Shaping the kitchen

Two trends have tended to govern kitchen design in the last year – an upsurge in kitchen remodeling and an increased focus on appliances

“More clients are coming in with renovations than new kitchens off plan,” says Marina Veiga of Kitchen Wise Designs. “I think this trend will continue for a long time until the market stabilises. This gives the existing home a total facelift as the kitchen is definitely the heart of every home,” she explains. “We have found that the homeowner who has equity in their home and cannot get its worth in the market have used the equity to renovate,” concurs Mark Risely of John Risely & Sons. But Brian Slavin of Slavin & Company disagrees; “Perhaps contrary to general speculation, Slavin & Company have not noticed any discernable increase in kitchen renovations due to an economic downturn. The renovations that we have done are generally a preference not to move house rather than any financial consideration, and because we tend to operate in the upper market sector our clients are possibly less exposed to recessionary factors.”

Certain materials are also seeing a marked increase in utilisation. “There is definitely an increased demand for laminate flooring in general, not only for kitchens, which we attribute to home improvements and the trend towards the natural look, eco-friendliness and affordability of laminates as opposed to solid wood,” says Duncan Semple of BerryFloor laminates. “It is a well known fact that cosmetic improvements such as kitchens and bathrooms increase the value of a home. Whether it’s for renovations or new buildings, consumers are favouring earthy, natural looks and products that don’t cost the earth, literally or figuratively,” he added.

Stefano Madies, importer of Tabu veneers from Italy who supply leading kitchen manufacturers and interior designers agrees; “We’ve definitely experienced an increased demand for veneers that are being used in kitchens.” Laminates and veneers are the affordable way to recreate the look of wood but at a fraction of the cost. Laminates are a photographic reproduction, whereas veneers are sheets of thinly sliced logs applied to MDF or chipboard substrates. These materials are often engineered to outperform natural products with special treatments that help withstand the demanding kitchen environment.

Many wood species are too soft to be used on the floor, making them susceptible to heel imprints, swelling and borer. BerryFloor laminates’ Woodstructure and Woodview replicate the grain and grooves of different woods, but without the wear issues of softness and vulnerability of certain species. “Veneers offer a fashionable alternative to natural wood species and from a sustainable practice perspective, the use of veneers for kitchen cupboards already considerably reduces the total volume amount of solid wood used, therefore reducing tree felling operations,” says Madies. The newly introduced ‘Green’ range from Tabu is the first range of reconstituted and decorative wood veneers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) now available in South Africa.

The role of appliances

Appliances are following this trend too. “Miele appliances offer not only ease of use, but clever use of space too,” says Mandy Hunt. “Today’s kitchen is a focal part of our lives, a place where families gather and friends converse. It is a place that has become more open to the home, where we feel comfortable and want to enjoy life. For this reason it is especially important to create a pleasant environment. With the trademark Miele striking design and high quality materials, Miele appliances set just the right tone.” And while appliances previously just fitted into any kitchen, they are now being designed to complement the room. “This has influenced kitchens in that the look becomes much cleaner which is more in line with the European look. It is also a great deal more attractive in smaller kitchens as the look is more uniform,’ says Marina Veiga of Kitchen Wise Designs

“Kitchens have become far more functional and minimalistic in design,” says Dianne Watt of sanitary and kitchen ware supplier Plumblink. “The days of hanging copper pots and appliances galore on every available work space is a thing of the past. Work spaces are kept tidy with more cupboard space required and the opportunity to ‘hide’ bulky and unsightly items such as dustbins and fridges to ensure a seamless style can be followed throughout a kitchen. Appliances that are on display have become features or show pieces in the kitchen.”

“Appliances weren’t all that attractive in the past so customers tended to want to hide them away as much as possible. Nowadays with the more open-plan living areas including the kitchen, and stunning stainless steel appliances and colourful free-standing units, they actually want to show them off,” says Debbie Bunger from Delawood Kitchens. “Unparalleled design and innovation and impeccable craftsmanship are what sets Miele apart,” says Hunt. “The company offers a broad range of appliances that reflect a multitude of lifestyle needs.” “The appliances complete the design and function of the kitchen. Stainless steel is used as a colour in kitchens today and as one cannot always get a full complement of product in stainless steel, intergrated appliances are used,” says Risely.

“It has become imperative with modern kitchens to seriously consider the choice and position of appliances, as in this genre they make a very important design statement, and might well form the most important visual focus in the overall scheme,” explains Slavin. “Hidden integrated fridges certainly create a clean and tidy discipline, but other appliances should not be ashamed of being seen, as if the true kitchen function is in denial. I believe a kitchen is very much a visual part of the home and not to pretend or be confused with something else.”

Kitchen Studio reports a growing preference for natural looks and materials in kitchens such as stone or granite countertops, solid wood or veneer cupboards with appliances and accessories being integrated behind veneered panels. “Washing machines, dishwashers and microwaves tend to be built into the units, and the variety of colours and finishes available in materials today allows us to maximise or minimise the space as the project demands” commented Vinesh Maharaj from Kitchen Studio.

What clients want

According to Dianne Watt of Plumblink, clients are insisting on practical, energy and space efficient components which are stylish and well designed. Large sinks with huge drip trays are no longer suitable and under-counter bowls are increasing in popularity because most kitchen tops are now either made from granite or stone-based materials. Taps have become a source of inspiration and the ranges available offer both beauty and functionality. Mixers with a retractable handspray are the most practical. There is also a growing international trend to fit electronic taps for certain applications in homes, particularly in the kitchen at the prep bowls. The advantage of this range includes hands-free hygiene operation and ensures that taps are not left running unattended and prevents water wastage.

“Style and integration into the overall theme of a house is becoming a key component of every kitchen along with the reduction of kitchen sizes and open plan spaces. Plumblink has a wide selection of kitchen sinks and mixers that ranges from retro to country style from both local and international manufacturers to meet every style and budget to ensure that space is not only maximized, but co-ordinates holistically with the house décor bringing continuity and functionality together,” says Watt.

“The new style of sink provides several work zones, both on the sink itself and also along the ‘active kitchen’ profile strip along the wall. The advantage is that pans, pots, baking trays can be rinsed lying on the grate in an ergonomically relaxed posture, and then left there to drain,” says the representative from Plumblink. “Budgets are more of an issue than before – clients are more price sensitive and discerning than they have been,” says Veiga of Kitchen Wise Designs

“Modern kitchen designs mostly include separate sculleries when space allows, but the traditional ‘working triangle’ is still relevant incorporating butcher blocks and prep bowls,” comments Debbie Bunger from Delawood Kitchens on client’s needs. “Self-closing drawers and doors, spicerack and larder pullouts and stainless steel appliances are also big trends”, she adds.

For laminate flooring, customers are insisting on waterproofing. BerryFloor caution against using any old laminate in the kitchen as most laminates are water-sensitive so not suitable for use in wet areas. Excess water or bilging causes delamination and lifting. “HydroPlus is a new technique where the board is given a special water resistant treatment and is currently only available in our Loft Project range. A special sealant for the kitchen perimeter is required to enable the laminate to withstand up to 36 hours of water on it,” advises Duncan from BerryFloor.

Brian Slavin has noticed another trend, “Over a period of time, ‘Caesarstone’ tops, while not a necessity, have certainly become the desired work surface, rather than granite or ‘Corian’. We have also noticed an increased interest in warming drawers and steamers as far as appliances are concerned. Another new request has been for instant boiling water dispensers together with organised drawer management systems, especially popular with our ‘Santos’ imported range of kitchens.”

A new arrival

The world leader of engineered quartz surfaces with sales in over 80 countries worldwide and a 73% market share in the United States of America has launched its range of over 100 colours and textures in South Africa. 94% of Silestone is natural quartz, one of the most resistant and attractive natural materials. Silestone is consequently highly resistant to scratching and highly resistant to staining.

Silestone is also the only quartz surface containing microban, the internationally patented antibacterial protection, which continuously inhibits the growth of micro organisms and harmful bacteria which may be on the surface of kitchen countertops such as: E-Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Staphylococcus and the MRSA Superbug. Furthermore, Silestone is certified internationally to guarantee an offer of full commitment to food safety and environmental protection.

The natural beauty of Silestone, together with its unbeatable physical and technical features, make it a viable material for use in a wide range of commercial and domestic applications, such as bar and food serveries, reception counters, kitchen worktops, bathroom vanities and wall and floor tiles. The product is being distributed in South Africa through Union Tiles.


* BerryFloor –
* Delawood Kitchens –
* John Risely & Sons –
* Kitchen Studio –
* Kitchen Wise Designs –
* Miele –
* Plumblink –
* Slavin & Company –
* Tabu –
* Union Tiles – 011-663-2000