The trend towards open-plan living is nowhere more evident than in the evolution of kitchen design.
Once a separate space, designed with function first and foremost in mind, the kitchen is now the focus of open-plan living areas.
It’s a room that has to achieve high functionality with seamless aesthetics.
DESIGN TIP The use of a bank of oak doors, stained to a chocolate finish, introduce warmth and personality to the space.
Sleek but warm
This architectural build in the Perth suburb of Brentwood had big demands for a new kitchen design.
Steve Johnson, head designer of Retreat Designs, in Subiaco, WA, took the opportunity to integrate high-spec features while staying away from over-sleek minimalism.
‘There is something of a kickback to the all-white, often sterile-looking kitchen, and the current trend is to add warmth and personality,’ says Steve.
Taking a cue from European designers who generally have to work with much smaller spaces, Steve incorporates innovative ideas that aren’t immediately obvious.
‘One thing that always works well, particularly ergonomically, is the use of retractable doors,’ says Steve.
‘Instead of losing valuable walkway space, these doors have a hinge system that allows them to open and then fold back into a void,’ he says.
The coffee machine is built into this area and sits on a stainless steel shelf. A steel panel below flips up to the same level to create another workspace.
The aluminium-framed cabinetry becomes a feature while also offering all the storage required.
‘This client wanted a neat and tidy space with everything hidden. Creating a wall of storage is an excellent solution that achieves both things at once,’ says Steve.
‘The fridge is concealed behind a door and all the appliances are disguised and integrated.’
The aluminium-framed cabinetry becomes a feature while also offering all the storage required. Image: Silvertone Photography
Modern kitchens have embraced the island as both a practical workspace and for additional storage, as well as to provide a central element.
But in an otherwise pared-back space, a large island can be heavy and dominating. To bring lightness to something so solid, a deep rebate runs around the entire perimeter so the top seems to float above the cabinetry.
The rangehood, which extends into the space because of the position of the cooktop, is clad and painted to become part of the architectural detail rather than a visual drawback.
Storage is organised on both sides in customised drawer formats.
‘Cupboards are almost a thing of the past. They are poor solutions to kitchen needs, and while drawers are more expensive overall, it’s a small cost load that’s worth bearing,’ says Steve.
DESIGN TIP For a more organised and ergonomically efficient kitchen, replace base cabinets with drawer systems.
The engineered stone benchtops add to the natural feeling of warmth and have the look of marble but without the upkeep or staining issues. Image: Silvertone Photography
A built-in pantry provides storage for all the dry goods and banishes the bane of every kitchen, that awkward and inaccessible corner cabinet.
‘This is a system that utilises the space. It’s a tray that pulls in and out of the cupboard, so rather than you having to reach into the recess, it comes to you,’ says Steve.
The rangehood in this kitchen was designed to cleverly blend in. Image: Silvertone Photography
Kitchens of the future
A formative background in IT means Steve is well placed to consider the future of kitchen design.
‘Technology will lead the way, with automated and mechanised systems, but it’s not all buttons and gadgetry,’ he says.
‘Form and how the kitchen sits in the space is something all design is moving towards.’
A young couple in Quinns Rocks, WA, wanted a totally integrated kitchen in which nothing identified it as a working space.
They were fans of the British TV program Grand Designs and saw a solution on the show, then asked Retreat Designs to do the same for them.
‘This is unusual in that it really is form over function here, but it is very telling of the way things are going.’
‘With open-plan living, people don’t want to see all the appliances and functional equipment when sitting on the sofa or around the dining table,’ says Steve.
This kitchen takes design a step further, with a huge walnut panel that slides manually across the cooktop and sink to create a dual table space.
This kitchen takes design a step further, with a huge walnut panel that slides manually across the cooktop and sink to create a dual table space. Image: Silvertone Photography
Modern mix and match kitchen
In this family home in Adelaide, SA, the owners wanted a design that was anything but traditional. Interior designer Susanna Bilardo of Enoki, took on the task.
‘This space is an experiment in finishes and how a kitchen can break the norms,’ says Susanna.
‘The goal was to make a kitchen and living area that was united as one, a space in which they could bring their friends through and sit together, and cook at the same time.’
Crucial to the success of this design is the scullery, which is hidden behind the kitchen and doubles as a laundry.
‘Including a space where all the work can be done and kept out of sight means less need for expanses of storage and benchtops in the main area.
‘It also means they could turn the idea of an island on its head and use a large dining table as a working and an entertaining space,’ says Susanna.
The floor is tiled for durability, and the chevron pattern ties into the parquetry in the rest of the house. Image: Simon Vaughan
The cabinetry is stained with Black Japan to give a matt finish through which the grain is still visible.
Solid oak benchtops featured on one side of the old-fashioned range are sealed and treated to withstand kitchen work.
A practical stainless steel benchtop on the other side of the range was added for the serious cook.
The rangehood cladding is formed using a black stained-all-through MDF product called Valchromat.
Uneven and mottled glazed butcher’s tiles lend a warmth and aged look that doesn’t jar with the black finishes.
Choose items on their own merit so old and new styles work together, rather than matching things. Image: Simon Vaughan
A kitchen design undoubtedly works best when it reflects the needs and personalities of the householders. Image: Simon Vaughan
Big family kitchen
A kitchen for a family of six needs seamless functionality, and nothing precious and sterile would do for this property in Adelaide, SA.
‘This is a busy, vibrant household and we knew we could have real fun with the design,’ says interior designer Susanna Bilardo.
The process started, unusually, with the glass splashback.
‘It was this shamrock green glass that tipped the whole project forward. The client loved it and from there, we introduced the neon pink,’ says Susanna.
Fun, eclectic, colourful and offbeat was the brief from this family. Image: James Knowler
Strike a balance
While the bold elements make a definite impact, the rest of the cabinetry was kept simple and white to provide balance.
The oversized island has ample storage and the top is made of ultra-durable poured concrete, which doubles as an excellent work surface.
At one end, a small bar sink signals the social life of the family, while the prep area is kept to one bank at the back.
Large doors finished with blackboard paint conceal more storage space and make a fun family message board. Image: James Knowler
A suspended fluorescent light provides an effective architectural detail as well as bright task lighting. Image: James Knowler
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 edition of Australian Handyman Magazine