The kitchen is the heart of the home so it makes sense to put extra thought and creativity into its design, layout and decoration
There used to be a time when it was a case of out of sight, out of mind when it came to kitchens, but in recent years, the kitchen has undergone an amazing metamorphosis from a purely functional space to a place where people congregate.
Today, the kitchen is the social hub of the home — a place where people might gather for a casual lunch or relaxed conversation over a warming mug of coffee. As a reflection of its enhanced status, kitchens are bigger than ever before. They also tend to be design showpieces, a trend which reflects, in part, the fact that many kitchens are now open-plan and need to look as smart as the dining, living or family areas they adjoin.
Integration is the byword of the contemporary kitchen. Integrated appliances, sinks, flush-line cooktops, cabinets for microwaves — the goal is to present a sleek, uncluttered look. Dishwashers are usually fitted under the benchtop and have a pull-down door; however, some models offer you the ability to install two smaller units which operate independently of each other.
The renewed interest in home entertaining has also made its presence known — appliances are restaurant quality, there are second sinks and fridges, additional work centres for multiple cooks, and extra space round benches and cupboards to allow people to move around freely. Maximising space and delivering clever storage solutions is a priority. This has seen great innovations in the internal design of cabinetry, including an emphasis on roll-out fittings and wide drawers with internal dividing partitions and organisers. It also includes softclosing mechanisms and full-extension glides so that items at the very back of the drawers can be easily accessed. Clean styling, where the lines are straight, the cupboards uncluttered and the detailing unfussy, continues to prevail in the modern Australian kitchen.
Open shelving has been popular for some time now and the trend shows
no signs of abating. Also popular are cabinet doors with clear, opaque or
textured glass panels. Door handles are simple, long and lean, with the brushed nickel finish very much in favour. This is the perfect complement to stainless-steel appliances. On the subject of stainless steel, it continues to be the material of choice for appliances and rangehood, blending with any colour scheme or contemporary decorating style. The stainless-steel look is also a key feature of the continuing trend towards restaurant-style kitchens featuring ovens that wouldn’t look out of place in a commercial setting.
The trend towards clean lines is also mirrored in the use of thick benchtops made from solid materials, such as natural or engineered stone, glass splashbacks and stainless-steel appliances. On the subject of finishes, the choices are varied — painted or textured glass, stainless steel, laminate, timber, stone (natural or reconstituted), veneers, resin and tile. Be adventurous and combine materials to create interesting textural contrasts, say natural stone benchtops, gloss-finished laminate cabinets and textured glass splashbacks. At the moment, man-made products are proving popular. This includes an engineered product called CaesarStone which is heat, scratch and stain resistant; Corian, which has the quality of natural stone but can be curved to any shape without visible joins; and Greenfirst by Laminex, the first surface and wood panel range of its kind to be approved by the Green Building Council of Australia.
Sinks are no longer required to be boring stainless-steel affairs with a draining board. Futuristic designs, antique bowls, rectangular, circular and square shapes are some options to consider. While fridges and dishwashers tend to be disguised, the rangehood has become a focal point. Today, you can easily source stainless-steel rangehoods that look like those the pros use for the home kitchen.
As with all kitchens appliances, however, the options are varied — choose from canopy, retractable, fixed or concealed rangehoods. The humble fridge has also undergone quite an evolution. No longer just a place to keep food and drinks cold, televisions, ice makers and drinks trays are typical add-ons. Also on offer are underbench models and French-door styles, which have a double fridge on top and a freezer drawer underneath. New innovations also claim to extend life of the food within.
What’s more, kitchen appliances are not just getting better looking, they’re getting smarter, too. There are fridges with internet access, induction cooktops that can tell when a pan has boiled dry and will automatically switch off the element, and taps that can give you instant boiling water.
The style of décor, whether French provincial, country cottage or urban chic, is a matter of personal taste and will, of course, influence the design of the cabinets you choose, the flooring you lay, the type of benchtops you use and the decorative detailing you employ. Whichever style you choose, however, the kitchen is one place that should look fresh and welcoming day and night.
There are several ways to achieve this, the judicious use of colour being chief among them. Unless you want to run up a huge electricity bill by using banks of lights all day long (plus an air-conditioner to cool things down in summer), it is wise to select light colours for walls and work surfaces — colours that look lively in natural light and crisp in artificial light. Light and neutral colours can be enlivened with the occasional splash of bold or strong colour and with accessories. But it’s your space and one you’ll be spending a lot of time in, so you can be as imaginative with colours and finishes as you like. Just make sure the layout is flexible and functional, the appliances are the best you can
afford, and you have all the storage and preparation space you need.