So, what does the coming year hold in terms of kitchen design? Two leading New Zealand kitchen designers answer some questions as to what might lie ahead in terms of cabinetry, benchtops, appliances and materials

Two leading New Zealand designers – Damian Hannah,
Two leading New Zealand designers – Damian Hannah, German Kitchens; and Natalie Du Bois, Du Bois Design

Damian Hannah, German Kitchens and Natalie Du Bois, Du Bois Design are well placed to provide opinions regarding the kitchen design road ahead. Their views aren't design trends cast in stone – but they do provide some great insights!

1. Open-plan kitchens. Are they here to stay and if so why?

Natalie: They are extremely practical in today’s world – there is less and less time to spend with family with demanding jobs so having a kitchen area that is open, that you can multitask, check on kids doing homework nearby, or even catch up on the news . We also love entertaining in NZ and like our guests to be with us when we prepare food. Gone are the days of the mother cooking in a hidden away small utilitarian space not big enough to swing a cat in. 

Damian: Yes, I think they are here to stay. But there's a little bit of a movement at the moment trying to squeeze sculleries in, which further compromises that open plan. I've got a set size that I work with with my scullery dimensions, and if it's below that size, I'll tell the homeowner it’s just not worth having, it's better to incorporate it all into the kitchen area.

And the invention of pocket doors – which is one of the things I reckon will be big in 2021 – has helped this. Now there is the ability when entertaining to have a closed off area within the kitchen where you can have small appliances or the dishwasher and a second sink. When it's just everyday cooking and living, the pocket doors are open.

I've actually designed a double pocket door system for a recent kitchen where I've hidden the ovens and the cooktop away – so it just looks like a wall of tall cabinetry. 

2. Trending colours or materials for kitchen cabinets?

Damian: I find a real movement to sort of the warmer tones. At the moment, I'm selling a lot of the sort of natural veneers again, but you have to be careful as even with sealants, timber – veneer or solid – will naturally fade especially with the New Zealand sun.

We are seeing a big movement back to natural timbers. I'm finding there’s a lot of coffee coloured tones at the moment, it’s a warmer, more inviting finish and also the paler colours like ash or teak are quite popular – just really warm, honey tones, and then matching that with some really soft pastel colours, I find the greens are really popular at the moment. But look, I'm very I'm very 50 50 on colours, they can date. Timber is timeless, as are shades like white, black and grey.

Natalie: Colour/material trends include timbers of all tones – with rustic or exaggerated grains being wire brushed to emphasise the wood's 'realness'. Super matt tones are popular along with light tones, especially an introduction of pastel tones. 

This white kitchen by Natalie Du Bois ideally
This white kitchen by Natalie Du Bois ideally complements the wider space's warm oak floors.

Doors being made out of the same product as the benchtop – such as sintered/porcelain stone products that don’t weigh a lot and can be fitted to special hinges are also popular. These can be in various metals and concrete looks. Very earthy products.

3.  Island benchtops – thick or thin?

Natalie:  I see a mix of both – super thin or super thick.

Damian: Yeah, I think it's funny that people still have that concept of the thicker the benchtop the more expensive it looks but I'm not a fan of thick benchtops, they really stuff everything up with the heights of dishwashers and bench heights

4. The most common benchtop material you specify?

Damian: Marble is my prediction for 2021. Okay, simply down to the fact that it's one of the most beautiful materials in the world. I have it as my number one benchtop. It's denting, it's chipping, but that's marble. That's what I love about it grows old with me

There’s a new product out that’s changing things too – called Anti-etch. It's resistant to lemon juice and red wine and vinegars, and all these sorts of things.  It's a game changer but also expensive at roughly $1,000 a square metre to apply.

But the Neotliths and Dektons are still doing really well. Neolith have a product called Ultrasoft and it's probably one of my loveliest textures on a fake benchtop – it's beautiful. It actually feels like like you're touching a honed marble slab, so they get smarter and smarter.

Natalie: I have always been a fan of natural stone, particularly honed, smooth finished stone.  I like my designs to be original and timeless and I believe stone has this effect. It's not a product that has been produced that is a fad – it's got history. 

Pros of natural stone benchtops are that they're timeless, hard wearing, and bring personality to a design – each piece is unique.

The only con is that some are more porous than others and so are susceptible to staining if not looked after. However, most are not very porous – it's good to check with your designer to make sure where you want to use it. 

An award-winning kitchen by Damian Hannah.
An award-winning kitchen by Damian Hannah.

5. Induction, gas or electric cooktops – what do you have in your kitchen?

Natalie: Don't ask! Mine is in dire need of replacing and when I do I will definitely be changing it to an induction hob. Some professional chefs have even changed their way of thinking once they have used an induction hob. Everyone is a little scared in the beginning if they have used gas in the past but once they have used induction they are sold!

Induction hobs are easily controllable like gas but much easier to clean. They are also very safe – induction technology only works on magnetic surfaces so you are less likely to burn yourself and for the same reason they are especially safer around children. 

They are also rapid, easy to clean and when matched with an unobtrusive downdraft system they can bring a furniture-like appeal to a kitchen – a valuable asset to an open-plan design.

This kitchen by Natalie Du Bois features textured
This kitchen by Natalie Du Bois features textured wire brushed timber cabinetry and a mix of thick and thin benchtops. The warm wood cabinetry complements the marble stone look floor.

Damian: Look, I've been a huge fan of induction for the last 20 years and will always sell induction over electric and gas cooktops. In fact I don't see gas hobs in our kitchens in five years time. I've even got owners now coming to me for induction flat-bottomed woks. Induction hobs are fast, safe, and easy to clean. Along with induction hobs, improved downdraft ventilation is now popular – not an option with gas, of course. Gaggenau, Neff and Miele all have downdraft, induction cooktops now, all on the same appliance, with the slot in the middle of the cooktop.

6. What do you think will be the next big thing in kitchen appliances?

Natalie: Kitchen appliance companies are always trying to improve on the technology of their products and making them easier for people to use.

Rangehoods over the last year have changed a lot – the noise levels have been reduced drastically by moving the motors remotely. We no longer want to see a standard steel rangehood – us designers will either try to hide it and design a beautiful housing for it or we will want it to totally disappear. 

A few appliance suppliers have even improved on the old downdraft rangehood and incorporated it into the surface of the hob. They work so much better. 

As far as what is the next big thing, I don’t think there will be a big thing I think there will be many big things but to say what exactly they are is tricky – what I would love to see is a dishwasher with a built in waste disposal.   

I think recycling and compost provisions in the kitchen is something we are becoming a lot more aware of and this area may be what gets improved on next.

Damian: Along with induction hobs, improved downdraft ventilation is now popular – not an option with gas, of course. Neff and Miele have downdraft, induction cooktops now, all on the same appliance, with the slot in the middle of the cooktop.

Now you see everything, now you don't. Pocket
Now you see everything, now you don't. Pocket doors hide a multitude of sins, as this Damian Hannah kitchen reflects.

7. Do kitchens today have different storage needs to kitchens designed 5-10 years ago?

Natalie: Yes, definitely. Pantries are slightly smaller, and fridges are slightly bigger. We are eating less processed foods and more fresh foods which need preserving in cool spaces like fridges.  

Plus there's a move towards increased drawer storage in part because it is so readily accessible. 

Separate pantry rooms are being using for storing pretty much anything – they are not really pantries but more rooms to hide the mess from the showpiece kitchens used for entertaining. 

Damian: Today homeowners are actually get more storage and more space because we're taking away cupboards and putting in drawers for a more functional use of space. Things are better organised these days. The pocket doors previously discussed are a part of this. We still have way too much stored in our kitchens anyway.

Yeah, there's a lot more options available today for that, like, you know, internal bread bins or tray dividers, or crockery holders and knife blocks.

Plus mud rooms are a new focus, which also takes the strain off kitchen storage with a landing space for bags, books etc. And ancillary appliances can be kept in these spaces too.

Flush and user-friendly – induction hobs are flat countertop, flooring, interior design, kitchen, wall, gray
Flush and user-friendly – induction hobs are flat out popular.

Story by: Trendsideas

03 Jan, 2021

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