The kitchen is where friends and family spend a lot of time and increasingly it is the heart of the home.
New designs, new gadgets and stand-out features make kitchens one of the more fun elements of your new home to plan. The layout of your kitchen will be largely dictated by the available space and its relationship to other rooms and traffic flows, but there are elements within the kitchen itself over which you have a wide range of choice.
Your architect or building designer may wish to play a large part in the design of your kitchen but specialist kitchen designers and manufacturers are better suited to design and manufacture your dream kitchen off site and can install it before you move in.
Begin the process of designing your kitchen early. Depending on your specifications it can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to manufacture and complete the installation of your new kitchen. This is AFTER you have finalised your design plan.
- Consider how much storage space you need. Do you prefer drawers or cupboards? A walk in scullery or lots of pantry space?
- Decide on a realistic budget and share it with your designer. They need to know your financial limits.
- Think about how you will use your new kitchen. Where would you like things to be situated? For example, a pull out bottle storage beside the hob for oils and sauces? Dishwasher to the left or right of the sink? Underbench, freestanding or wall oven?
- Consider what you like and dislike about your current or previous kitchen. Look at your friend’s new kitchens and visit kitchen showrooms and builders showhomes to get ideas and see what’s new.
- Keep the golden triangle of sink/bench, fridge and hob in mind. Try to make sure it’s not too big.
- Think about the different benchtop options available to you and ask about the features, benefits and disadvantages of each e.g. the possible reflection of the sun off stainless steel.
- Do you have enough bench space (depth as well as length)? Would you like a breakfast bar or overhang?
- Consider the flow of traffic in and around the kitchen. Try to put items of high use such as fridges and rubbish bins near the entrance to the kitchen so that other people can access them safely without entering the working part of the kitchen. Think about rubbish disposal – recycling of cans and glass and a compost bucket for organics. These can be incorporated into the design of your kitchen.
- The kitchen tap is the most used in the house – get a good one. Ask your designer for their advice. Also be aware of your water pressure – high, low or variable.
- Do the rubbish bins you’ve selected fit under your sink with the assorted drainage and water pipes? Or would bins in a separate unit be more easily accessible?
- Where and how will you store cleaning products, especially for easy access? There is a large range of under sink detergent caddies available.
- Water filters are regularly thought of but how about a soap dispenser, and now there is ondemand hot water – a fabulous convenience if you can afford it?
- Are the handles easy to use – can you get your fingers in; will they be dirt traps? Consider other users in this decision.
- Are the materials chosen for cupboard/drawer facings and benchtops easy to keep clean and durable?
- Will they match the other colours & styles you have chosen? Where possible take kitchen samples home or take tiles, furnishings or drapes into the kitchen showroom.
- Do you have sufficient lighting and lights in places where they’re needed? Would you like lighting inside your cabinetry?
- Gas is a great way to cook. You can precisely control the temperature which is one of the many reasons why chefs prefer to cook with gas. It gives fantastic indoor and outdoor cooking options, with a wide range of ovens, cooktops and barbeques in the latest styles to suit any home and budget. Alternatively, standard electric are still a viable choice and new induction technology cooktops are wonderful if you can afford them.
- Even if gas is not available in your street, you can install large home use tanks that will last a household months and can get replaced whenever you want for not much more than street delivered gas.
Quotes and Design
- Be aware that when you’re offered ‘free quotes’, expect that this may mean you need to supply the plans or have your available space filled up with standard modules. Architect drawings often only specify the space available for cabinets with a suggested position for the sink and cooking areas.
- Get a professional designer’s input from the beginning. Most quality kitchen companies will have their own designers who will work with you to create your dream kitchen within your budget. Your ideas, combined with their technical expertise, will often be the crucial difference in ensuring the end result is a good looking, functional, working kitchen!
- Also, make sure you are aware of who it is you are paying to supply your kitchen (if you are using an independent designer). Above all find out exactly what their warranty covers and how long they guarantee their kitchens to last.
Depending on your budget and the time you wish to spend on your kitchen project yourself, you could get anything from a one hour design consultation right through to a fully-fledged design and project management service. But how do you decide on a designer and/or manufacturer?
Here are some suggestions:
- Refer to advertisers in the Building Guide website and/or magazine
- Find out whether a designer is a current member of the NKBA (Please note there are many excellent kitchen designers and manufacturers who are not members).
- Check their qualifications (any formal kitchen design training?).
- Ask how long he or she has been designing kitchens. Also ask to see pictures or photos of designs they have done for other clients – they should have a portfolio of their work to show prospective clients (you). Ask for testimonials from satisfied clients.
- Consider the design fee (if any - expect anywhere between $100 and $1,000). More expensive does not necessarily mean better!
- Ask exactly what you will receive for this fee. Will you get a copy of the design plans and full specifications? Also check who owns the design rights – i.e. will you then own the design and plans? Find out if this fee includes colour consultancy.
- Find out who generally makes their kitchens – does the company you’re dealing with subcontract manufacture. Enquire about the manufacturer (trade membership, business history, size, references, how long in business, warranties).
- Enquire about the warranty offered on their kitchen cabinetry. Some manufacturers only offer a 5 year guarantee whereas others guarantee their cabinetry for up to 10 years.
- Check that they use high quality hardware for their inserts and hinges. Check the guarantee offered on their hardware. Some hardware manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee (others do not). Remember – you can specify fittings if there is a brand you want to use.
Finally ask, ask and ask again. Ask as many questions as you feel you need to, to ensure that you understand what you are being told/sold.
The following list gives you a sense of what decisions you need to make about most elements that form part of a kitchen. It also offers useful hints and options available to you - it helps to know what can/will be used to make your kitchen!
Doors, Cupboards and Drawers
The main consideration here is the material to be used. Solid wood, lacquer, laminates and new technology plastics – even glass: each provides a different finish and all have varying price points, but they are all are designed to be easily cleaned and durable.
Cupboards and drawers are able to be custom built to fit the space provided.
Internal fittings allow orderly and easily cleanable storage within the drawers for everything from spices and condiments, to cutlery and kitchen knives and crockery.
- Consider the depth of cupboards and drawers and don’t be afraid to go a bit deeper if space allows.
- Pull-out and swivel fittings allow stored items to be easily reached in what would be otherwise less accessible places.
- Consider the space above items such as the fridge, hob and benchtop. Unless there is an aesthetic requirement, these can be ideal places for additional storage for less used items and their use avoids creating another surface to be cleaned.
- Wine storage is a nice detail, but remember not to put it next to or above the oven – wine and heat do not mix!
- Aluminium edging can add a designer touch if desired.
These are the last thing to be thought of, but a crucial element in the finish of the kitchen.
- Can you match toe kicks with elements within your kitchen, for instance aluminium or stainless steel (or laminated surfaces that mimic these metals)?
- Would a colour contrast work well here or would using the same colour work better?
- Ensure your hinges and drawer runners and storage fittings are of high quality.
- Ask to see older kitchens with these elements in place to see how well they’ve stood up to use.
- Handles are of critical importance here – design is crucial to following through with your overall design theme and subtle differences make a surprising impact when you realise that your kitchen will have anywhere between 10 and 30 or so handles.
- Remember that there are many new fittings that will make your kitchen perform as a functional workspace beyond what you can imagine, ranging from waste bins (including recycle compost and bins) through to full height upright pantry drawers accessible from either side or pop-up electrical outlets that go away when not in use.
Splashbacks are a given in the modern kitchen but the choices are many:
- Stainless Steel
If using glass, ensure the manufacturer uses good quality manufacturing techniques and quality glass.
Do you want the splashback to run the full length of the benchtop or just behind the hob?
A splashback is a requirement for certification where a gas hob or gas top oven is used.