Understanding your options for design.
No two rooms in the house demand the same level of investment or get anywhere near the same level of wear and tear as the kitchen and bathroom. And, no other rooms require as many practical and aesthetic decisions, from the layout to the materials, appliances, fixtures and fittings and colour. For the novice, designing these rooms can be an overwhelming challenge. Knowing your limitations can help you decide how involved you want to be in the process. Thankfully, there are professionals on hand to not only guide you, but also take on the entire project from concept to completion. Getting professional help is guaranteed to save you money and time in the long run.
With so many design options available, from custom-made to modular, where do you start? One thing the professionals agree on is making a list of all the things you want and need in your new kitchen and bathroom. In addition to consolidating your plans, the list will provide a starting point for your designer. Spending time planning your kitchen or bathroom, from the layout to the fittings and fixtures, as well as the schedule and the budget, will pay off. So, what are the things you will need to think about when planning your perfect kitchen or bathroom?
First, you will need to decide on the materials you would like your kitchen or bathroom to be constructed from. Is it timber, veneer, laminate, stone, metal or polyurethane? What type of flooring will you need and what about the sink, taps, lighting, appliances and colours? What about storage and the type of drawer runners? And do you prefer your appliances to be integrated or freestanding? A number of elements go into making cabinets and there are many innovative storage systems on the market.
Laminate or melamine are popular choices for cabinets in both kitchens and bathrooms. They are durable and probably offer the most cost-effective solution. Other options are solid timber such as oak or cherrywood, polyurethane (suitable for a hardwearing and durable finish), natural-looking timber veneers, vacuum-moulded laminate, stainless steel, and other metals and painted finishes. Storage systems range from pull-out pantries and corner units to appliance cupboards where you can keep all those gadgets out of sight but close at hand.
Benchtops make a statement. They need to be durable as well as good-looking. They can be made from a large range of materials to suit your style and budget. Probably number one for elegance and style are granite, stone and marble. These products will look good for years. They are very hardwearing and don’t scratch easily. Laminate is probably the most cost-effective material, although it can scratch and needs more care. It is easy to clean and available in hundreds of colours, and many patterns. Tiles, timber, stainless steel, solid surfaces and even toughened glass (in the bathroom) are all suitable alternative options.
Kitchen and bathroom splashbacks can use the same material as the benchtop or something different to contrast. Easy to clean and hygienic, coloured toughened glass is a popular choice. Stainless steel is popular for all sorts of reasons, none more so than its professional appearance.
Lighting and electrical solutions are important, as much for safety as for practicability. A variety of good lighting in the kitchen is essential with areas such as work surfaces requiring strong, direct light. In bathrooms the right lighting, especially around the mirror, is essential and a lighting consultant can advise you of the best placement and type of lighting to suit your needs. Try to introduce as much natural lighting through glazed areas such as windows, skylights or glass bricks, as this will save you money in daylight hours.
Incandescent lighting provides a general light source found in most rooms. Fluorescent lighting is long-lasting and is typically found in kitchens and bathrooms. Halogen lighting is more energy efficient than incandescent lighting, but not as efficient as fluorescent. It does, however, provide a better direct light source.
Energy-efficient lighting is more expensive to buy, but is cheaper to run and is good for the environment. Adding dimmers is another way to reduce power consumption.
Tapware is available in numerous designs to suit your personal style, but whatever you choose ensure it meets Australian standards. Water-saving taps are readily available and should definitely be installed in the bathroom. Installing a AAA water-saving shower hose will save up to 110 litres of water over a 10-minute shower. Dual-flush cisterns also save water. Mixer taps are very popular in both kitchens and bathrooms, providing both hot and cold water in one tap. If you go for the tap and spout option make sure you choose one that can be positioned to function at its best — that is, one that allows large pots to be filled in the kitchen and buckets to be filled in the laundry. For instant hot or cold water, consider installing a Zip HydroTap. Safer than a kettle, the tap stays cool to the touch, has a child-proof safety lock and can be easily installed on a free-standing font or at a sink. Install a thermostat controller like the Rinnai Infinity to guard against scalding water.
The kitchen sink is another appliance that has come a long way in both design and materials. Stainless steel is the most popular material today. It is chip-resistant, stain-resistant and easy to clean, suiting almost every style of kitchen. Solid surface sinks are durable and non-porous. Acrylic sinks are cost-effective, hard to stain and easy to clean. Porcelain is available in a variety of colours. While bathroom sinks have traditionally been porcelain, today many come in glass, man-made materials, timber and steel. The style of basin can range from the pedestal type or wall hung, to semi-recessed or anything your designer can come up with.
Frameless shower screens provide a clean and modern look to bathrooms and can help to make a small room look larger. You can select from clear glass, sandblasted, laminated, patterned or safety glass. Glass screens can also act as partitions between the toilet and washing areas. Framed shower screens use mostly aluminium or steel. Doors can be pivot-hinged or sliding. The base of your shower can be part of the existing flooring material (that is, ceramic or stone) or it can be a standard porcelain or acrylic base. Whatever you select, be sure the material is non-slip. Alternatively, provide a safety device, such as a shower mat or duckboard.
Making the most of your room’s space is probably the key design criterion. This is where the experts can really come into their own. Light-coloured walls and floors will make a room look larger, but don’t be afraid to use colour. Some of the most stunning kitchens and bathrooms use dramatic colours, which give a truly individual look. Adequate storage removes clutter and can be in the form of cupboards, drawers or shelving. In the kitchen, adequate storage for produce is essential. If space is limited, a pull-out pantry can provide enormous storage while taking up relatively little floor space.
Environmentally Friendly Design
By following the tips below, your kitchen, bathroom and laundry will be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly:
• Choose appliances with an energy star rating, six being the most efficient.
• Reduce lighting costs by providing as much natural light as possible.
• Reduce lighting bills by installing energy-efficient fittings.
• Insulate walls, floors and ceilings to control heat gain or loss.
• Install under-bench recycling bins for separation of waste.
• Install water-saving taps and dual-flush cisterns.
• Solar hot water systems can reduce gas and electricity use and save you money on heating bills. They are also kinder to the environment.
• Wherever possible, select natural materials that do not “out gas”.
• Use recycled water from your washing machine in the garden.
• Consult an expert who can advise you on the many environmentally friendly ways to design.