right amount, with a little bit of grit showing through – this industrial dining table is finished well will mismatched dining chairs.

This dining table marries rustic wood and chunky steel girders









Think about furnishings

Furnishings can make or break a room. Soften an industrial look and bring in some warmth, with chunky drapes and raw-edged rugs. The heaviness of material will play to your industrial feel, whilst still proving and overall ‘cosy’ feel.

This handwoven wool rug from, RnR Wool, is designed with a chunky knit body and handwoven fringe – this offers a sturdy appearance which doesn’t disappear within the finished look.

Choose a heavy linen drape or waffle-weave curtain to line the windows, or separate cooking and dining areas. Play close attention to small details – curtain poles can look out of place if not chosen correctly.

Industrial curtain rod available in a choice of metals to suit your taste

This industrial curtain rod, from Industrial Envy, is available in a choice of metals to suit your preferred look – and with a little imagination, can create a stunning feature in your room.

Consider using this to hang lighting, or picture frames too.

Try feature lighting

One thing which really makes an impact in any room is the type of lighting used. This can easily take your kitchen from cold and unappealing, to bold and interesting. The Harley Floor Lamp from, has an instantly striking appearance which can help to fill a sparse space.

Versatile lighting with adjustable lamps makes a strong statement in a sparse space

Really versatile and easy to style, this industrial lamp can be stood upright as floorstanding piece, or horizontal as a quirky uplighter. Each individual lamp can be adjusted to suit your lighting preferences.

Alternatively, our copper pendant ceiling lights offer a subtle nod to the industrial kitchen trend. The brushed metal surface and soft colour creates a focal point, which still allows the rest of your room to talk.

What do you love most about the industrial trend? Tell us in the comments below.

Virtu Real Kitchens: Janet & Maurice’s ‘Big City’ Expression Neo Lava Gloss

It was a tale of two halves when Maurice and his wife, Janet, decided it was about time for a new kitchen. The couple had differing priorities, which they worked into the design of the room with the help of approved Virtu supplier, D.R Kitchens.

Janet was keen to capture the lights of the big city, after a falling in love with the atmosphere during a recent trip to New York. Maurice, meanwhile, felt it important that the space be practical and easy to maintain.

“I’m a kept man,” he tells us, with a laugh. “I’m retired now, and my wife still goes out to work every day. So of course, I want to ensure my cleaning and cooking duties are as easy as possible.”

We certainly admire his dedication.

The maintenance of the kitchen was at the forefront of Maurice’s mind during every aspect of the planning stage – and Darren from D.R Kitchens, offered advice and alternative arrangements to accommodate his needs.

“We had the high wall units boxed in, so that the finished look was not only very streamlined, but very clean. There’s no space on top of the units now for dust to gather.”

Every aspect of this kitchen’s design was chosen for its ease of use, and longevity.

“Our previous kitchen was a bit of a mess,” Maurice explains. “The units were cheap and had started to fall apart, and the chrome handles had already started to rust. We wanted a kitchen which was guaranteed to last.”

Maurice and Janet chose the Neo kitchen from our Expression collection – in stunning lava gloss. This is an integrated handle design, which immediately gives the appearance of straight lines and streamlined edges – whilst the rich colour hides any finger-marks and stains well.

So how did the New York theme work its way into the arrangement?

“Janet enjoyed a trip over there a few years ago,” Maurice explains with a smile. “It was only a long weekend, but she really fell in love with the place. She just has these ideas you know – and who am I to stand in her way?”

We have to agree.

One of Janet’s ideas for the kitchen – as well as having a wine cooler integrated into the units – was to include a mural of the Big Apple on one side of the room, with small splashes of colour echoing throughout.

Janet was also keen that the space would benefit from additional storage and work areas.

“The original kitchen was much smaller than this,” Maurice says. “We knocked down a wall and opened out from two smaller rooms into one large one – Janet was pleased because it meant we had the space for an island unit.”

“We have a much more useable space now, and we have more room to move around. Which is great because it means we can both be in the kitchen together when we need to be, and it does feel more sociable.

“Yesterday Janet was preparing her lunch for work on the island unit, and I was chopping vegetables for dinner over by the kitchen sink.”

The couple tend to eat together in the evenings, and have a small dining area which is dedicated just to this. There’s also plenty of space to expand when family come over for dinner at the weekend.

“We have children and grandchildren, so we need to have room to accommodate the whole family when we’re all together.”

Another example of how this kitchen has been designed to suit the family by D.R Kitchens, is the clever pull-up power pod integrated into the island unit.

“Janet works from home on occasion,” Maurice says.  “She’s also involved with the local darts club and spends time on the computer keeping all the scores up to date.

“The pull up power pod is really useful. There’s plenty of mains space, and USB ports too – so we can have the laptop on, and charge our mobile phones at the same time.”

You can have your own dream kitchen, just like Maurice & Janet. Check out the Expression Neo kitchen on our website, and contact Darren, from D.R Kitchens to enquire about installation.

Project cost: £15-£20k

Virtu Real Kitchens: Anne & Pete’s ‘Perfect Harmony’ Expression Neo White Gloss

When Anne and Pete decided it was time for a new kitchen, the couple were happy to take on a challenge. A trained engineer – and a handyman around the house – Pete felt more than capable of taking on most of the work himself.

“We’re quite hands on when it comes to our home,” Pete tells us, as he scrolls through progress-shots of the job on his smartphone. “So we worked closely with the design team to find the right layout for our needs.”

Anne designed her kitchen around this industrial worktop style

We visit the couple at their semi-detached home, on a quiet estate in Thornton Cleavleys – just a few days after landing from a holiday in rural Spain. They’re tanned and relaxed, and proudly lead us through into the kitchen – an impressive space which is bright and cheerful.

Both Anne and Pete are well connected in the home interiors industry. Before winding down for retirement, Anne spent over 30 years as the office manager at local Virtu retailer, Builders Supplies West Coast – so knew exactly where to turn when the search for their new kitchen began.

“The showroom manager at Builders Supplies really knows his stuff. If ever we had a query he’d find out the answer straight away for us – he’s very resourceful, and it made life easier.” – Anne

“I think in the beginning, we were keen for a professional to offer some inspiration – and I knew that Chris and the team at Builders Supplies would be able to offer that support.

“Ours is quite a long kitchen, and it looks out over the garden. So I wanted to use the space efficiently, without blocking the view to the garden from the entry door.”


The layout was carefully planned to lead the eye towards the garden

So how did the pair find the experience working alongside Anne’s ex-colleagues?

“Chris – the showroom manager – is great to work with,” Anne tells us – as she offers a glass of juice to quell the heat of a spring day.

The high ceilings and generous skylights allow a flood of natural light into the space – which bounces back from the white gloss doors, and dances across the beautiful solid-surface worktop.

“He really knows his stuff and he’s brilliant to deal with. If ever we had a query he’d find out the answer straight away for us – he’s very resourceful, and it made life easier.”

The narrow layout of the room proved to be a challenge for the couple. One which they took on with both hands.

This clever ‘blend’ zone leads us seamlessly from kitchen to living area

“We wanted to keep the space open and create a flow round into the living area,” Pete explains.

“That’s why we built a small reading area between the two spaces – we keep cookbooks and paperbacks here because it feels like the natural place for them.

“We also decided against rows of tall units, as we didn’t want to bring the room in any closer. Instead, what we have now is a much more open look.”

Anne and Pete have created a generous open-plan space, which is segregated into living zones by an adjoining wall and a versatile ‘blend’ space – which features open wall shelving and a cosy seating area.

“We actually built some mock-up kitchen units from old cardboard boxes, and played around with the layout until we were happy.” – Pete

The high ceilings and generous skylights allow a flood of natural light into the space – which bounces back from the white gloss doors of our Expression Neo kitchen units, and dances across the beautiful solid-surface worktop.

This matt black kitchen mixer tap from Teka is very on-trend

“We choose a handleless design because we really wanted to keep the straight lines and simplicity of the layout,” Anne tells us – gesturing towards the integrated J handle of the Expression Neo doors.

“It really helps to focus your eye out onto the garden, and keeps the space looking open. And I fell in love with the worktop – so of course we had to design the whole thing around that one piece.”

The couple played around with configurations until they were completely happy

And according to Pete, the couple were more than happy to play around with their initial designs.

“We actually built some mock-up kitchen units from old cardboard boxes,” Pete tells us, with a laugh.

“We played around with the layout until we were happy.”

The hard work certainly paid off. The long galley kitchen feels bright and airy, and flows around into the living area with ease. And the blended sitting area marries the two spaces perfectly.

“This is a lovely space because it looks out over the garden,” Anne smiles. “We sit and eat here every day – for lunch and dinner. And if we have friends round, we can use the seating area in the living room without everyone being separated.”

Anne & Pete’s three beautiful dogs enjoy the generous space

The couple work well as a team – not just in creating a fabulous living space to enjoy with their friends and their three beautiful dogs – but in every aspect of their lives.

“Over Easter we had ten friends here for the weekend,” Anne laughs. “So we threw some dinner in the slow cooker so that we could relax and enjoy our time together.”

“We’re pretty good at entertaining really,” Pete says. “We tend to prepare meals together in the morning. I do all the chopping and Anne looks after the herbs and spices. Everything goes into the slow cooker in the utility, and we don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day.”

Clever storage systems mean kitchen utensils are in easy reach

“It’s easier now to prepare food,” Anne s agrees. “There’s so much more work space now, and everything is kept nice and neat – especially with the internal storage units and wireworks.”

“I’d like to create some custom storage too, when I eventually get round to it,” Pete laughs.

“We wanted to do something completely unique which really suits our needs.”

Towards the far end of the kitchen, the couple have fashioned a bespoke working area, feeding computer wirework through the worktop and tucking a tall bar stool into the kick space.

Having an integrated work zone is handy for pulling up recipes

We take a sip of our juice and admire the handiwork.

“We had a desk area in our previous kitchen,” Pete tells us.

“We found it so useful that we decided to incorporate the design. We’re in the kitchen so much, and like to have music on in the background too. And if we’re cooking and decide to pull up a recipe – bang, it’s just there and easy to access.”

It’s clear this couple aren’t afraid of a challenge, and are enjoying the golden years of their retirement.

Anne agrees. “It’s all the finishing touches isn’t it? You do all the initial work, picking colours and wallpaper. But what finishes everything off is your pictures and nick-nacks.

“I’m a big magnet collector. So I’ll be looking to buy a big whiteboard and make a feature of all the magnets I’ve collected over the years.”

Phil is keen on the idea too. “Well at least we can make notes with a dry-wipe marker if we need to remember anything.”

Anne’s nick-nacks and accessories add character to this cheerful space

If the kitchen makeover wasn’t enough of a challenge for the pair, Anne and Pete admit they have also recently finished decorating the whole of the upstairs too.

“We like to keep busy,” Pete tells us, pointing out over the decking area in the garden. “That gazebo wasn’t there a few months ago either, or the storage shed at the back.”

It’s clear this couple aren’t afraid of a challenge, and are enjoying the golden years of their retirement. They show us out to the garden whilst we admire the cosy-looking hot tub and custom-built outdoor bar.

The kitchen opens out to the decking area for summer dining

“Now that the kitchen is finished, we can enjoy coming out into the garden to eat and enjoy the weather more,” Anne says.

“Yes, we can relax a bit more now.” Pete says with a smile.

“While we’re planning our next holiday, that is.”

You can see the inspiration for Anne & Pete’s kitchen at Builders Supplies West Coast, Fleetwood.

Ask to see the Virtu Expression Neo White Gloss.

Overhaul the look of your kitchen with the most versatile of accessories

Spotlight on Handles

Kitchen handles don’t get enough credit. Their presence is subtle, placed for function over style. Guests barely notice them (rarely would you hear an exclamation of ‘Oh my goodness, I love your handles’ when showing off your new room to a crowd of delighted dinner guests – and they’re probably the last thing on your list of ‘must-haves’ when you visit your Virtu retailer.

But – the style of your kitchen handles can completely sway the overall look of the finished project. Especially when teamed with a blank canvas – like our Concept slab doors and German-influenced Contour.

Try Uber Contemporary

A slab door is the ultimate in contemporary kitchen style. Free from fuss, our Concept doors offer a wide design palette to explore your personal style. Use this opportunity wisely – don’t be afraid to use handles with an element of colour, even if you choose units in an exciting shade other than white.

Contour door in Marram Grass teamed with our Copper Weave Handle

Rose gold, copper and matt black are huge trends in the kitchen industry. Also consider the placement of your handles. Fixed high on the door or discreetly to the side, these options tend to offer a more contemporary style.

Concept door in Lava Gloss teamed with our Gold Arch Handle
Contour door in Marram Grass teamed with our Chrome & White Flat Top Handle

Nod to Country-Farmhouse

Shaker style and in-frame kitchen doors often fall alongside notched handles – wrought iron-styles and pitted designs. But this can be a fairly dated approach, and can easily be livened up.

Heritage door in painted Ivory teamed with our Brushed Nickel Reeded Handle

Choose handles which you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with a traditional kitchen – the results can be surprisingly striking. This matt black bar handle with rose gold accents updates the classic T-bar, and gives our Serene door a modern update.

Concept door in Lava Gloss teamed with our Brushed Nickel Reeded Handle

Also consider how a slab door – particularly one with an unusual detail, like our German-influenced Contour – can be styled to give that subtle nod to classic style. Team with a delicate knob, or knotted style, to give a modern base a timeless twist.

Contour door in Marram Grass teamed with our Stainless Steel Knob

Again – placement is key here.

Steer clear of the usual high or side arrangement. Opt for smack-bang centre for optimum impact.

Heritage door in painted Ivory teamed with our Polished Chrome Cup Handle

Seamlessly Blend Two Worlds

To really make an impact, marry two opposing styles. A high gloss slab door – or a door with slick matt finish – looks fabulous when paired with an art-deco handle, or an ornamental style. Colour works really well to blend the two styles, and our white accents help to bridge the gap here.

Contour door in True White Matt teamed with our White Stainless Steel Decor Handle

Similarly, a traditional timber door can be given some oomph with a chunky copper handle – or with a delicate, minimalist design.

Serene door in painted Ivory teamed with our Black Copper T Bar Handle

Change up the placement of your handles – perhaps make a feature of an island unit, and place your handles the centre of your doors, then opt to use a side placement elsewhere in your kitchen to offer light and shade – give the eye something new to look at.

Serene door in painted Ivory teamed with our Gold Arch Handle

And don’t be surprised when your guests are cooing over your handles, instead of your kitchen doors.

Contour door in True White Matt teamed with our Rose Gold Arch Handle

What combinations would you like to see next? Let us know in the comments below.

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