July 30, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2014 issue
Kitchens – more than meets the eye
Words: Kristine Bonnici – Interior designer
Our kitchens have become the place where we catch up with the family, help the children with their homework and entertain friends. It is where we gravitate for meals, for company and for conversation, finally fulfilling its clichéd title to become “the heart of the home”.
We are now enjoying our kitchens as never before. With open plan living, the kitchen now forms an integral part of the living space and its decoration is fundamental to the success of the interior design of the entire house. Cooking is a true celebration of the senses, a tactile and visual feast for our taste buds. Getting the design and decoration of the cooking area right should allow the cook to enjoy the preparation as much as everyone else enjoys the food.
One of the basic design concepts I follow when designing a kitchen is that form follows function. This is particularly important in the kitchen, where style and comfort are as important as efficiency and durability. Good planning is the key to a successful kitchen, but don’t be intimidated by its seemingly technical nature. Planning is a question of assessing your requirements and balancing this against the architecture of the space you have available.
Rather than using the traditional “work triangle” – an imaginary line drawn between the work centres of sink, oven and fridge, I base my kitchen designs on function – dividing the area into zones for preparation, cooking and storage. Once the plans have been drawn up, I ask my clients to imagine using the kitchen – unpacking the shopping, washing and chopping the vegetables, loading the dishwasher and bringing a hot dish out of the oven.
Don’t underestimate the amount of work surface you will need. Make sure you have space to cook comfortably. Think about your daily routine. If there is usually more that one person helping in the food preparation, then make sure that there is ample space for this. Plot walk lines on your plan. You may think it is no problem to walk from one end of the kitchen to another to collect something from the fridge, but repeating the sequence time and time again, day after day, year after year, will eventually wear down your resistance.
With our kitchens generally getting smaller, storage takes on more importance. Again, I ask my clients to plan their storage needs on paper. There are many solutions available – higher than average top cupboards so that rarely used items can be stored away, stainless steel pullouts to utilise awkward corners and narrow spaces and narrow drawers or shelves for baking trays.
Modern interiors call for a minimalist look and realms of gleaming kitchen appliances are no longer displayed proudly on the worktop. Add a deep cupboard to store bulky equipment. Think about other items you might need to store in the kitchen. Brooms, buckets and cleaning equipment need a tall cupboard. Alternatively, section off part of the room for a separate pantry, freezer and storage area.
Kitchens come in standard sizes; however, people tend to come in non-standard heights! Check that you are comfortable with the height of the work surface. This can sometimes be raised or lowered slightly to ease the strain on your back. Custom built kitchens are also an option.
The role of the kitchen designer is to exploit the space and work in conjunction with the manufacturer to design the best possible kitchen for your lifestyle, coming up with solutions that work.
Choosing a Supplier
Recent years has seen a huge influx in the amount of kitchen suppliers in Malta. Choose your kitchen with care. Before signing on the dotted line, ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Scrutinise the showroom kitchen and research the materials used in its manufacture. Check the corners of the doors to visualise whether or not they will chip easily. Read the small print. Shop around and make sure you are absolutely happy with the service you are being given.
Material and Colour
Cupboards can also be manufactured in a number of different materials such as timber, laminate, lacquer and glass with a choice of gloss or matte finishes. The choice of material, colour and finish will be a determining factor in the overall look of the kitchen and needs to be given particular consideration when designing an open plan space. The design concept of the house needs to be followed through to the kitchen.
There are many options available for kitchen worktops – from laminates to seamless composites such as Corian, quartz, marble, granite, steel, concrete, wood, tile, glass and even eco-friendly paper. All have their pros and cons, but always opt for the most durable surface you can afford. The choice of worktop and will have a huge impact on the look of your kitchen. Think about seams and grouting joints, colour and texture.
The area between the top and bottom cupboards also needs to be considered. This can be clad in the same material as your worktop or can be used to create a focal point in the kitchen.
Many kitchen suppliers have special offers on appliances. Make sure that the offers are genuine and never compromise on quality. Before making a decision, think about your lifestyle and how this will affect your choices. A young couple that often dine out will have different requirements to a large family that regularly entertains friends at home.
In the kitchen, lighting has to look more than just attractive, since it must also highlight and emphasise various work activities. Subtle lighting is great for dining, but hopeless if you’re doing the washing up or trying to peel a potato. Start with a functional lighting scheme and add decorative lighting gradually. A kitchen requires both task and ambient lighting, which can be produced by the same lights or from a variety of sources. A well-designed scheme should provide for spotlights for the oven and hob, directional lights for work surfaces and overhead lights for the table and preparatory area. Capitalise on natural light. With open plan kitchens, think about ways of providing light for eating while leaving food preparation areas in darkness once the cooking is finished. A messy view of dirty dishes will add nothing to the quality of your evening! Choose energy efficient fittings. Lighting must be carefully planned from the outset to complement the interior and to create a beautiful, practical kitchen that will be a joy to use.
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