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Last edited 09 Dec 2019
A fitted kitchen is a kitchen layout (usually domestic)  that typically involves a streamlined arrangement of cupboards under a continuous worktop complemented by wall cabinets (matching). The worktop usually has a built-in sink and may feature a built-in gas or electric hob, while spaces below the worktop may include integrated ovens, washing machines and dishwashers. They are sometimes referred to as ‘built-in’ kitchens. Their appearance is typically one of modular neatness and co-ordination.
Worktops are usually arranged according to the space available: a long narrow kitchen may have a ‘galley’  layout with units and worktops arranged linearly on either one or both sides. If there is more space, the worktop can take the form of a peninsula – accessible on three sides. Larger kitchens can usually accommodate various arrangements of worktops such as an ‘island’ – a free-standing worktop with units below or a breakfast bar.
Before fitted kitchen, arrangements would typically consist of freestanding elements – cupboards, range cookers and ovens, dressers, sinks, refrigerators and other items. This tended to be both uncoordinated, untidy and inefficient. It could also be unhygienic, as cleaning between the freestanding items could be difficult due to space restrictions.
The continuous worktop surface and under-counter appliances offered easy maintenance and is a manifestation of the drive toward labour-saving devices which dominated much of the 20th century and continues today.
Fitted kitchens were pioneered in the US and were not generally adopted in the UK until well after the Second World War, although built-in cupboards had started to make an appearance in the 1930s. The trend for more easily-maintained houses was driven in part by the demise of domestic servants.
 Design and installation
The basis of the fitted kitchen is modularity – a module of 600mm x 600mm is typically used for planning and installation. Under-worktop units (or carcasses) can come in these and other dimensions including widths of 300mm, 400mm, 500mm and 600mm. These extra widths are useful in accommodating dimensions that are not a factor of six. For example, a length of 2.7m can be fitted with two 600mm units, one 1200mm unit, and one of 300mm.
Carcasses, or cabinets (the name given to the cupboards) are supplied either in flat-pack kits (assembled on site) or less commonly as pre-assembled units. Apart from the worktop itself, the cabinet doors usually provide the main colour of the kitchen and are available in a wide range of styles and finishes.
Fitted kitchens can be supplied (and sometimes installed) by the major D-I-Y chain stores or by independent kitchen suppliers who tend to offer kitchens at the upper end of the market. Installation can be undertaken either by the supplier or by an independent kitchen installer. The benefits of the former method are that any problems or complaints can be addressed back to a single party.
1 Fitted kitchens are also seen in canteens and other commercial and industrial food preparation areas.
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