Monday, 06 June 2016 01:11

A New (Kitchen) Identity

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In the past, lime green and mustard- coloured cabinetry, linoleum floors and floral splashbacks were all the rage, but as far as 2016 is concerned, daggy kitchen features are a thing of the past. Here, April Davis speaks with Austen Thompson, manag- ing director of Lifestyle Cabinets, to learn how the cabinetmaking industry is evolving to embrace modern design trends.

If you’re anything like me, you probably walk into your parents’ antiquated kitchen and cringe at how awful the design is. My mum has spent the better part of a decade trying to convince my dad that their 1960s-style kitchen is in dire need of a facelift, but alas, my dad’s stubbornness has prevailed. Luckily for me, my husband has a more up-to-date sense of style, so when we chose the colour scheme and finishes for our brand new kitchen late last year, we selected darker neutral tones with a high-gloss finish and streamlined appearance.

Until I spoke with Thompson early this year about his position in the industry and the emerging trends in Western Australian kitchen design, I had no idea how closely our selections lined up with the trends he has seen emerging over the last couple of years.

From our discussion, however, I have learnt that what used to be considered fashionable, more often than not, isn’t now (with the exception of some classier retro and traditional styles).
Here, Thompson shares his industry experience, as well as his secrets on breaking into the industry and designing cabinetry that is modern, stylish and of course, functional.


Thompson is well-versed in everything related to the cabinetmaking industry. From the best materials to use to the latest trends, he has a wealth of knowledge that he converts into contemporary, one-of-a-kind kitchen projects.

“I was able to get into the cabinetmaking industry through casual work experience with a local cabinetmaker at the age of 13. After working consistently on weekends and school holidays, I was fortunate to be offered an apprenticeship at the age of 15.

“Just prior to the start of my apprenticeship I was accepted into a pre-apprenticeship course at TAFE, which gave me a major leg-up when being accepted as a new apprentice.”

Thompson is thankful for the path he took, and would recommend it to those who want to enter the field.

“I would definitely recommend this path to future cabinetmakers looking to get a start in the industry. Along with [completing a] TAFE course, I would advise potential apprentices to seek out as much work experience as they can to fully immerse themselves within the cabinet- making industry.”

Through his studies and work experience, Thompson developed the working knowledge that he now uses to interpret trends and fulfil clients’ design briefs.


The Western Australian faction of Australia’s design industry, much like the rest of the country, seems to be veering towards minimalised, modern designs with sleek accents and functional layouts.

“I’ve seen a definite shift towards streamlined, minimalist and sleek kitchens, including high- gloss finishes and [sleek] handles that are used at a minimum.

“I have also noticed an increase in the use of high-quality veneer finishes that complement high-gloss, bold cabinetwork and [act as] a highlight feature, resulting in greater [aesthetic] appeal,” Thompson says.

Dark colour schemes, muted tones and stainless steel accents are also becoming standard features of fashionable kitchens. As Thompson explains, the market is making a positive shift toward neutral colour palettes and simple designs.

“Clients want more [of a] modern-industrial feel in their new kitchens, which is a positive trend within the market,” he explains.

“In addition to this, as clients in older suburbs upgrade    their    kitchens,    the    traditional Hamptons-style finish with a Federation-feel is being optimised.”

These upgrades usually encompass a traditional, earthy and homely aesthetic, which is in stark contrast to the modern kitchens on the opposite side of the spectrum. Traditional kitchen designs, however, are very sound long-term investments because of how well they age.

For Thompson, though, it’s all about clean lines and functionality.

“I prefer a sleek, uncomplicated [and] workable kitchen. I also like to see the use of veneer finishes in modern kitchens, which brings timber back into the kitchen area while also creating a warmer feel.”


Creating a ‘new identity’ is an important factor in every renovation project Thompson undertakes. For him, creating a fresh look is integral to any new kitchen design.

“[A] ‘new identity’ means we are trying to give the desired space a fresh look with new re-defining cabinetwork and a new identity. I aim to give clients exactly what they require and [provide] new cabinetry to suit their lifestyle.”

The kitchen is the heart of the home and generating a ‘new identity’ within this space goes a long way towards creating a kitchen you will love for years to come. It’s also important that your new kitchen design reflects your personality and needs. If you’re a foodie, for example, you probably won’t get any enjoyment out of a cramped kitchen with limited storage. Likewise, if you have a family-oriented household, a spacious, open-plan kitchen will be more useful than a U-shaped layout.


Every tradesperson has a slightly different approach when it comes to meeting with potential clients, planning a project, and of course, completing the work. Friendly customer service, quality craftsmanship and a collaborative work environment are three defining characteristics of a top-notch company. Thompson outlines Lifestyle Cabinets’ professional approach:

“Our first interaction with [potential] clients is an onsite meeting to get to know the clients’ wants, needs and budget requirements. Secondly, we provide a detailed, easy to understand quotation.

“Once the quotation is approved the customer will usually come to a pre-start consultation in our office in Osborne Park. In this meeting we discuss colours, upgrades, benchtop options and appliance choices.

“[After this] construction of the client’s cabinetry begins. At the mid-point of construction, the clients generally have an appointment at our workshop, where they can see their cabinetry take shape and make any final adjustments prior to installation.

“For the final stage, the team at Lifestyle Cabinets commences installation in an efficient, professional and timely manner.”

Once the work is completed, Lifestyle Cabinets, like most cabinetry specialists, will install the cabinetry and have a consultation with you to make sure the final project meets your requirements.

Excellent customer service and effective communication are key aspects in the final stage and during every part of the process, because at the end of the day, a good customer review can form the backbone of any business, while a bad one can be detrimental and impact the prevalence of future enquiries.


When undertaking a kitchen renovation it’s easy to caught up in the space’s appearance and forget about functionality.

A trendy kitchen isn’t just one that incorporates fashionable colour schemes or stylish finishes; it also takes advantage of contemporary layouts and clever storage options.

“One of my major tips is to get clients to focus on the proximity of the cooktop, sink and refrigerator, as these areas attract the most traffic. I believe accessibility to these areas is critical for both efficiency and functionality,” Thompson explains.

The layout of your kitchen will depend on your needs. For example, if you bake a lot, you will probably want an area to store your baking trays and cake tins that is close to the oven and microwave, and have power point access for your electric mixer nearby your fridge, so you can access your ingredients. This sounds like a lot to work around, but careful planning and a clever layout will provide you with a kitchen that meets all of your needs.

Finally, make sure you select materials and finishes that will suit your lifestyle in the future. Renovating your kitchen isn’t something you do every day, so it’s important to think about what your needs will be five or even ten years from now. For young couples this could mean adding soft-close mechanisms to drawers and cabinets to prevent any future children from slamming things, or ensuring the drawer that will store knives is out of small children’s reach.

Before you meet with a cabinetmaker or designer, have a think about your current and future lifestyle requirements, to ensure you’re ready to answer any questions your designer has for you.

The kitchen really is the heart of the home; it’s a communal space used for family meals and entertaining, and it’s often where families congregate at the end of a long day. By following Thompson’s useful cabinetry tips, you’ll be on track to creating a spacious, aesthetically- pleasing kitchen that is worthy of 2016 and the decades to come.


Read 174833 times Last modified on Monday, 06 June 2016 01:16