The latest ideas for creating a kitchen that will be the heart of your home
The single biggest change in our approach to kitchens in the past 20 years has been the acknowledgment that it must play host to more than simply food storage, preparation, cooking and cleaning up. Kitchens may also be the backdrop to children’s dinners, birthday parties, homework sessions and craft activities – for all that, robust materials and ample table-height surfaces are essential. And, if your kitchen tends to become the hub of pre-dinner entertaining, we recommend island cabinetry with a bar-height upstand that simultaneously shields clutter while providing a handy place to rest drinks and bowls of nuts and olives.
Just like any other room of the house, a kitchen should fit the personality of the owners. Fashion-forward designers are creating futuristic kitchens incorporating coloured LED strip lighting around bench perimeters, under-lit islands that appear to float and glass splashbacks printed with bespoke patterns. Smeg’s retro 1950s-style refrigerators even come in candy stripes or a Union Jack design. But there are plenty of other ways to introduce energy and colour. Formica and Melteca laminates, ever dependable for kitchen surfaces, cabinetry and shelving, are available in such eye-popping hues as Pomegranate, Memphis Blue and Sunflower.
Black is in demand, either as a dominant feature, such as in Poggenpohl’s high-gloss cabinetry, or simply as an accent colour. Electrolux’s Ebony integrated dishwasher has a black glass door with a stainless-steel handle. Ilve coffee machines also come in sleek black. For small appliances that fit the theme, look no further than Sunbeam’s black jug or two-slice toaster.
One of the strongest statements in a kitchen is the splashback. Your choice of glass, tiles, marble, granite, stone, stainless steel or Corian is likely to set the tone for the entire room. Glass splashbacks remain firmly in favour and are available in any colour you could want but there’s nothing more 21st century than highly reflective black.
If you’re going for a semi-commercial/industrial vibe, open deli-style metal shelving lends a practical and informal air. Furniture on castors, such as a mobile butcher’s block, has an edgy, contemporary flavour and can be wheeled to wherever it’s most needed.
Red, white and blue is a timeless colour combination and DeLonghi offer smart toasters and kettles in all three hues. From crockery to cookware, Maxwell & Williams have designer homewares to outfit any kitchen. Check out the Bamboozled range of cooking and serving accessories made of eco-friendly and tactile bamboo.
New technology and creative ideas are continually fuelling advances in kitchen appliances. Refrigerators with ice and chilled water dispensers have a well-established presence but the latest thinking hinges around offering a range of temperature options. Mitsubishi Electric’s Connoisseur multi-drawer refrigeration has up to five separate temperature zones designed to help food stay fresher longer. Fisher & Paykel’s Izona CoolDrawer can be set to operate at one of five temperatures: freeze, chill, fridge, pantry and wine cooling. Rather than having a single vertical cabinet that dominates your kitchen, a series of unobtrusive drawers can be installed.
As the trend towards open-plan kitchen/dining/living zones continues unabated, appliances that function discreetly remain in demand. Scandinavian brand Asko has an enviable reputation for dishwashers with whisper-quiet operation.
The Izona CookSurface by Fisher & Paykel combines the performance of gas cooking with an easy-clean ceramic surface, thanks to pan supports that retract when not in use. Additionally, the three-in-a-row burner configuration gets top marks for both safety and ergonomics.
Induction cooking is the latest buzzword in cooktops. Favoured by chefs for its instant heat and precision control, induction cooking works only with pots and pans made of ferromagnetic materials such as stainless steel or cast iron. This year Ilve launches a cooktop that combines gas with induction cooking.
A pyrolytic self-cleaning system is a plus if you’re buying a new oven. Basically, ultra-high temperatures burn off any residue, obviating the need for chemical cleaners. And watch for the Grohe Red tap which, in addition to standard hot and cold water, delivers boiling water direct from the mixer via a childproof mechanism.
Streamlined, modern kitchens are successfully being installed into traditional houses where sleek and crisp white cabinetry is a fitting foil to rustic floorboards. Drawers are favoured over cupboards for ease of use and the ability to view all the contents from above. Electronic drawers open with a single touch and foot-operated rubbish bins offer enhanced hygiene and convenience.
In this era of specialisation, there’s an appliance for nearly every kitchen task. Sunbeam’s range includes rice cookers as well as dedicated omelette, sandwich and pie makers. Our penchant for getting back to basics and creating food the old-fashioned way is reflected in the resurgence of bread-makers and slow-cookers.
Top-end kitchens are taking on a professional bent with large-capacity, high-performance appliances and accessories that were once the domain of cafes and restaurants. Ilve’s top of the line Nostalgie 150cm Grand Cuisine cooker has a double oven as well as barbecue and teppanyaki cooktop options. A Bosch built-in microwave, espresso machine and wall oven installed in a row at eye level form an impressive line-up.
If space allows, kitchen islands are L-shaped or U-shaped rather than the standard rectangle. A sculptural statement tap, row of pendant lights, split-level benchtops and a butler’s pantry are likely to appear in today’s upscale kitchens. Benchtop surfaces can be mixed and matched for visual and tactile interest. For example, consider pairing stainless steel with granite or wood. Other options include CaesarStone, an engineered stone that’s more than 90 per cent quartz, and Corian, DuPont’s solid surface with an unparalleled virtual seamlessness.
Story: Shelley Bridgeman
Photographs: Jackie Meiring
Stylist: Claudia Kozub