Planning a kitchen renovation? Here’s what not to do:

1. hard-to-reach storage

When you’re planning a kitchen, the combination of drawers and cupboards is a key consideration. Drawers have taken the limelight in recent years, but can you ever have too many? “Drawers can sometimes be difficult because you can’t easily see everything that lies within,” says Simona Castagna of Minosa Design. “I would recommend drawers under the bench and shelving above. Half-depth shelving is particularly good, especially for pantry storage. Drawers, on the other hand, allow for better access and use of cabinet space so I’d go for as many as your budget allows. If you have deep, dark cupboards, invest in some sensor LED lighting and use them to store things you don’t use regularly.”

2. awkward corners

Corners used to come with a waiver in kitchen design and everyone accepted that there was going to be some inconvenience involved. But happily, times have changed and this is no longer the case. “Corners are gone!” says Simona. “A typical way to utilise them in a new kitchen is by way of corner mechanisms, such as corner drawers or corner pull-outs, which use a semi-circular metal system. Above the benchtop, the corner area is a great spot for a utility station – a half-depth cabinet that stores coffee-making gear or other small
appliances and a few shelves to house associated items. A double powerpoint or two here is a must.”

3. lack of ventilation

Don’t let ventilation be an afterthought. Smoke build-up plus inadequate extraction equals a sticky, greasy build-up around the cooktop and on top of cupboards, and allows smells to travel throughout the home. “Venting externally is much more efficient than recirculating options and charcoal filters,” says Simona. “It’s also a building code regulation; you are not allowed to vent into a roof space as it’s a fire hazard. A rangehood should be the span of the cooktop or greater, and the airflow extraction should be as efficient as possible as smoke can quickly fill a kitchen. I wouldn’t specify anything under 900 cubic metres per hour. We test the strength of pull with a sheet of paper – if the sheet holds, we’re happy. Twin motors are our starting point.”

4. cramped conditions

It’s important to factor in the right amount of space to get around your kitchen, not only when it’s tidy and streamlined but also when drawers, cupboards and appliance are open – perhaps all at the same time. So, what to do if you’re designing from scratch? “I like to work to a distance of about 115cm-120cm between cabinets for an average family kitchen,” says Graeme Metcalf, designer at Dan Kitchens. “For a larger family space, I work to 120cm-140cm. The minimum width I design to is 95cm but this is a last resort and only for short lengths. Usually the benchtop depth can be adjusted before it gets to this! Any less and the aisle becomes harder to work in and navigate through. Ask your kitchen planner to demonstrate
the full impact to you in the showroom.”

5. misplaced cooktop

It’s great to be able to fit all the elements you need in the space available and not so great to realise you don’t have enough bench space on either side of the stove for prep, pots and iPads. “Ideally, you want enough space on either side to work in and that means no less than 60cm on either side,” says Graeme. “Locating a cooktop can be difficult because apart from the space needed, you also have to factor in the rangehood, and the distance from opening windows (particularly if you have a gas burner); high traffic areas, and combustible materials (at least 20cm as per Australian standards).

6. poorly planned appliances

Thoughtful appliance positioning is key – no-one wants a fridge in a corner where the door can’t open properly, or a dishwasher door that you need to jump over when unloading. But first things first. “Crucially, you need to make sure the fridge can pass through the front door,” says Graeme. “That’s not as silly as it sounds, especially for apartments with limited access. Weight can also be an issue for larger fridges when positioning on older timber floors.” Beyond that, you need to ask yourself a few questions: Is there power or plumbing (if required) at the location? Will the fridge be close to prep zones, the sink and cooktop? Can I open the fridge door fully without it hitting the oven, microwave, adjacent handle, door or wall? Will opening the fridge door block access for people walking past?

The good news is that planning a spot for the dishwasher is more straightforward. “The dishwasher is usually placed next to the sink for two reasons,” says Graeme. “First, the plumbing is in place and second, most people rinse things before putting them in the dishwasher so it’s an efficient location. From a technical point of view, we try to avoid positioning dishwashers at the end of the bench as dishwashers do not support the weight of the benchtop above.”

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