Kitchen Renovation Ideas: What's NewBy: Rachel Smith
From hidden spaces to smart appliances, there’s a lot to get excited about if you’re planning a kitchen renovation.
There’s one room in the home that’s evolved beyond our wildest dreams: the kitchen. Once hidden away, the kitchen of today is the centre of action in many homes – and an ever-evolving hub we can tweak with clever design. In fact, a well-planned renovation of your cooking zone will take into account everything from your lifestyle to your collection of gadgets.
“The trend to go open-plan started 20 years ago,” says Darren Genner from Minosa Design, “but kitchens are morphing even more. We’re connecting these spaces with our living, dining and entertainment areas, making it a much more user-friendly zone overall.”
No More Kitchen Work Triangle
Once upon a time, the ‘kitchen triangle’ – where the cooktop, sink and fridge were no greater than seven meters apart – was critical to a kitchen’s design. Not any more, says Darren. “Usually, you put the cooktop opposite the sink and the fridge to the left or right, but with the emergence of cooking shows like Masterchef, more people are now cooking in the kitchen at once and it’s becoming more important to have multiple working ‘triangles’. There has to be more than one area where two people can function – so whenever you turn 180 degrees, there’s always a landing space.”
It’s also important to think about active and passive areas in your kitchen design – so if someone’s cooking in the active area and the kids come home from school, you want them entering the kitchen’s passive area, rather than getting under the cook’s feet, advises Darren. “Most kitchens we design now have two ways in and two ways out.”
Kitchens are Getting Smarter
Despite reports over the past few years about internet fridges and wi-fi ovens, it really does feel like we’ve waited forever for technology to catch up with the kitchen. But Darren says exciting developments are on the design horizon, with the following innovations:
- Flexible access: Can’t quite reach the top cupboard? Wish the benchtop was that bit higher? Let your kitchen come to you. “We’re seeing adjustable-height benchtops and overhead cupboards that come up or down so you can access what’s in them.”
- Pop-up storage: If you swap a standard 600mm-deep benchtop for one that’s 700mm-800mm deep, why not have a section at the back with clever pop-up storage? It’s not cheap, but it’s available now, says Darren. “You can also have a whole bar of appliances stored under an island bench or the benchtop, which pop up when you’re ready to use them. There are a range of hi-tech gadgets like that on the way.”
- Speedy steam ovens: They aren’t just a ‘cheffy’ fad. “I saw a demonstration where three courses were cooked – including
a deconstructed paella and a chocolate soufflé – in just 16 minutes with no transfer of flavour,” says Darren. “It’s thought that steam ovens have the potential to replace microwaves and they’re becoming a popular supplement oven,” says Darren.
- Find-what-you-need fridges: “We’re seeing the death of the big, deep stainless-steel fridge,” says Darren. Most fridges I work with now are 1200mm wide and 600mm deep; wider and narrower so we can better access the back of the fridge.”
- Charging spots: Imagine placing your phone on the bench while you make a sandwich and coming back to find it fully charged. Well, you can, says Darren. “Corian has a great charging station you actually install beneath the benchtop.”
Let There Be Light
Planning multifunctional lighting is crucial. “With strip lighting becoming popular and vintage filament bulbs now available in LED, you can have a kitchen that’s bright and practical one minute, and soft and moody the next”, says Darren. “LED is still best because it’s energy efficient and gives you a more radiant-style lighting rather than an incandescent downlight. At Minosa Design, we do all our lighting in 3000K [Kelvin] because of the warm light it emits.”
Chunky Benchtops are On the Way Out
While the slab benchtop may still be occasionally used by designers to anchor a big room, thin is in. “We’ve just done a 6mm benchtop and the thickest we’re doing at the moment is 12mm,” says Darren. “The trend is refined, simple and elegant.”
Choosing a benchtop surface is a huge and very personal decision, he says. “I personally love stainless steel; it’s hygienic and looks great but it scratches. If you can accept that and let it patina, it’ll look amazing in 10 years’ time,” he says. “The same goes for concrete. Natural stone like marble is also still popular, and we love Corian solid surfaces because they’re renewable and you can buy benchtops as long as you want with no join. Another big trend is ultra-compact surfaces like porcelain. It’s almost indestructible and so hard-wearing that you can cut on it and even flame on it.” The ever-popular island bench is also evolving, says Darren. “Rather than just being a bench we sit at with stools, islands are becoming more integrated into the kitchen, especially in small spaces. Tables can be attached to them, saving space.”
Check out our gallery of dream kitchen designs for more inspiration: