Tuesday, 02 October 2012 00:49

The Great Australian Kitchen

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Kitchen design in Australia has evolved significantly over the last 30 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Stevie Newbegin speaks to the industry leaders in Western Australia to learn about the changes in kitchen design, and outlines the key features of a contemporary Aussie kitchen.

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If you were to compare a kitchen today with one from a few decades past, you would not only notice aesthetic differences, but also functional differences. The modern-day kitchen has completely reinvented itself, and now stands proud as the centrepiece of many contemporary homes.

From the layout to the style, materials and appliances, Australian kitchens have come a long way. Here, Trish Yates from TM Kitchens, Ben Clohessy from Clohessy Cabinets and Krystal Castle from 701Design let us in on what characterises a great Australian kitchen.

THE EVOLUTION

Yates, Clohessy and Castle have all noticed a considerable transformation in kitchen design over the years. While kitchens were once seen as purely functional spaces reserved solely for food preparation, the three say the space has consolidated itself as “the heart of the home”.

Now more open, with increased traffic and a more central location, kitchens have become a meeting point in the home and a place for friends and family to gather, whether it be for a quick snack, entertaining or even to study.

“Most Australian homes have [moved] away from the formal lounge and incorporated this area within their kitchen/family rooms. The kitchen is [now] the hub of the home; a place for family and friends to gather,” explains Yates.

Clohessy agrees that the kitchen has become the focal point of the home in an open living design, noting the change from when kitchens were once put in the leftover space in a home, somewhere in the corner.

Castle adds that due to the change in the presence in the home, homeowners are now not only concerned with the functionality of a new kitchen, but also the lifestyle benefits.

“A new, amazing kitchen is sure to bring happiness, and bring family and friends together. People don’t buy products (though they are important). They buy the lifestyle; the benefits of the products and the way they are put together (i.e. the design).

“[The kitchen is] the main hub, the social centre and the lifeline of the home. We are [now] seeing and using the kitchen as a way of connecting with our family and friends, and incorporating design elements to benefit the cook, the cleaner, the kids and the guests,” says Castle.

MODERN-DAY LIVING

As the kitchen has become more meaningful in the home, and thanks to state-of-the-art technological innovations, Australian kitchens now have a range of new and exciting features
that sets them apart from the kitchens of the past.

Open Sesame

Clohessy says that one of the key features of contemporary Australian kitchens is the openplan design. He finds that clients are often requesting bigger, more open spaces.

Kitchens are no longer confined by four walls, and are more often than not connected to other living spaces. This perfectly suits the modern lifestyle and is ideal for families and great for entertaining. From cooking to eating, relaxing, watching television and listening to music, the kitchen now appeals in various ways.

There is a range of layouts that you can choose for an open-plan design, and it all depends on the size of the space you have available, the style you are going for and the adjoining room. That said, Clohessy finds that Australians are mostly opting for restaurant inspired layouts.

“Australians are now getting back into the kitchen and cooking more than ever before. This means that layouts are often designed for maximum cooking efficiency and for effective organisation. This also means less of the traditional work triangle and a lot of preparation and cooking in a restaurant inspired line,” says Clohessy.

While Castle acknowledges that kitchen layouts are varied, she finds that the most popular and preferred options are the galley kitchen and kitchens with an island bench, which is in line with Clohessy’s findings.

A galley kitchen features work spaces and appliances along either one wall, or two parallel walls with a centre aisle. Single-wall galley kitchens work well with island benches, and the two options are growing more and more popular for open-plan designs.

Island benches are fantastic for an open plan kitchen as they provide extra storage, more bench space and an array of functions from food preparation through to eating and even studying.

Another useful design tip to open up a kitchen is to utilise floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, which will save space and spare an extra wall. This will also leave more room for storage. Yates, Clohessy and Castle all find that plenty of drawers and storage space is in high demand in Western Australian kitchens.

Hide And Sleek

The demand for open spaces has also resulted in a need for hidden work spaces. Clohessy describes today’s kitchens as beautiful, with straight and sleek lines. Yates agrees, noting the increase in popularity for integrated dishwashers and fridges that provide a seamless look in the kitchen in place of bulky appliances.

This minimalistic approach sees appliances often concealed behind cabinets, sliding doors and lifting panels. Whether it is sinks covered by benchtops, coffee machines hidden behind lifting panels or induction cooktops with a flat surface, kitchen appliances are now being built into the kitchen rather than added to it.

The addition of butler’s pantries and sculleries are also highly popular for hiding mess. These are small rooms off from the kitchen where you can store any utensils and pots and pans,
prepare food, or simply do the cleaning up. They are growing in popularity among homeowners who love to entertain, as they can conceal all of their mess from the view of the main kitchen.

Cabinetry is also following a minimalist aesthetic, and Castle and Yates have found that homeowners prefer no handles for a sleek and seamless look. It is popular for kitchens to have little or no hardware on cabinetry, instead utilising push-to-open cabinets or cabinetry that has the lower or bottom lip cut out so that homeowners can open them with their fingers.

Clean Cut

According to Castle, materials and products that are easy-to-clean and maintain are a top priority from Australians. Yates agrees, noting that a common request for new kitchens is for
easy-to-clean surfaces as well as a clean and polished look.

For a clean look, Castle, Clohessy and Yates all site white as the colour of choice in Western Australian kitchens, with the addition of earthy materials and textures.

“The most popular [colour palette] in Perth has always been white on white. But, I have noticed a change recently. People are starting to want more earthy inclusions, and are mixing materials together – timber, stone, glass etc,” says Castle.

White is commonly used on walls, cabinetry and benchtops, and earthy materials like timber are frequently combined through flooring and cabinetry. Stone is often used on splashbacks and island benches. Together, or individually, these colours and materials create a polished and clean look.

Yates adds that colour is added to the kitchen through accessories that can be updated throughout the year. This can include simple additions like coloured appliances, wall décor or lighting, or even flowers!

Light Up

To ensure the kitchen is always seen in its best light, lighting is a key feature of modern Australian kitchens. “LED lighting is playing a very large part in [Australian kitchen design]. Operated by one control, [a kitchen can be] transformed from daytime to an inviting evening masterpiece,” says Yates.

There is no doubt that lighting is important in the kitchen for functional reasons. From reading a recipe to cutting vegetables or cooking a tricky dish, proper lighting is a high priority in all modern kitchens. However, it’s also a key consideration in generating ambience and aesthetic appeal.

An illuminated kitchen will open up the space, and showcase its striking design features. From pendant lighting or chandeliers over island benches to ceiling downlights and underbench lighting, the options are endless when it comes to adding another visual dimension to your kitchen.

All The Bells And Whistles

As we are increasingly spending more time in the kitchen, and television programs like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules are motivating homeowners to sharpen their cooking skills, high-end appliances are becoming popular.

Homeowners now want products similar to those of a chef, and today’s kitchens are jam-packed with the best innovations.

Castle says contemporary kitchens come equipped with a multitude of appliances, and they are both ergonomic and functional.

From combi-steamers to top-end ovens, undermount sinks and double-door fridges, Castle finds there is a broad range of popular appliances.

“Most people think that, if they are going to the trouble and cost of getting a new kitchen, it may as well be the best they can get.

“Good ovens and combi-steamers just make it that much easier to become a good cook and pretend you are a 5-star chef,” says Castle.

Clohessy also finds that today’s kitchens have the perfect placement of appliances, siting that newer models of cooktops such as ceramic and induction are commonly used, and rangehoods are becoming increasingly stylish.

Brain Power

Modern-day kitchens are also equipped with a range of ‘smart’ kitchen appliances, making the kitchen more user-friendly and efficient. Clohessy has seen the evolution of the ‘smart kitchen’ and expects it will only continue to grow.

“Kitchens, like everything else, are evolving too. Kitchen appliances, such as fridges, can now connect to the internet to assist with shopping lists, etc,” says Clohessy.

From ovens that will send you a text message when your meal is done to ovens that will read the barcode on your food and cook it to perfection, Australian kitchens are now doing the work for you, and innovative new gadgets are frequently popping up.

Thanks to new and exciting state-of-the-art appliances, organised and efficient layouts and sleek and stylish styles, the great Australian kitchen has become the heart of the home, and it’s here to stay.

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