A pleasing range of new benchtop, splashback and cabinetry materials means it's easier than ever to have an impressive kitchen, writes Rose-Marie Hillier. If there's one room where the finishes and fittings need to pack a
punch, it's the kitchen. Not only must they be durable and easy to use, but they also have to look fantastic. Thankfully, there's a wealth of choices out there that elevate a kitchen from good to gorgeous.
Familiar materials such as timber veneers and engineered stone are being used in new ways, with designers 'layering' benchtops, splashbacks and joinery.
"Kitchens have definitely become edgier," says Kon Kalpou, Executive Chairman of Smartstone, manufacturers of engineered quartz surfaces. "People know they can add character with a great benchtop and splashback."
Marble and stone in rich tones are still sought by those prepared to pay top dollar but a softer-looking, more affordable benchtop option is available in the form of laminate. "Today's high-gloss laminates have twice the abrasion resistance of standard gloss laminates," says Lorraine Brigdale, The Laminex Group Design Centre Manager.
A splashback is one finish where you can get a lot of bang for your buck. Glass has become a clear favourite, and the options now extend to large-format bevelled glass tiles and random-cut recycled glass mosaics. Other splashback choices include mirror finishes, acrylics and fire-retardant metals. Tiles, too, have resurfaced; new, wafer-thin porcelain panels have pushed out the old-school ceramic splashback, tapping into a trend towards streamlined design.
"The latest is the kitchen that isn't there," says Sydney interior designer Bev Kahn. "Everything is concealed behind cabinetry, with an absence of handles. The alternative is adding a bit of bling with crystal-studded handles." A range of clever drawer systems and automated, self-closing cupboard doors make it possible to utilise every inch of space. Thanks to nifty drawer inclusions, soft-closing door hardware and a versatile mix of racks and dividing systems, it's simple to set up your kitchen for precisely the way you wish to use it.
On the money
A benchtop can be a big investment, so it's important to know how much money to budget. For a simple way to make cost comparisons, try out the Price Estimator function at www.pazstone.com.au.
Three sizzling ideas for ultra-cool surfaces:
Porcelain panels, 3mm thick and available in various patterns, are versatile and durable. Marketed under the names Kerlite and Laminam, this material is designed to be 100-per-cent impervious to stains.
The Salvage Company sources timber from old bridges, wharves and warehouses. This can be transformed into benchtops rich in history and texture.
Faux-stone engineered surfaces are now so realistic, you'll find it hard to tell them from the real thing.
Award-winning kitchen designer Mal Corboy reveals his top tips:
To make a kitchen work more quietly and smoothly, go for soft-closing drawers and cabinet fittings.
Choose quality drawer fittings that can take the load of heavy saucepans, cast-iron skillets and china.
Push-to-open-and-close drawers are a great way to keep cabinets streamlined.
Maximise storage by installing a two-tiered tray inside the utensil drawer.
Dividers are a must for drawers that will hold dinnerware and cooking utensils.