Kitchens
While we need safe and efficient places to prepare our meals, you may have to reflect a family lifestyle where the kitchen becomes a casual gathering place.

Things to ask yourself

Kitchen design is very subjective with few hard and fast rules. Keep in mind it's not just where meals are prepared, it also reflects family lifestyle. Most family members spend a great deal of time at home in the kitchen and it's often a casual gathering place. Contrast this with older kitchens that resembled caves with a few dark cabinets and poor, single overhead lighting.

You should start by asking yourself what you need of your new kitchen and put your ideas on paper. A single person or a couple will have different expectations than families with growing children. If you eat out a lot, your kitchen will look completely different from a family that takes their evening meals together. Discuss your existing kitchen space and layout with its main users and list the good and bad points of the design.

And what about the desired style and shape? Homemaking magazines often feature kitchens so browse and get some ideas. Visit kitchen showrooms at your local home centre.

Kitchens

Look at the traffic patterns in and through the kitchen. Analyse your meal preparation tasks. Is there something you would like to do if you had more space or facilities, such as baking.

Is there too much walking or movement during meal preparation or cleaning up afterwards? You can reduce this with layout changes. Include topics such as lighting, both area and task illumination, kitchen seating and appliance upgrades needs.
Kitchens

Combine your notes and rough drawings with accurate measurements and try to come up with two or three floor plans.

Also bear in mind that there are certain accepted dimensions associated with kitchen fit-outs, including the counter height, space between base and upper cabinets, cabinet depth, as well as the space required for refrigerators and stoves.

These dimensions are generally accepted by accessory and appliance manufacturers. The width of the majority of stoves is about 76cm (30 inches) and most refrigerators require 84cm (33 inches) for proper installation. Leave an allowance of a couple of centimetres and always check before buying.


The best advice is to take your time, consult all the people who will be using the kitchen, and the end result will meet most of your expectations. The modern home owner spends about 20 hours a week in the kitchen so it's important to get things right.

Decide on the cost you're comfortable with, including components such as cabinets, new appliances, countertops, flooring, fixtures and fittings, labour and professional costs.

And if you're thinking of selling, your kitchen is possibly the most important feature with potential buyers and its renovation can return almost 100 per cent on investment. Real estate agents will tell you that the quality of the kitchen can make or break a sale.

Kitchens

Kitchen Benches

The standard laboratory height of benches is 107cm (42 inches) but you need to ensure this height is the most comfortable for you. You also need to think about the amount of bench space you need, particularly if it's to become a family focus area or if you like to entertain. This where the action happens so your benchtop has to cope with hot pots and pans, knives and dirt. There are a number of attractive and durable benchtop options available.
  • Granite, marble, and limestone are all popular natural materials and you'll find a great selection of colours and figures. These materials should be sealed properly to ensure they don't absorb moisture. Granite is the most common stone used for benchtops and is usually the most expensive. It's highly durable, it doesn't scratch or burn and it keeps its colour. It's a natural material that will give great character to your kitchen.
  • Tiles can provide colour to your kitchen and their cost is usually determined by whether they are handmade or factory produced. Tiles are durable and using epoxy grout or similar helps keep the surface clean and intact. The larger the tiles, the less grout you will have to clean. Tiles are heat and scratch resistant and long-lasting and provide a wide range of colour, size, texture and pattern selection. But keep in mind that they can be very hard on breakables.
  • Laminated timber may look good with an edge to match the cabinets, but the laminate may not withstand constant exposure to water and household chemicals like the solid surface material. Be careful of bevelled and flat edges as they can chip. Try to avoid high-gloss laminates for the kitchen, as they will show fingerprints and scratches. Choosing a laminate pattern can help hide any surface scratches. If you do choose timber or laminate, remember to use chopping boards.

  • Stainless steel benches provide a modern, industrial kitchen look but they are not for everyone because they can look cold and clinical. Steel will not absorb stains, oils or odours but will scratch easily and these are hard and expensive to repair. Ideal for a high-tech look, stainless steel is durable, heat and corrosion-proof. It can be fabricated with integral sinks, draining boards and backsplashes and for an extra price the joints can be polished for a seamless effect.

  • Solid timber benchtops are easy to clean and repair and will take years of use. Timber will always give a great look and add character to your kitchen. However, as a high-use surface, it is susceptible to scratching and cutting. Hot pans will burn it or leave marks, and it's an unhygienic surface for the preparation of meat or poultry. Timber is one of the only surfaces that will not damage your knives.

  • Solid timber benchtops are easy to clean and repair and will take years of use. Timber will always give a great look and add character to your kitchen. However, as a high-use surface, it is susceptible to scratching and cutting. Hot pans will burn it or leave marks, and it's an unhygienic surface for the preparation of meat or poultry. Timber is one of the only surfaces that will not damage your knives.

Below the benchtop you can store heavy items such as electrical equipment and heavy pots, pans and oven dishes. Think about how many of those items you have and how much storage space you'll need.

The position of your stove or cook-top is very important, whether you want it against a wall so you have your back to others in the house or on an island bench. A hood will minimise the amount of smoke and oil through the house.


Kitchens

Lighting

As our use of kitchen space has expanded, so has our need for improved forms of lighting. A large ceiling fixture, equipped with energy-efficient fluorescent tubes will supply plenty of well-diffused general lighting, but it may leave you working in your own shadow at the sink, range and benchtops.
So think about incorporating track lights or some form of individual recessed downlight over the sink and range and other busy work areas.

Under-cabinet task lighting can illuminate your benchtops where you prepare the food. Energy-efficient fluorescent fixtures that cover at least two-thirds the length of the counter can be used.

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Flooring

The textural quality of the floor appeals to the eye and has a strong effect on how we see the room as a whole.

The most elegant floor covering options are tiles / stone and laminated timber or hardwood. Ceramic tiles and stoneware are a premium product for the kitchen but have the disadvantage of being cold on the feet on winter mornings.

Genuine hardwood and laminate have timeless appeal and warmth and flooring manufacturers have broadened their product range to meet a diversity of tastes and budgets. You can choose the appearance in terms of colour and whether you want plank, strip or parquet flooring, and in various widths or thicknesses.

  • Warm colours (orange) provide a welcoming and homely appearance. They have the effect of closing-in a room and making it feel warm and intimate.
  • Cooler colours (blues and greens) are in keeping with calm and relaxation. Cool colours tend to open up the space in a small room.
  • As a rule, limit your choice of kitchen colours to three.
Warm colours (orange) provide a welcoming and homely appearance. They have the effect of closing-in a room and making it feel warm and intimate.

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Space Tips
  • If you have a high ceiling, consider using the extra space by hanging a rack from it to store pans. Make sure that rack and ceiling are strong enough to hold the pans.
  • In a small and narrow kitchen you can create more space by making the wall-cabinets taller and thinner, rather than having them protruding outwards.
  • Store items that you don't use very often on the highest shelves of your
    cabinets. This frees up space for most used items.
  • Try to integrate your refuse bin below the worktop to keep the kitchen clean and clutter-free.
  • If you have a high ceiling, consider using the extra space by hanging a rack from it to store pans. Make sure that rack and ceiling are strong enough to hold the pans.


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