Chef De Maison: Kitchen Trends

Jun 9, 2009
  • Article by Online Editor

Kitchens did not really exist in their current form until the advent of electricity and running water (both around the latter part of the 19th century) and with the invention of modern appliances, such as dishwashers, blenders, microwave ovens and refrigerators. The first dishwasher was patented in 1870 in the United States, however, it was not a workable appliance for many years. One of the first small appliances was a garbage disposal unit invented by architect John W Hammers for his wife in 1927 (lucky her!). It took 10 years to develop and eventually became the In-Sinkerator. Prior to these and other developments a simple hearth and table for preparation was the norm, with a totally separate room for dining. Over the last century the kitchen has evolved into one of the most important functions in the home, with many homes now combining kitchen, dining and lounge functions into one large ‘living’ space. There are a number of current trends in kitchen design that contrive to facilitate this notion.

Ilve, a family owned Italian business located just outside Venice, Italy base much of its design around the philosophy of bringing families together. Ilve is at the forefront of innovation: it offers compact appliances, such as coffee machines and large capacity ovens, rangehoods and induction cooktops. One of its most recent creations is the LCD TV Vela Rangehood. This is a slimline rangehood with an LCD touchscreen television incorporated into the design. Whether you like it or not, television plays a large part in many families lives, and Ilve has recognised this in its new rangehood design. Generally Ilve’s products are stylish, chic, heavy duty commercial quality that have been finetuned for the home, while at the same time recognising that the kitchen is the heart of the home where the family comes together.

Integration of appliances is a trend that has been around since the 1950s. It has also been common in Europe for a long time but is only recently gaining momentum in Australia. Electrolux is well known for its integrated products (as are Miele, Ilve, Liebherr and Gaggenau) and has a well appointed showroom in Mascot NSW, showcasing a range of current ideas when it comes to kitchen appliances.

Trends in appliances evidenced at Electrolux showroom are:
• A range of compact appliances that are a great idea for smaller apartments
• Two ovens located side by side. This is a very European style of cooking and the dual ovens are used for preparing an entire meal at the same time ie roasting meat in one, baking a cake in the other
• A range of appliances from integrated fridges, induction cooktops, integrated dishwashers, chilled refrigerated drawers that, when combined with stainless steel finishes, become a kitchen that is semi commercial in style and appointment
• Induction cooking. This also has been available for a long time but has only recently become more widespread as technological improvements and lower costs make induction cooking available to more households. Induction cooking is based on a magnetic heat transfer to food via ferrous metal (i.e. cast iron) pots and pans and is tipped to become more prevalent in the immediate future
• Discreet rangehoods concealed in a variety of ways, depending on your kitchen designer (large canopies are being used less and less)
• Sinks are undermounted, tapware is semi commercial, i.e. vegetable washers, chilled and filtered water taps
• Appliances that form part of an overall collection, with detailing such as handles providing a cohesive look throughout the kitchen
Scott King, Asia Pacific Design Manager for Electrolux, believes that the technology comes first, and the kitchen is designed around the technology. The design team at Electrolux is 130 strong worldwide and works closely with kitchen designers and field experts (Tetsuya, Jamie Durie and Alex Perry for example) to create kitchens that are ‘living products’ and can meet the needs of modern society.

Varenna Poliform is another leader in its field. Known perhaps as one of the highest quality kitchen designers in the world, Varenna Poliform is an Italian company whose products are built in modules and shipped fully assembled in order to preserve the quality and precision of the final product. It is known for its exquisite detailing and also for its ‘lack’ of handles or cupboard pulls. David Cross, Senior Designer at Varenna Poliform in Sydney will interview a client prior to the design process, to get a feel for lifestyle and how the family dynamic works. “One of the first questions I ask is ‘Do you own a mortar and pestle?’” he says. For him, the major trend in kitchen design today is the focus on the kitchen being the heart of the home. What was once a purely utilitarian space has now become an extension of not only the dining room but also the living room. The kitchen is for eating, drinking, socialising (whether face to face or on facebook) for children to do homework, for eating meals together or separately as each person returns from their external activities.

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Varenna Poliform prides itself on its modularity and ‘furniture based design’. So with open plan living the details become even more important, and Varenna Poliform is an expert in beautiful and meticulous details and in incorporating furniture details, e.g. open shelves, book cases, built in tables as part of the kitchen design, ensuring the seamless flow from kitchen to dining to living spaces.
Other trends include the use of texture and contrast of materials. Hettich, which designs and manufactures kitchen fittings, works with kitchen designers to help them achieve ‘technical perfection’. By allowing the designer to customise certain elements (for example: TopSides, internal panels, drawer base and handles) Hettich helps to create unique and individual designs for the end user. Hettich has also taken cues from fashion, art, architecture and popular culture to predict a range of trends in joinery design. Some of the interesting directions the company has documented are:
• Nature – the use of natural products and a desire to express the ‘honesty’ of these materials
• Skeletonisation – primarily due to the advent of technology that created such architecture as the Beijing ‘Birds Nest’ stadium, this trend involves graphic patterns and the use of cut outs to drawer fronts, sides and handles
• Luxury – the use of decadent and often incongruous materials such as flocked drawers and Swarovski crystals

In terms of colour there is less brightness being used and the kitchen as a whole room is the focal point, rather than the appliances being a dominant feature. Strong architectural details, ‘furniture based design’ such as that designed by Varenna Poliform, a layering of finishes and materials, texture being used to soften the clinical ‘whiteness’ of many kitchens, particularly now that they are such a feature of the home. Recycled timber is often used as a warming aspect to the design, particularly when a kitchen is semi commercial. Australian Architectural Hardwoods (AAH) works with kitchen designers to mix timber with a cool product such as stainless steel or granite to give a less industrial feel. Quite often this is in the form of a thick benchtop up to 75mm thick. AAH is also currently working on an end grain benchtop product with slab ends, similar to a ‘butcher’s block’. This end grain product is extremely strong, withstands high wear and tear, won’t expand and contract and therefore affect other joinery details, can be also up to 75mm thick, and its chunky look is offset against streamlined appliances. Mostly popular for its aesthetic, its stability and its environmental qualities, the recycled timber is both a modern and environmentally responsible part of kitchen design today.

Flooring and lighting complete the picture. Athony Zeaiter of Academy tiles has found that the current fashion is for larger format stone imitation tiles. They are cost effective, easy to install, more durable than a natural product and “the appearance in some is so natural that to the naked eye of even the most discerning stone enthusiast, they are near identical to natural stone”. Recent lighting trends include the use of a single large pendant or a cluster of smaller pendants. Martin Andersen of Corporate Culture sees “the dining areas tending clearly towards decorative pendants, whether larger single luminaries or medium size pairs. Paired luminaries is certainly a strong upcoming trend”.

Other tendencies in kitchen design include:
• Collaboration with renowned designers i.e. Marc Newson for Smeg, Atonio Citterio for ARclinea, Tetsuya, Alex Perry and Jamie Durie for Electrolux
• Sustainability – more and more appliances with wells ratings for water efficiency, more and more appliances with star ratings for energy, recycling bins incorporated into joinery (Hafele and Arclinea), acrylic laquers used by Poliform that are similar to car duco and bruise rather than chip, eco veneers, low formaldehyde composite board and low voc paints
• Outdoor living – the kitchen/dining/living space extends from the indoors to the outdoors. This is unique to Australia due to our climate and lifestyle and not surprisingly we are leading the way when it comes to innovation of barbecue design! Electrolux first developed an integrated barbecue in 2006; the pieces come apart and fit in the dishwasher, it is very easy to clean, you can use it to cook cakes and pizzas, it has a wok fitting, along with food warmers, storage and ice buckets so it becomes an entire kitchen for the outdoor area.

It seems natural that the kitchen is the heart and soul of a home. After all, it is a place of nourishment and nurturing, two of our most basic instincts. Anyone who has experienced the camaraderie and connectedness to their fellows when sitting around a campfire (eating, drinking, socialising, cooking, singing, smoking, etc.) will understand the charm in having the kitchen as a focal point in the home.

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