Cooking Good: A beginners guide to kitchens

Are you starting to put ideas together for a kitchen renovation? In this article, writer David Burgess provides advice on why kitchen renovations are so important to get right and how to create a kitchen plan that will work beautifully for your lifestyle.

Modern kitchen design

By Jason Burgess
Fun, food and life begin in the kitchen.
It wasn’t so long ago when domestic kitchens were hidden away at the rear of the house –out of sight of the guests. Today they are very much at the forefront of modern living. Less a cooking area, more the heart and entertaining hub of the entire home. As such, a kitchen make-over should not be taken lightly. It is usually the most expensive room of the house so every design decision made here counts.

Before you begin, ask yourself

  • What is the end goal of the kitchen renovation? Is it a spruce-up for resale, a simple update or a bells and whistles overhaul?
  • What works in the existing space and, could those features be incorporated into the new design? EG: the lighting, bench space and layout might be perfectly functional, they just need modernising. Check what doesn’t work. What needs to replaced?  If cabinets and drawers are in good working order then with a lick of paint they could be reused to match the desired look. If the appliances are working well and suit the design there is no need to replace.
  • Who does the cooking? Just one cook or the whole family? This impacts on movements throughout the kitchen; the floor plan and the size of the appliances. If there is more than one person working in the kitchen at once and space allows, add another work station to the design. This might be a dual function area like a pantry, an appliance cupboard or in smaller homes, on a multi-purpose, moveable island unit that doubles as a prep area for the barbecue.
  • How is the kitchen used? Just for cooking or for sitting and entertaining too? This helps determine what elements are the most important. Many renovators opt for an open plan kitchen / dining area with a central entertaining island and where possible, links to the outdoors. When a kitchen island faces the dining area it will naturally become the gathering place and entertaining heart of the home.
  • How much storage is needed? This is critical to optimising kitchen design. Is there enough room to accommodate a pantry? Are overhead cupboards necessary? Open shelving brings a sense of airiness and functionality and reduces the need for additional cupboard doors. Alternatively, concealed storage contains clutter and keeps the dust down.
  • What style? From farmhouse to clean line contemporary, there is a kitchen style to suit every house. Define that style first and find some inspirational imagery, visit showrooms and DIY centres to get up to speed with fixtures, looks and costs.

What is the most important aspect of a kitchen design?

The key to a successful kitchen lies in the classic kitchen triangle.

The three aspects of the triangle include the sink, stove /oven and the refrigerator. These are considered the hub spots for kitchen activity, they regulate the workflow and ideally should be within easy access of one and other.  This will ensure that the cook is not walking further than they need, to achieve their culinary creations. The sink is the centre of the triangle even if it is located on the perimeter of the kitchen. A sink should be close to the dishwasher and have generous working areas either side of it. A deeper sink with a cover will be useful for concealing dirty pots and pans during a dinner party.
Décor choices are endless but in smaller places, light colours will give the illusion of expanded space. Mirrored or white tile splashbacks will also open the area. Integrated pull drawers and touch to open cabinets will streamline the look and remove obstacles in tighter areas. Composite stone or stainless steel make durable easy-clean and on-trend counter surfaces. Flooring can help create a sense of openness. Natural tones like tile, stone and concrete floors look sharp and work well with underfloor heating or in sunny kitchens but can otherwise be cool underfoot, timber floors will warm up the look.  If the budget is lean then opt for flooring laminates, which mimic all manner of natural finishes.

What’s the budget?

Even in a basic kitchen, expect no change from $25,000. Keeping an existing layout will save money, as moving walls, plumbing and gas lines add costs. When major alterations are planned always factor in a contingency of around 20% of the total budget and, expect the unexpected if the walls are coming down. Don’t skimp on the lighting because every great cook deserves to see, and be seen. Recessed dimmable LEDs provide overall versatility, decorative down lights or pendants over the island will invite conversation and under-counter lights set the ambience.

For more information on the costs involved in a kitchen renovation, check out our kitchen cost estimates.

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