With many kitchens today positioned smack in the middle of the living space, it’s become quite the showpiece of the home. But what makes today’s kitchen so special? And what can you do to an existing kitchen to give it that extra pizzazz?
The design of the kitchen has evolved as our lifestyles have become more varied and flexible. Undoubtedly, the biggest physical change has been in setting the kitchen free. No longer confined by four walls, today’s kitchen is an indoor-outdoor concept, a remarkable remake of the ‘great room’, a space that embraces daily life. But it’s not simply a place for food storage and meal preparation. You can cook, eat, relax, study, work, watch TV, listen to music, check your email, nap (a daybed’s not out of the question), connect with the garden and formally entertain here.
Not surprisingly, the new products on the market have been designed with the idea of making this super-space more efficient, more colourful and more chic. Here’s a rundown of the latest trends:
Separate food preparation area
The traditional concept of a dedicated ‘back of house’ butler’s pantry where the food prep area – and therefore all the mess – is concealed from public view is being reinstated adjacent to the ‘showpiece’ kitchen. Here, you might find a second fridge, sink, neat work bench and plenty of storage. It might also house a wine fridge or small cellar.
Tip You can gain more food storage by installing pull-out vertical pantries in the area around your fridge.
Integration of all fittings
The latest look is the kitchen that isn’t there. Floor-to-ceiling doors conceal appliances and storage in an open plan layout that makes it hard to tell where the kitchen begins and where it ends.
Tip To give an old kitchen a fresh new look, replace or repaint cupboard doors only and fit new modern hardware. You can also recover an existing tile splashback with something like Metaline from Laminex, an inexpensive alternative to glass or mirror.
There’s massive interest in cooking right now and it’s possible to totally customise your cooking surface by selecting only those burners you actually use. You can choose from a variety of elements – from a non-stick barbecue grille and grate to an induction hotplate with dual heating zones and separate controls that allow for complete customisation (in single file if you like). Another idea which is catching on fast is to bank together ovens which offer a variety of cooking methods. For instance, a conventional electric oven could be paired with a steam oven (a great option if you love cooking fish) and a convection/microwave oven.
Tip Planning a kitchen reno? Be aware that a built-in wall oven restricts bench space while the all-in-one freestanding cooker on legs creates an illusion of space. Induction cooktops are flat, which makes them an easy (though not cheap) option when retro-fitting an outdated kitchen.
The fridge has been ‘deregulated’ with the innovation of customised cold storage. You can find glass-fronted fridge drawers and fridge cabinets which fit under a bench to accommodate all your fresh food storage requirements.
The big island bench
The benchtop defines today’s kitchen; it’s noticeably wider and thicker (although very thin is cool, too). Glass, engineered stone, concrete and Laminan or Kerlite (3mm thin porcelain cladding) are durable surface materials setting the trends.
Tip An island bench can often replace the family dining table, while doing double duty as a work station during the day or a cocktail bar at night.
Colour is the key
The all-white kitchen is on the wane with a return to colour, especially in benchtop materials, appliances and cookware. In a sea of off-whites and neutrals, there emerges a palette of pale olive, taupey greys and nutmeg browns epitomised in the new range of engineered stones for benchtops from Smartstone. Smeg takes colour one step further into major appliances and their new range of cooktops and ovens by designer Marc Newsom is seen as trailblazing – think peacock blue and pistachio green. Lavazza has done the same with coffee machines.
Tip Pop a colourful kettle or toaster on your counter top for a bright splash of colour.
The sink’s in good shape
It had to happen. The sink has gone freeform. It’s either short and deep, river-like and fully integrated in the benchtop in faux stone or stainless steel, or fashioned from the newest material, Silgranit PuraDur II from Blanco (a durable, stone-like stain-resistant material available in 10 colours).
Plan your lighting
Recessed lighting under and over benches gives a slightly surreal look to a kitchen. Pendant lighting above the island bench is paramount. Think big conical domes or cylinders in polished aluminium or stainless steel, glass or fretwork timber. Recessed LED strip lighting can wash the kitchen in continually changing colour for an interesting effect.
Tip No need to break the bank with expensive European light fittings; Ikea has an impressive range of pendants ideal for the kitchen.
The contemporary kitchen relies on systems: for waste-sorting, drawer organisation and storage. It’s almost de rigeur these days to include 900mm wide drawers (instead of cupboards) with lateral and cross dividers to keep everything sorted. A soft-close mechanism keeps the kitchen quiet and electric push-to-open systems save you energy.
Tip The following must-have accessories are designed to make life easier and your time in the kitchen more comfortable: a telescopic tap, spray rinse tap, filtered/chilled water, built-in coffee machine and retractable extractor hood.