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13 August 2020

What’s cooking?

If you’re looking for some interesting ingredients or even a brand new recipe for your next kitchen design, this may help.


If you’re looking for some interesting ingredients or even a brand new recipe for your next kitchen design, this may help.

We gathered four of Auckland’s best kitchen designers together and asked them for their opinions and predictions of what we can expect to see in kitchen design this coming year.

My first question was about the big picture – what style of kitchen are the designers seeing most of right now? Is there an even balance between modern and traditional, and are any other styles creeping in?

“To be honest, the kitchens I’m designing are more varied now than ever before,” says Natalie Du Bois of Du Bois Design. “People are not pigeonholed into a certain look. It’s really what works for them and their home. Individuality, I would say, is what we are seeing the most.”

Kyla Potter from Carlielle Kitchens says she is seeing a slight lean towards modern kitchens rather than traditional, but adds that transitional kitchens, which tend to be more relaxed than the full-on traditional style, suit our New Zealand lifestyle better.

There’s agreement from Jane Fergusson from Kitchens By Design about the transitional style, who calls it a ‘twist on tradition’. “Mainly modern kitchens are being requested and therefore they are still the most popular,” she says. “We are also incorporating elements to reflect an industrial style, like metal accents and metal pendants, or brass tapware. Open metal shelves and exposed metal rangehood features add an industrial feel, too.”

Mastercraft Kitchen’s Petra Brebner adds that elements from adjacent living areas are also being incorporated more as part of the kitchen, such as office corners, bar areas, or display units. “Luckily, there are styles for everybody today – from very minimalist, where everything is hidden behind doors, transitioning towards a more individualistic look that suits a family lifestyle,” says Petra. “Trends come and go, but a kitchen can’t change as fast.”

When it comes to colour, the consensus is that white is still the most popular – if you can call white a colour. “White kitchens are much easier to look after than dark kitchens – and they also make homes feel light and fresh,” says Natalie. “So many houses can appear drab with heavy-looking cabinetry. If your rooms are big enough and the ceiling is high, you can get away with darker tones. I think there was talk of white kitchens being replaced by darker kitchens, but I personally feel that white kitchens will always be popular.”

Kyla stills sees a demand for darker kitchens, “but I can see lighter kitchens trending in 2020. Lighter kitchens are timeless, fresh and can be teamed with accent colours or materials to add interest.” Combining colour with other materials and finishes such as timbers and metallic colours creates a visual and tactile impact, she says. “Intense, darker tones are definitely being used more, mostly for lower cabinets or as a highlight for specific areas such as islands.”

Jane agrees, saying she is seeing quite a few two-toned kitchens, so not all white, but predominantly white with accents of darker elements. “Those trending colours are more earthy, like greens and blues. However, these may only come in as features or highlight colours, or even in specialty splashback tiles.”

People are becoming more adventurous with textures and materials, says Petra, with timber accents and detailing proving the most popular. Jane adds that natural timber veneers give an earthy texture to a kitchen – but it’s not necessary to have them everywhere. “Mix timber with lacquer cabinetry – either have the timber in a natural stain or stain it darker to tie in with the colour palette of the kitchen or adjacent open-plan spaces.” Mid-tone and lighter timbers work well, too, says Natalie – but with lots of grain and texture to give a more tactile feel.

Natalie says real and faux metals are being used for accent areas, as well as entire cabinets. “Kitchen hardware companies like Blum have come up with hinges that can be fitted to thin stone sheets so you can have benchtops and cupboard fronts in the same material.” Jane agrees: “The use of metal or stone feature elements can add an elegance and a wow factor that can help make an ordinary kitchen special.”

Fingerprint-repellent cabinetry fronts and easy-care benchtop materials are also sought by our design group. “Products with a matte finish seem to be a favourite,” says Kyla. “The use of matte materials, with anti-fingerprint technology, will become more recognised and desired for their ease of cleaning and long-term maintenance. These materials give a clean, fresh look which blends into a home. Metal accents are still popular, with finishes such as brass, nickel and matte black being used for hardware, handles, sinks, tapware, lighting, etc.”

It’s the biggest single surface in the kitchen and can define its whole look – so what are the designers seeing and using for cabinetry?

“To be honest, it’s a bit of a mix here, too,” says Natalie. “I will often design panelled and flat cabinetry and drawer fronts together in the same kitchen, to give more interest to the room. I’ll mix handles and pulls as well –drawers are often handle-less, while tall cabinetry and integrated cabinets may have handles. Different shaped handles made from wood or various metals are used as features. It’s all about designing something different, or a bit quirky, to give your kitchen more character.”

Kyla is pragmatic in her approach to cabinetry, saying it depends on the style of kitchen. “Plain fronts are always very popular for a clean, simple look that is easy to clean. Framed and panelled cabinetry are still definitely being seen and mixed with plain cabinetry for the more transitional-style kitchen.”

If you are looking for a traditional-style kitchen, then panelled (Shaker-style) cabinetry is a preferred option, says Jane – although we are seeing variations of the standard Shaker style, such as grooved doors and beaded, split-panelled drawer fronts. Jane agrees with Natalie that mixing styles is a clear winner, too.

“Even though handle-less cabinetry is popular right now, especially for a contemporary look, handles are coming back,” says Petra. “They create interesting details in a kitchen design, much like adding jewellery to an outfit. Coloured inners for drawers and cabinetry can also create a surprise element.”

Highlighting the practical functions of drawers and cabinetry, Kyla says storage is one of the most important aspects of kitchen design, and technology is providing new and exciting options for homeowners. “Electric mechanisms help with the opening of heavily loaded drawers, and give easy access to high, hard-to-reach cupboards. This type of hardware is also perfect for achieving a handle-less look in the kitchen,” she says. “I think we will see more technology integrated into kitchen hardware in the years to come – and this will be more commonplace in all kitchens as it becomes more accessible.” Petra echoes these thoughts, while noting that this technology is expensive, so is currently only specified in higher-end kitchens.

For everyday use in most kitchens, Jane says, there are very good underbench, corner hardware solutions that deliver hard-to-access items quickly and easily. The same is true for tall pantry systems that can bring out items directly into your hands. “And, while easy-access, bench-height bins have been around for quite a while now, we are trying to incorporate more waste-management options as families are being asked to divide up their waste products. Electric push-to-open mechanisms eliminate the need to use your hands – a gentle knee nudge can open the drawer for you.” Using these push-to-open mechanisms for all drawers creates a sleek look, but can cause problems if you lean against them accidentally – and they do add cost to a kitchen, Jane says.

There is a bewildering range of benchtop materials in the marketplace – each coming with its own set of pluses and minuses. The topic deserves an in-depth article in its own right but here, for simplicity, we asked our four designers to comment on the most popular surfaces they are specifying, and why.

“High-pressure porcelains are very popular, because of their thin profiles, digitally printed replication – they look very much like a real stone, and hard-wearing, anti-bacterial properties,” says Jane. “They do, however, come with a higher price tag than other engineered products. There is also still a big desire for natural granites and marble, as these are unique natural stones that are very beautiful and eye catching.” If the durability of a porcelain appeals, but you still yearn for the authenticity of real stone, then teaming it up with a feature of marble or granite can add that wow factor, says Jane.

“Porcelain, also referred to as sintered stone, is popular due to its availability in large-scale sheets, various textures and uniform patterns, but natural products will always remain popular, as they provide that feeling of authenticity,” says Natalie. “Solid surface materials, such as Corian, are great for certain projects, especially where clients are not keen on seeing joins or seams in their benchtops, or on large-scale islands or U-shaped spaces, where a seamless look is needed.”

Kyla agrees with Natalie, adding that she has also noticed a definite trend towards products that are easy to use and maintain. Here, porcelain surfaces have the advantage over natural materials, such as granite, marble and quartzite, which are more prone to staining and marking. “Every product has its limitations, though, and every client has a different need. So it’s about choosing the right product for each individual. The majority of benchtops I specify are either a light-coloured, natural or engineered stone, with people still wanting a veined marble look.” Kyla says stainless steel continues to be a popular benchtop material in the working areas of the kitchen, especially when teamed with a natural stone. “The stainless might be used around the cooking area and in the scullery, while the stone is displayed as a feature on the island bench, for example.”

Engineered benchtops may be super-resilient and come in an amazing range of colours and authentic-looking patterns, but being Italian, Petra has a soft spot for natural materials, such as marble and granites. “With time, they gain far more charm and character – like leather compared to vinyl,” she says. “I do like stainless steel, too. Paired with other materials, it’s a winning combo.”

Subway tiles, or their variants, seem to have been the go-to option for splashbacks in recent years – and for good reason, as they can work well with almost every style of kitchen, says Natalie. “Certain homes will always look good with subway tiles – it’s a safe choice. But you could also look at stone-clad walls, made up in porcelain, composite or natural stone, or use smaller, more interesting-shaped tiles, as I have done in some of my recent kitchens.”

Petra believes subway tiles have had their day. Coloured tiles are now taking centre stage, with their many shape and textures, she says. Glass is being used less, but is nevertheless practical and very cost effective. And, if you have the budget, marble gives that luxurious impact like nothing else.

“Tiles are still a firm favourite with my clients,” says Kyla. “In all shapes and sizes, they are a great way to add interest, colour and pattern to a kitchen – and are relatively in-expensive. The use of benchtop materials for splashbacks is also a trend we are seeing now. This is a great way of finishing off the kitchen without introducing another material or colour into the palette.”

Subway tiles are still being requested by some of Jane’s clients, but she says she’s moving away from the traditional white size and shape in order to give a fresher and more striking effect. “Glass splashbacks are still affordable, but can be a bit bland. Using a specific print or photo will make them more personal. Antiqued mirror or special-effect glass is another option for a wow feature.”

Echoing the thoughts of her fellow designers, Jane says extending the benchtop material up the wall is something she is doing more frequently. “The impact is beautiful – seeing the stone used on a vertical as well as a horizontal surface. Also, with no grout joins, it is an easy-wipe finish that looks stunning. It makes sense as far as the cost goes as well, considering that the hob bench and splashback can often be cut from the same slab – so no wastage.”

Sculleries and butler’s pantries
Inevitably it comes down to space, but are these little annexes to the main kitchen being requested by clients? Also, how much space do you realistically need and, if you haven’t the space, are there other options?

“If space allows, then a scullery is a must-have in my eyes – it gives the perfect place for leaving small appliances on the bench, a working area which you can close off and hide mess easily,” says Kyla. A butler’s pantry or scullery does not need to be overly large – enough space for a 600mm-deep benchtop and a standing area of at least one square metre. “Obviously the larger the area, the more practical it becomes, and a sink and dish drawer are welcome additions. A smaller scullery tends to be more of a walk-in storage area, or extended pantry.”

Natalie and Kyla agree that if the room is large enough, then a butler’s pantry or scullery will make your kitchen feel more luxurious, and give you a whole heap more flexibility – not to mention a great space to hide away messy things so your main kitchen can look tidy. “Having said that, cleverly designed smaller kitchens can provide good storage. Most of my clients come back to me and say their new kitchens have so much more storage than they imagined.”

“If space does not allow for a scullery, then a pull-out pantry is a great idea in the main kitchen,” says Kyla. “Breakfast/coffee zones are also very popular and provide dedicated spaces for these frequently used facilities. Quite often, a small sink will be added to these areas, along with a boiling-water tap.”

Although popular, Jane says it is best to clarify what the intended area is to be used for before allocating valuable space to a scullery. “If it is purely for storage, then incorporating clever storage solutions, like pull-out pantries or pocket door pantries, without taking up valuable bench and circulation space, will often be a better solution,” she says.

“If a true working space is required and a client wishes to add a dishwasher, sink, fridge or an even an oven, then this almost becomes a full new kitchen, so it’s very important to check how the client plans to use this space.”

Jane estimates the space required to install a simple linear storage scullery should be at least 1.55m wide, to accommodate a 650mm-deep bench with a minimum walkway width of 900mm. “Designating areas into specific zones, like pantries, breakfast stations and drink areas, helps to divide and manage the space to provide easy access for the person cooking, but also for other people accessing the kitchen briefly.”

So, there you have it – some fantastic insights on design trends from four of Auckland’s finest kitchen designers. They also gave us their opinions on appliances and lighting, but we ran out of space. More about that in the next article.

Thanks to our four kitchen designers:

Petra Brebner – Mastercraft Kitchens New Lynn

Natalie Du Bois – Du Bois Design

Jane Fergusson – Kitchens By Design

Kyla Potter – Carlielle Kitchens


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