What's cooking?

What’s cooking?

As the kitchen morphs seamlessly into a cohesive living space, the spotlight
falls firmly on timeless design and materials. By Tess Paterson

Kitchens have always been big-ticket items. Filled with appliances and technology, they’re furnished much like a living space – revolving around socialising as much as cooking. So it makes sense to design one that will last; an architectural space that connects visually and practically to the rest of your home.

The test of time

‘The ongoing trend in kitchen design is towards open-plan living,’ says Ramón Casadó, design director at bulthaup South Africa. ‘There’s a large focus on entertainment, where functional kitchen spaces seamlessly flow into the living and dining areas without an obvious change in appearance.’ Whereas, a few decades ago, the kitchen was a separate entity, it has now become an integral part of the home.

‘In design terms, there’s definitely a move towards a kitchen that forms part of your interior,’ says interior designer David Muirhead. ‘Today’s contemporary kitchens convey a feeling of beautiful and considered furniture pieces, rather than the fitted kitchens of old. This clean-lined, elegant approach has excellent longevity, and the lack of visual clutter is very calming.’

What’s so interesting is that this timeless look has been around for a while. The lean, squared-off lines originated with the Bauhaus movement in the ’30s, and if you look at photos of any top Italian kitchen from the ’60s onwards, they wouldn’t appear out of place today.

‘The sign of a truly timeless kitchen is if you still love it after 15 years,’ says kitchen designer Sergio Polita of Snaidero. ‘Trends come and go, but the truth is that clean lines and a neutral palette will endure.’

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Materials that last

When my husband and I bought our little house in Joburg, we inherited an almost indestructible melamine kitchen, installed during the time of bell-bottoms and Starsky & Hutch. Naturally we gutted it completely, letting in more light and optimising the flow. One valuable lesson that we learned was to choose equally durable materials for the next phase.

‘Choosing the right textures and materials is crucial to creating a timeless kitchen,’ says Muirhead. ‘And I always look for contrasts between dark and light; a play on positive and negative spaces. People often steer clear of darker tones, but they bring such a beautiful modernity to any kitchen, while timber accents lend a natural warmth.’

Casadó adds that consumers are becoming more adventurous when it comes to combining different finishes. ‘You can create any number of looks by skilfully juxtaposing a variety of textures, whether smooth or rough-cut,’ he explains. ‘A matching palette of materials across different areas is also increasing, aligning with the trend towards integrated living spaces.’ And thanks to new technologies, you can now consider any number of beautiful yet durable options: from seamless laminate fronts and high-gloss lacquers in a variety of tones, to wooden veneers and anodised aluminium. ‘As well as the classic shades of natural aluminium, we also offer aluminium in bronze and dark-grey, which changes and shifts with the light,’ says Casadó. ‘This will usually combine well with other materials such as stainless steel and stone.’

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A place for everything

Part of the appeal of a sleek, contemporary kitchen is the lack of visual clutter.

‘Appliance garages are an excellent way to keep items such as kettles or blenders out of sight, but easy to find,’ says Polita. ‘For key items, such as fridges and freezers, it’s best to integrate them as part of the interior design. Timber finishes often work beautifully here, such as a dark smoked oak, which will contrast well with paler countertops or wall colours.’

Not all kitchens have enough space for a separate scullery. If yours is a ‘mono-kitchen’ with the scullery in the main space, there are some clever ways to conceal the goings-on. Pull-out shelving will make the most of reduced under-sink space, while wall-mounted drip trays can be cleverly concealed behind cup- board fronts or metal hoods. As per the fridge, dishwashers are best integrated for a cohesive, streamlined look.

Often, knowing exactly where to find your garlic press is key, and that’s where properly organised drawers and shelves come into their own. ‘By including dividers and prisms, owners can organise dishes, groceries, cutlery and utensils exactly as they wish,’ says Casadó. ‘We also encourage the use of pocket doors and functional boxes, which allow for truly multifunctional spaces.’

Tying in with an orderly kitchen-cum-living room is the need to have technology close to hand. ‘South Africans have always loved breakfast nooks,’ says Polita, ‘but now they’re opting for sit-down tables, rather than sitting at tall counters on bar stools.’ Not only do people tend to catch up on work mails in the kitchen, but it’s a place for homework too. And cooks are just as likely to read a recipe on an iPad as they are to use a recipe book. ‘Technology is rapidly becoming kitchen-friendly,’ says Polita. ‘It’s useful to include plenty of USB points at the planning stage.

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Make it your own

If, like me, you grew up with a traditional kitchen, the pared-down aesthetic can take a little getting used to. If you’re undecided, and you’re wondering if a streamlined kitchen in high-gloss white lacquer may be a bridge too far, fear not.

‘One way to make it your own, especially if you’re more trend-driven, is to display brightly coloured accents,’ says Polita. ‘You could choose a red stove or a retro fridge, which can be swapped out, should you tire of them.’

In essence, this timeless look is dependent on natural tones such as white, charcoal, even black. And it’s that very neutrality that makes it easy to live with. The great thing is that you can curate the backdrop as you wish: think masses of cream jugs for a Karoo-farm feel; sleek copper accents for a mid-century modern flavour. Muirhead advises playing up the sleek lines by displaying carefully selected items. ‘Show off kitchenware that is pretty and practical, such as some Le Creuset pots.’ And, for a sense of individuality, nothing beats beautiful artwork in a kitchen.

Styling: Rochelle Malherbe, Francoise Jeanne de Villiers; Styling assistants: Robyn Lane, Charlene Amon; Photography: Kendall-Leigh Nash/HSMimages.co.za
August/September 2016

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