Kitchen Essentials

Kitchen Essentials


Issue 7.2

Expert hints and tips on how to make your kitchen space a gourmet haven for family and friends

Words Melanie Gardener

When considering a kitchen as part of any renovation, there are many aspects to keep in mind. What are the latest trends? Should design and layout be top of the list or should I pick my colours first? Should I preference practicality over aesthetics? What must I have and which items are on my wish list?

To help answer these questions, it pays to have an expert on hand. We spoke to two: Darren James from Interiors by Darren James, who is the current KBDI Certified Designer of the Year, and Marylou Paino, interior designer and trend forecaster.

“My first consideration when starting the design process is to find out what functions the kitchen needs to perform,” says Darren. “This involves looking further than the primary function of a kitchen and delving into the unique functions specific to you and your family. Then we can start to allocate space and workflows.”

Marylou concurs: “I like to establish the feel of the kitchen first as this then helps to connect the form to the function. It’s the emotion of the kitchen that I like to start with.”
It’s generally agreed that form and function must co-exist within any kitchen space. There is no point designing the greatest-looking kitchen if the users are constantly frustrated at its lack of functionality and the reverse is also true. All designers will focus on the aesthetics of any space, but the trick is to ensure the space includes practical elements so it can be used for maximum efficiency.

“A good design should reflect the harmonious marriage of form and function,” states Darren firmly. “I am a firm believer that form can be functional itself. For example, split-level benchtops create ergonomic benchtop heights based on the activity being performed — its function — but also creates a visual dimension to the design — its form”.

“The best kitchens are obviously a quiet balance of the two,” adds Marylou. “Function — how it works — supports the form — how it looks — and vice versa.”

If you are serious about your cooking and wish to spend plenty of time in the kitchen preparing treats for family and friends, it’s essential the inclusions meet your needs. Darren says there are three “must haves” when it comes to designing a cooking-focussed space: professional equipment, durability of materials and an expertly arranged food preparation area/zone.

Marylou knows about staying sane in the kitchen and she has her own list of essentials for a client who is a serious cook. “Lots of bench space to spread out,” she states. “And ample storage that provides a place for everything and helps you get organised. I love the idea of incorporating a living kitchen garden to keep fresh produce close at hand.”

One of the first elements most people think of when beginning a kitchen renovation is shape and layout. Most experts agree this is an integral element of the success of the final design.

Kitchens generally come in a number of set shapes depending on the room layout. Even with items personalised, the main area of the kitchen will form one of these main shapes. A U-shape is where the cabinets form an unbroken U shape generally along either two walls plus an open bench or along three walls. A G-shape is similar to a U-shape but with an extra tail from the third arm of the kitchen. A galley kitchen consists of two parallel lengths of cabinetry, generally along two walls. An L-shaped kitchen has one length of cabinets, normally running along one wall, with a perpendicular length of cabinets either running along another wall or open to the room.
Additional to any of these shapes is the introduction of a freestanding island bench. To a certain extent, the shape you choose for your kitchen will be dependent on the space you have available, where your walls are located, and the proximity of adjoining spaces.

The other main areas to consider are the size and makeup of your family, what type of cooking you generally undertake and how you wish to use the space. Talking these elements over with your designer is a great way to start the process and will give them plenty of information about your individual needs so they can tailor a solution to suit you and your family.

“Layout is critical when designing any kitchen but particularly if you are looking to create a gourmet space,” says Darren. “The layout needs to be designed with each stage of the cooking process in mind and this is often specific to the user as every cook has their own unique processes.”

Another aspect to consider is the changing focus of the kitchen space as we segue from the room at the back of the house that was never seen to a room that is generally considered the heart of the home and the centre of much social activity.

“A passionate cook puts their heart and soul into their cooking so it’s only right that they be positioned in the heart — or centre — of the kitchen,” Marylou says. “I prefer a long wall of tall storage behind with either cavity sliders or co-planer sliders that can stay open for clear access when working.”

So whether you are a serious cook or simply love to entertain family and friends in your home, the kitchen layout and design must be considered an essential element to ensure the space works perfectly, every time.

As one of the two projects that won Darren James the KBDi Certified Designer of the Year award, this kitchen features an elegant design with an earthy colour palette. The judges said that “the design challenges of the layout and the needs of a large, young family were met with innovation and a thorough understanding of the brief”.

In this example, also from Darren James and another of the kitchens entered into the KBDi Certified Designer of the Year award, a galley-style kitchen features an interesting combination of features including shadowline finger pulls, tip-on touch catches, and a fully functional working wall of cabinets that the judges felt “provided successful, streamlined solutions to the narrow space available”.

It’s easy to see why streamlined spaces are so popular. This example uses crisp, bright whites to define the space, with a long, open area allowing full interaction between homeowners and guests. Designed by Sarah Waller Design ( and featuring CaesarStone Classico Pure White with a mitred edge and 75mm apron (
Sarah Waller Design CaesarStone 1141 Pure White Kitchen

Courtesy of Sydney Kitchens, we are treated to a sneak peek at emerging trends from the LivingKitchen Design Expo, Cologne,

1. Thin on top
The most prevalent trend at the show was ultra-thin and sleek benchtops. Thicknesses of 20mm or ess were displayed in natural stone, glass, acrylic surfaces and stainless steel.

2. Communicative kitchen
The kitchen space is set to take on an even bigger role as the communication centre of the home. Take, for instance, the Interactive Grid System, developed by German kitchen manufacturer SieMatic in conjunction with Miele. The Interactive Grid System is a touch-screen entertainment unit providing instant access to the internet, Facebook, television, iPod connectivity and digital radio, photo uploads and live recipes.

3. Colour trends
Serene out-shone colour in Cologne, with white featuring heavily alongside metallic hues in champagne, charcoal, dark chocolate and ocean blue. Textured timber finishes were everywhere. Stainless steel is also being used to stunning effect on doors and panels, giving a sleek architectural aesthetic to high-end kitchens.

4. Visual impact
Oversized pendant lighting and directional accent lighting create focal points in the entertaining zone of the kitchen. Feature lighting in a kitchen is taking the visual impact to a whole new level, such as cabinets and drawers that light up with internal LED lights as you open them.

5. New technology
Leading German kitchen manufacturer Hettich showcased the latest in soft-closing drawer and door technology, including its Sensys hinges with in-built soft-close mechanism. This new technology is available in Australia and can be experienced at the Sydney Kitchens’ Drummoyne design studio.