Kitchen cabinets are integral to the design, layout and functionality of your cooking and entertaining hub. When you start to look at the choices available however, don't be surprised to find yourself overwhelmed by all of the decisions ahead of you.
The best place to start of course is to grab a copy of Home Beautiful magazine for inspiration - get the creative juices flowing in the direction of your dream kitchen.
Once you realise how much you have to learn, it's best to visit a showroom. Read on for the lowdown on what you should know before you head out the door.
Question 1: “Where do I start?!”
Begin by asking who the kitchen is for and how they will be using it.
“Everything from the layout to the materials should be specific to your needs,” says interior designer Rebecca Pountney of Yellow Letterbox. Think about whether you need a butler’s pantry and acres of bench space, or if you will be content with a simple layout and basic materials.
Next, consider budget. Flat-pack kitchens, such as the Kaboodle range, are economical, but in spaces where walls and floors are irregular, a custom kitchen can be a better option, made more affordable by choosing laminate finishes over 2-pac or solid timber. “Mixed with high-end touches like a stone benchtop or beautiful handles, a laminate kitchen will punch far above its weight,” says Rebecca.
Question 2: “Should I be thinking about the environment?”
The ideal new kitchen will be healthy for the environment and for your family, low in toxins and using wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Timber might not be your chosen finish, but there’s plenty of wood beneath the surface – in fact, as kitchen designer and FSC ambassador Druce Davey of Greener points out, “[Kitchen cabinetry] is likely the largest concentration of wood product in your home after your framing and flooring.” Materials such as compressed boards and paint finishes can be filled with toxic nasties, so do your research – look at the E ratings of the MDF used (E0 or Super E0 is best) and request low-emission finishes. Also bear in mind a kitchen that will stand the test of time is the best choice for both the environment and your hip pocket.
“If you’re a passionate cook who loves entertaining, your needs are going to be quite different to someone who only knows their way around a microwave!”Rebecca Pountney
Question 3: “What is the most important thing to plan for?”
Rather than more storage, focus on planning. “I tell clients to take out everything they want to store in their kitchen and think about where it will go,” says Rebecca. “For example, platters are suited to wide, shallow drawers.” As a general rule, drawers are best for below the bench as they are more accessible than cupboards – soft-close mechanisms, such as Blum’s Blumotion, are worth the extra expense. Corner cupboards are transformed by rotating internal fixtures like Hafele’s ‘Le Mans’ unit. Slender pull-out pantries are popular, although Carmel recommends a Blum ‘Space Tower’ instead. “This is a custom tall tower with internal drawers up to 1500mm wide to house pantry items,” she explains.
“Solid timber kitchens really do live forever. You can refinish and even paint or stain them a different colour if your palette needs a change”Carmel Wylie
Question 4: “How do I decide on handles?”
The right handles can make or break your kitchen design. “Hardware is like jewellery for the home,” says Carl Sriber of Mother of Pearl & Sons Trading. “Play it safe by all means, if that works for you, otherwise dare to be different.” Proportion is important. A large kitchen might need sizeable handles which would look out of place in a smaller space. Also, consider the practicalities. If you have small children with sticky fingers, polished metals will be problematic. Carl suggests keeping your choices consistent. “As a rule, don’t try to mix too many different styles,” he says.
Question 5: “What’s my style?”
Choosing the right style for your new kitchen can be a daunting feat. Start by looking at the overall style of your home. Frameless cabinets with glossy doors could be a perfect match for contemporary architecture, while an older-style home might suit a more traditional kitchen with Shaker-style face-frame cabinets, panelled doors and feature handles. Then consider how your chosen finishes will impact the wider room. “A crisp white kitchen can brighten up the space, while a combination of different finishes and textures can introduce some personality,” says Carmel. Black and other dark hues have gained new popularity in recent years. Matt finishes seem to absorb the light, while high-gloss cabinets will bounce light around the room – great if you have limited natural light or a small room.
“Most kitchens are now the centre of an open-plan living and dining area, so the kitchen is a major style player in the home”Carmel Wylie
Question 6: “How do I add personality to such a functional space?”
Handleless cabinets can complete the streamlined scheme of a contemporary kitchen. But handles, if you choose to use them, can be a fantastic way to add an injection of character into a design. “I’m a fan of mixing the two together,” says Carmel. “I’ll usually have two or three feature handles, something large and custom-made, and then recessed handles or push releases on the base cabinets and overheads.” Handles are also a cost-effective way to refresh a tired kitchen scheme – knobs are simple to replace, but make sure the holes for any new door hardware are in the same position as the old ones.
How to match the right handles to your style:
Finding the right hardware is a very individual choice, but take inspiration from your cabinets:
Match raw concrete and timber with matt metals – think brushed brass and copper, or pewter.
Contrast high-gloss cabinets with hardware in edgy finishes like matt chrome or brushed nickel – or no handles at all!
Keep it simple, crisp and classy, and not too fancy. Polished chrome cup pulls are an authentic choice, or opt for something with a matt black finish.
Whether it’s English country or French provincial, an older style of kitchen is a licence to go for something truly ornate. Think twisted metal, shell shapes or decorative knobs.
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