As the former editor of both Belle and Vogue Living magazines, a seasoned judge on The Block and co-host of Love It or List It, it’s safe to assume that Neale Whitaker knows a thing or two about kitchen design. So, when we heard he was renovating the kitchen in his own home, a late 1930’s country property on the NSW south coast, we couldn’t wait to take a look and glean some design know-how too. Today, we’re sharing Neale’s top 10 kitchen design tips.
1. Establish your budget
“Let’s get the boring-but-important one out of the way first. Kitchens are expensive and can easily run away with the budget, so it’s absolutely vital to decide upfront what you can afford to spend and keep a contingency of around 25 percent in reserve if possible,” says Neale.
2. What kind of kitchen user are you?
“Be honest and realistic about what you require of your kitchen. Is this a family kitchen? Do you love to entertain? Or are you a microwave-and-home-delivery type of cook? There are so many sleek and desirable kitchen gadgets available these days, but there’s no point installing a teppanyaki grill unless you really plan to use it.”
“Your budget will determine the scope of your kitchen design – are you relocating or working within the existing kitchen space? You should also consider the best use of space and light. Do you have enough of each. A kitchen that opens to the outdoors is often the ideal in Australia, but if that’s not possible consider the orientation of workspaces and appliances in relation to available light, access to other areas of the home and, where appropriate, the view.”
4. Ignore the latest trends
“Kitchens should have a lifespan of at least ten years. Trend-driven kitchens are likely to date more quickly. Choose benchtops, cabinetry, splash backs and appliances that will stand the test of time. Trend details can always be added through artwork, lighting, bar stools and cookware. Some people prefer their kitchen to work with their overall decor while others like the kitchen to add a modern contrast.”
5. Upcycling potential
“If you’re updating an existing kitchen, think about what can be recycled. Do you actually need to replace everything? And can you work with the existing layout? Sometimes a change of benchtop and some new cabinetry is all that’s required. Think too about whether you prefer to cook with gas or induction. My own kitchen features both to suit everyday cooking and entertaining.”
6. The island bench
“If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the island bench is the heart of the kitchen. Its size, position and design is vital. In my home, the island bench is used for food preparation, cooking, dining, dishwashing, storage, chatting, watching TV, listening to music – it’s where life happens. Choose a bench top that is as practical and hardwearing as it is great-looking and good to the touch. Our choice of Silestone Calacatta Gold in Suede was perfect for our lifestyle and aesthetic.”
7. The kitchen triangle
“It sounds old-fashioned but the ‘kitchen triangle’ is still important to good, functional kitchen design- the relationship and distance between fridge, sink and cooktop. Common sense dictates that they should be within easy reach of each other. It’s as true now as it was decades ago when the term was first coined.”
8. Butler’s pantry
“It’s a sign of the times that a butler’s pantry is a point on its own. Do you need one? Do you have room for one? There’s no doubt that an extra kitchen space offers great additional storage and a home for secondary kitchen appliances like microwaves, toasters, kettles and wine fridges. I have also seen butler’s pantries combined very effectively and efficiently with laundries.”
“Colour is an increasingly important consideration. Once upon a time the choice was white, white or white. Contemporary kitchens feature cabinetry, splash backs and benchtops that range from black, through midnight blue to primary colours and pastels. In my opinion a neutral colour scheme gives a kitchen longevity. Neutral needn’t mean boring though. My own kitchen features pale grey cabinetry, white splashbacks, brass tapware and suede-finish bench tops with a fine, marble-like vein. It feels glamorous and layered but timeless.”
10. The finer details
“The kitchen devil really is in the detail. Think about adequate storage, both task and mood lighting, position and quantity of power points and the height of benchtops and bar stools. Do you prefer handles or soft-close drawers and cupboards? Integrated appliances? Open-fronted or closed cabinetry? These are the details that will dictate the convenience and functionality of your kitchen, so it’s worth investing time and thought at the outset.”