Written by John Williams
From integration to automation, we discuss the latest trends in kitchen appliances with four of Auckland’s top kitchen designers.Innovation never stops, and that’s especially true in the kitchen, where advances in design and technology collide to help make our mealtime preparation and entertainment so much more efficient and enjoyable. Following on from our round-up of the latest kitchen trends in the last issue of The Quarterly, we’ve gone back to the same four kitchen designers, asking them what they are seeing coming through in the way of appliances, and the innovative ways they’re being used in kitchen designs.
Starting with the biggest and often most expensive appliance, the fridge, designer Natalie Du Bois from Du Bois Design says she has been integrating fridges behind cabinetry in most of the kitchens she’s designed lately – unless they’ve been specifically purchased to show off, like a big Sub Zero, or one of those retro-looking fridges. She also says that she’s not keen on specifying fridges that require large gaps around them for air venting, as this area tends to get grimy quite quickly – that’s why an integrated fridge or a stainless-steel fridge that can be flush-fitted is her pick.
Both Petra Brebner from Mastercraft Kitchens and Kyla Hunt from Carlielle Kitchens agree with Natalie regarding the clean, cohesive look of integrating a fridge and/or freezer, with Kyla adding that she, too, likes the idea of making a feature out of a fridge when it merits this treatment – for example, a glass-fronted bar fridge, which is often visible from the living space.
We New Zealanders definitely love our wine, says Natalie, adding that she includes a wine fridge in nine out of 10 kitchens she designs these days – from complete wine cellars to full-height wine fridges located next to the main fridge-freezer or small under-bench wine fridges in a dedicated bar area.
Jane Fergusson of Kitchens By Design joins in the conversation, saying that advances in technology will change the way we use our fridges in the not-too-distant future, with companies now launching models that can tell you not only what you have inside your fridge, but also what is out of date, so you know when to throw it out and when to re-stock. Clever stuff. She also says that there are now domestic versions of some commercial appliances available, such as blast chillers, sous vide and vacuum drawers that make the home chef cooking experience possible.
Kyla agrees that technology in appliances is developing and improving every year – intelligent appliances that are interactive and connected allow people to have more customisation in their home, she says.
An appliance that all the designers agree has improved greatly is the downdraft or on-bench extractor. In the past, these weren’t particularly effective at controlling moisture and cooking odours, leaving an overhead extractor as the best option. However, most high-end brands have improved their downdraft technology, says Natalie, opening up options from a design point of view, meaning it’s no longer necessary to have a large, cumbersome rangehood overshadowing the benchtop.
Jane agrees, saying on-bench extractors are now a popular and a viable option if you have restricted or unsuitable space for an overhead model, for example, a cooking hob located on an island or in front of a window. The disadvantage, however, is that these systems need a reasonable amount of bench depth (if located behind the cooktop), and the extractor unit itself takes up space under the cooktop.
For those with limited under-bench space, overhead extractors can be made more palatable or disguised all together by cladding them in a feature product so they stand out, or blending them into the rest of the kitchen using the same material as the cabinetry, says Kyla. Either way, like fridges, integrating the overhead extractor is now far more popular than having a stainless-steel unit on display, she says.
Another big advance in appliances is the variety of finishes now available, adds Kyla. Black, stainless steel and white are now commonplace throughout most brands, with many coming in a multitude of colours, giving designers the ability to blend appliances in with the kitchen cabinetry, without the need for integration.
Looking at smaller appliances, fewer people are using kettles, thanks to the popularity of a new breed of gadget – the integrated boiling and filtered water tap. Natalie says it’s rare for her not to specify some version of this very useful appliance these days. Jane agrees, adding they can be used to serve the kitchen in other ways, like filling pots, and some units having additional gas canisters that can dispense carbonated (fizzy) water. Kyla echoes Natalie and Jane, saying she often installs them in the scullery, butler’s pantry, or in a dedicated working zone.
The latest versions of these taps include the kitchen mixer – combining the normal hot-cold function of a kitchen faucet with the addition of boiling, filtered and sparkling drinking water. A real space saver, but they don’t come cheap.
Small appliances – toasters, kettles, blenders, coffee machines, etc – are still hugely popular, and all require bench space, says Jane. Therefore, a designated area, such as an appliance garage is an important inclusion in many of her designs. A simple roller door or fold-back doors ensure easy access and ensure appliances can quickly be hidden away.
And that about wraps up this round-table discussion. 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