Smart Kitchens

Smart Kitchens


kitchen designs

Today’s gourmet kitchens demand a plethora of “must have” smarts.

It’s almost impossible to consider a kitchen renovation today without giving some thought to what technology will be included and how it will be incorporated within the space. As with every aspect of design, forward planning is the key to a successful smart kitchen. A single, programmable remote or wall panel can control a wide range of functions including lighting, blinds/ curtains, heating, appliances, audiovisual equipment and home security.

The kitchen is one of the best rooms for taking advantage of today’s “smart” technology. Its inclusion in open-plan spaces and its proximity to adjoining family rooms, lounge rooms and audiovisual rooms means it’s in the perfect position to incorporate a number of smart solutions. And this means more than simply planning for what you need today. It’s crucial that homeowners think about changing and emerging technology and attempt to make allowances for those items that might be installed in the future.

It is always best to pre-wire your kitchen (which means you need to think about what you want and where you want it) while the kitchen is in the initial design stage. Retro-fitting is possible but pre-wiring is always preferred to ensure that all your gadgets and gizmos can be incorporated in the design rather than as an afterthought. “We chose finishes of black-coloured glass, stat vein marble and highlights of pewter-coloured glass, and used a gloss chromed handle. I chose this palette as the black glass reflected the view, bringing the outside in, and it also provided great texture and lighting. When combined, these finishes gave a contemporary feel but kept within the art deco style,” says Mal Corboy of Mal Corboy Design.

A television is one of the most popular installations for the kitchen so connections for pay TV, antenna and power are a must. If you are considering appliances that connect to the internet, or will in the future, placement of a phone jack and data cables will also be important. In previous years, space limitations meant the kitchen television had to be very small and took up any available bench space. Today’s flat-screen televisions have made such a difference.

Now the television can be installed to sit on almost any wall you choose, positioned for optimal viewing, and won’t intrude on your much-needed bench space. The popularity and growth of openplan rooms housing a kitchen along with any variety of family room, lounge room or home theatre means the technology used in one area is often applicable to the adjoining spaces.

The growth of technology and our early adoption of a range of gadgets can only see an increase in the range of smart appliances available. Smart appliances (and this means more than just the internet refrigerator) that are interconnected and can be remotely controlled will begin to make their way into our homes.

Lighting design, particularly in an open-plan area, will also become an important issue within the kitchen. Placement and choice of lighting is paramount to ensure the design caters for all possible requirements. Kitchens need both general and task lighting and they need to be controlled separately. An ideal solution is to have the main lights throughout the open-plan space controlled by dimmer switches to allow a level of control over the light, with carefully positioned bright task lights within the kitchen itself.

Smart design Mal Corboy, of Mal Corboy Design, is the 2011 KBDi Australian Certified Designer of the Year and is well versed in designing smart kitchens both in Australia and overseas. Mal says that designing a gourmet kitchen to be a “smart” space is easy if you know what to include. “Definitely the latest appliances,” he says. “That means an induction cooktop and a steam oven.

The main oven must have a big capacity — at least 900mm wide — and I tend to go for a wall oven so the cook isn’t bending down a lot when entertaining. You absolutely must include a topquality rangehood and it must be ducted well to make sure it can cope with all the cooking smells a gourmet space will produce,” he adds. As Hettich’s Brand Ambassador, Mal also ensures all his gourmet kitchens are equipped with the latest internal storage and access systems. “We have the internal technology now to equip homeowners with spice racks, knife blocks and a whole range of organisational solutions to make sure all items can be accessed easily,” he says.

In particular, Mal believes durable work spaces are essential inclusions that will affect the success of the kitchen when it’s under pressure. “I prefer stainless steel around the cooking area, with goodquality stone or solid surface used in other areas,” he advises. “I’m also seeing tablet devices, such as iPads, included in the layout of the kitchen. This one device can run the audio and security for the home as well as access on-line recipes or even help when compiling a shopping list.” Lighting is another area in which technological advances has made it easier for designers to be smart about what to include and how to ensure a plentiful supply of good lighting. “LED lighting can do so much to provide excellent task lighting,” says Mal. “And it’s great at creating mood.”

When it comes to the design and layout of the kitchen, Mal’s approach is the same for a smart space as for any other kitchen. “You work any technology in with the work zone,” he explains. “As long as the cooking, cleaning, pantry and storage zones are where they should be, then you’ll get a great work flow through the kitchen”. Although larger spaces naturally lend themselves to the easy inclusion of more items, Mal doesn’t believe that size is a restrictor of smart technology. “As long as you are clever about where everything goes, it can all fit,” he says confidently. “The trick is to think laterally about where to put everything.”

In terms of Mal’s personal preferences, he says, “I’m trying to include a steam oven in all my designs … I almost prefer that to a microwave in terms of functionality and practicality. I also use all drawers now, where possible. They are so convenient and it’s easy to make sure they are the right size and height to take the weight of the items to be stored.” When asked if he has a favourite whizz-bang gadget, he is quick to answer. “Electric drawers, for sure,” he says. “If you are serious about your cooking these are ideal because they free up your hands to do other jobs.”

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