Once upon a time, users of domestic kitchens (usually women) were relegated to a dark, stuffy room at the back of the house where they cooked over a wood stove or an open fire and washed up in tubs on the floor. The kitchen was a utilitarian room like the laundry and toilet and not somewhere to take the guests. During the 20th century a revolution in kitchen design took place. As a result of radical social changes which gave women rights and reduced class divisions, the desire developed to make the kitchen a more pleasant place to be in. People no longer had servants who would slave for them in the kitchen, and women were beginning to demand more convenience and comfort in the home.

The most radical change in the last century has been the development of the open space living room which placed the kitchen squarely in the heart of the family home. Now that they have become the hub of the house, it’s no surprise that people hang out in them at parties.

The design of the domestic kitchen is now one of the most important -“ and fun -“ considerations when renovating or building.

The range of options available for floors, benchtops, appliances and storage can be pretty overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start. One of the simplest options is to engage a specialist kitchen designer/installer and choose from their prototype kitchens. Architects will usually offer detailed kitchen design as part of their services and will be able to offer advice on finishes and appliances. Browsing through kitchen and home magazines can also be really useful for getting ideas.

One of your first decisions will be layout. If renovating, this may be determined to some extent by your existing house. If building from scratch you have a choice of the U-shape, a galley kitchen, or variations of both. Linear kitchens have been trendy for a while, particularly in smaller apartments, with or without an island bench.
If you have room for the island bench this will provide valuable additional bench space as well as help to conceal any mess. Ergonomically a triangle between cooktop/oven, kitchen sink and prep area has been defined as the ideal work area in a kitchen, but the most important thing is to ensure sufficient clearance between cupboards to allow doors to open without obstructing the path through the kitchen.

The trend for integrated appliances gives modern kitchens a very sleek appearance and makes cleaning much easier. There has been a recent move towards free-standing commercial-style ovens and cooktops, which can look great but aren’t necessarily the most user-friendly appliances. Stainless steel has also enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last 10 years, and it is now possible to purchase stainless steel-faced fridges, microwaves and ovens to match your splashbacks and benchtops. For that commercial aesthetic, stainless steel is unbeatable, but it does tend to show fingermarks and needs special attention to keep it looking its best. If you’re looking for lower-maintenance finishes, think laminates and reconstituted stone or plastics such as Corian.

Other recent trends have been for colourback glass splashbacks as well as granite and other stone benchtops. Using toughened glass or stone on your benchtops will give you that lovely cool-to-touch surface and means you can transfer hot items straight from the oven to the bench, but if they do crack or stain it’s an expensive exercise to replace the whole surface.

Another area worth considering is storage and waste disposal. If you’ve ever lived with a badly designed kitchen with deep cupboards where jelly crystals and Tupperware get lost for generations, you know how much space can be wasted in kitchens. This can be avoided and maximum efficiency achieved by browsing through some hardware brochures from companies such as Haefele and Howard Silvers. Pull-out pantry systems, recycling centres and many other great space-saving concepts can be incorporated into your joinery to make your kitchen work as efficiently as possible.

Good planning and some inspiration will make your kitchen the place to hang out at your cocktail party.

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