Matt Preston has cooked in a lot of kitchens. And not all impressed. For hardcore foodies and renovators alike, here are his new kitchen rules
The secret to creating a great kitchen.
THE KITCHEN has become not just the centre of the home but, with our trend towards open-plan living, a statement of who we are. Or, more accurately, how we wished others would see us… whether sleek inner-city monochrome, retro throwback, Hamptons bleached oak or industrial steel.
While few of us can afford that kitchen of our wildest dreams, if we could we’d probably actually want to cook in it. This is at odds with the behaviour of some of the super rich around the world. The big trend with India’s super wealthy is to put in a glamourous $250-500k display kitchen that you sit around in chatting with your guests, while your team of cooks continue to stir their pots down in the old working kitchen.
I’d blame Masterchef for this if I hadn’t heard from builder mates of fancy beach houses in Portsea and Palm Beach that also have two kitchens for reasons of style rather than it being a kosher household.
I’ve cooked in hundreds of home kitchens around the world, from crumbling castles to dingy squats. Some work well, others don’t, so drawing on this experience and the wisdom of my builder mate Scott (no, not that one) and Stellar design guru Neale Whitaker, I’ve nailed what makes a great kitchen.
No one wants to be seen as boring, but chasing fashion has its own, much more damaging, risks. The trouble with following trends with a mega-dollar kitchen is that trends date so quickly. Remember, today’s black cabinets are tomorrow’s pioneer pine cupboards.
However you choose to express your character, it should mesh with the rest of your house or adjoining spaces. The advice from our own design guru, Neale Whitaker, is simple and down to earth…. don’t be swayed by whatever’s on trend.
“You can’t go too wrong with any combination of white, grey, neutrals, timber, granite, concrete, brushed steel, stone, quartz or laminate. My advice is to avoid colours – including black – and highly decorative tiles that will date quickly,” he says.
Neale might be the Love It or List It reno master but even he was seduced by marble for his own kitchen and it’s now showing signs of wear. “Next time I’ll pick Silestone’s Dekton or good old Caesarstone,” he says wryly.
This is one of the most expensive things in any kitchen reno. I’ve found that drawers work better than cupboards below waist height as they give you more useable space and it makes it easier to find everything. With the current trends for finger touch-opening and slow-close, resist the temptation to make the drawers too wide or once filled they will be too heavy.
It’s cupboards all the way for me above waist level. Glass fronts to your cupboards can make the kitchen feel more airy but personally I think seeing even a suspicion of the mayhem and disorganisation that might lurk inside can make things look messy.
Also, don’t forget a shelf – ideally above the fridge – for all your cookbooks and neatly annotated copies of delicious.
An eon back in a previous – and far more glamorous – life, I wrote reams about small appliances. Back then, as the new Chinese imports busted prices, toasters, kettles and irons all cost about $10. Now things have swung way, way the other way and zeros have been added to small appliance swing tags with the sort of wild abandon usually reserved for the Easter bunny giving out chocolate eggs.
If you have spent $320 on a kettle, over $700 on a stand mixer or over $500 on a smoothie maker however, it’s understandable that you might want everyone to see it. And if it’s out you are more likely to use it – especially in these days where we demand immediate, here and now, access to everything. This can make your appliance area cluttered, so it’s a great idea to put a sliding or folding door on it so you can hide away the crumby toaster and the jumble of power cords when guests come calling.
I lust after walk in pantries where everything is in matching plastic tubs. Sadly few of us have the space or budget (or time) for that. Instead, meet your meaner budget and go for a pantry cupboard with shelves above waist height and drawers below that make everything easier to find in a busy pantry. Don’t forget half shelves in those cupboards to help keep everything you’ve got visible.
If you have kids, the kitchen is likely to be the first stop when they come back from school so a large cupboard with shelves for school bags and another for a phone / tablet / laptop charging station is well worth the space if you have it.
CRAZY GOOD IDEAS AT A CRAZY BIG PRICE
If money is no problem – so I’m talking to anyone who is a CEO or installs kitchens – include a vacuum cleaner suction point in your kitchen. Being able to sweep rubbish to it and have it immediately sucked up rates along with the knee-pressure-activated motorised door beneath the sink (making access to the bin underneath hands-free), underfloor heating and having someone called Pierre make brioche every morning. The rest of us will still have to make do with the dustpan and brush, pulling open doors with our dirty hands and wearing slippers in the morning.