Design the most efficient layout for the kitchen to suit your budget and lifestyle
A well-planned kitchen is energy-efficient, easy to clean and a pleasure to work in
The kitchen is the most commonly renovated room in the house with the average job costing about $10,000, although the price varies widely depending on the quality of materials, appliances, fixtures and fittings, and labour costs.
Expenses can be kept in check by doing a lot of the job DIY and choosing a modular kitchen, but a full-scale renovation will call for the skills of a builder, plumber and gasfitter, as well as an electrician.
The key is to create a practical, well-designed room that remains functional and attractive for years.
Estimating the costs
Most kitchen contractors agree that homeowners should be prepared to spend about 15% more than their original estimated budget to get the kitchen they want.
Cost in every detail of the renovation and be clever about what to ditch if the cash starts running out.
A good way to save money on materials is to mix and match the surface treatments.
The cost of topping a highly visible kitchen island in expensive granite can be offset by using quality laminate on the other benchtops.
Another design trick is to spend on big ticket items like appliances and things you touch frequently, like handles, tapware and light fittings, saving cash on cabinet carcasses and doors that can be installed DIY.
The design essentials
It’s been the gold standard of kitchen design but modern demands mean the three-sided relationship between cooktop, sink and fridge, called the working triangle, is changing.
Kitchens are taking up more floorspace than ever before and this can negate the effectiveness of the triangle by leaving too much room between elements.
A kitchen island is often used to solve this problem and the process of zoning is another approach that brings a family kitchen into balance.
Map out the high-traffic areas such as from the fridge to the homework station to the back door, and create a triangle between them.
TIP Try not to overlap zones for the most comfortable and effective use of the space
Drawing up the plan
If you haven’t yet chosen new appliances this is the time to do it as the space taken up by fixtures like the fridge, oven and rangehood are crucial to an accurate plan and cannot simply be estimated.
These days, many families opt for a side-by-side fridge and a larger format oven, both of which can take up about 50% more room than traditional appliances.
Measure the kitchen area plus the clearances and cutout dimensions of the oven, cooktop, dishwasher, sink, fridge and rangehood.
Draw up a plan view on graph paper or online, including door and window openings as well as any obstructions. Indicate the position of existing plumbing, electrical and ventilation outlets.
Shopping for appliances
The range of features can be daunting but consider these five elements:
- Burner heat output. If you’re serious about cooking, remember that not all burners are created equal. A wide range output means boiling pasta water in a flash and simmering sauces to perfection. Ask the supplier for details.
- Energy efficiency. Look for fridges and dishwashers with high energy star ratings to save on power bills.
- Ease of operation. The little things mean a lot so seek out easy-grip knobs and accessible fridge controls.
- Safety measures. Go for a cooktop with safety ignition and don’t skimp on ventilation.
- Ease of cleaning. Options like sealed burners, tempered glass fridge shelves and fingerprint-resistant finishes can save hours of slog.
Choosing the benchtops
The benchtops are among the most visible elements of a kitchen so it pays to make good decisions when choosing what’s right for your needs and the budget.
Many different materials are available for benchtop surfaces, from costly granite and stainless steel to less expensive bamboo or laminate.
Another affordable and DIY alternative is the collection from Think Benchtops (www.thinkon.com.au), available at Bunnings. The range includes Think Solid, an easy-care, non-porous material, Think Timber, a high-grade natural finish, Think Quartz, an engineered stone, and Think Granite, from the professional installation range.