Strive for perfection in everything you do.
Take the best that exists and make it better.
When it does not exist, design it.
~ Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of the Rolls-Royce company.
It is a cliché to say “the kitchen is the heart of a home” because kitchens of yesteryears were small rooms where glorious aromas would draw conviviality among family and friends. People would gather around the stove top just to get a taste of the wooden spoon.
Today, modern kitchens of contemporary homes are wide open spaces which have the most advanced rangehoods that not only suck away all those delicious aromas, they do it so silently you can hear a spoon drop.
The Before and After
To be more precise then, the stove top is no longer the heart of the kitchen because open concept kitchens have ushered the island benchtop into the spotlight, making it the superstar of the entire kitchen and quite often, the entire house.
Our previous kitchen was a U-shaped design with the stove top and rangehood located at the end of the galley way. A wall and internal window separated the kitchen on one side with an unusable corridor and oversized laundry on the other side. Space on each side of the cooktop was too small with a dead corner to do any meaningful prep work and was relegated to storing sauces, a toaster and kettle.
The view when doing the dishes was the useless corridor that led to the laundry.
So in designing the concept for our new kitchen, I was absolutely determined for the island benchtop to become heart of this home and transforming the most unusable spaces into highest value use.
Turning a chore, such as washing dirty dishes, into absolute pleasure was foremost on my mind.
Doing the dishes means we can now interact with our friends in the new dining room next to the grand piano. This living space flows out seemlessly onto the new 70 square metre outdoor entertaining deck.
Now that the old wall which enclosed the kitchen has been demolished, the entire living spaces come to life with a panoramic view of the lush and tranquil greenery in the reserve behind our home.
Here is a glimpse of what they might be.
In my next blogpost, I shall talk about “cool stuff” that can be left as feature items on an island benchtop.
Dream Kitchen ~ The Essential Ingredients
Since the renovations on our kitchen, living areas and outdoor deck, a couple of local real estate agents have visited our home.
I was a little surprised they did not know what a certain silver disk on our island benchtop was all about.
1. Retractable power socket tower
In this modern age of technology, I foresee the retractable power socket tower to become a standard feature in Sydney’s new apartments by 2020.
There are a multitude of models you can choose from online stores – manual or electrical retraction and even ones that change colour. I opted for a simple manual one because it is practical and cheap. I believe the ones that can change colour are those that would devalue your island benchtop instantly.
I love this power point tower because we can charge our mobile phones, iPads and use a host of kitchen appliances on the benchtop all at once.
2. Kitchen sink
Just like most things in life, there are kitchen sinks and there are real kitchen sinks.
As far as installation is concerned, a kitchen sink can be one of three things:
a) Top mounted – the edges of the sink sits over and on top of the benchtop
b) Flushed – the edges of the sink is flushed and level with the benchtop
c) Undermount – the edges of the sink is below the benchtop
The kitchen that came with this house had a top mounted sink. I dislike this type of installation mainly because food particles get stuck between the lip of the sink and the benchtop. Sinks which are flushed and level with the benchtop require superior workmanship to ensure they are so. Even then, you may experience very tiny food particles stuck between the grooves.
My preferred design is the undermount kitchen sink mainly because one can sweep food scraps directly into the sink. The size of the sink is also important and the bigger they are, the easier it is to clean those large stock pots and pans. The design of the mixer tap is also key to allow ample working space for tough cleaning jobs.
3. Undersink storage
I am particular about undersink storage because this is an utility space to store detergents, cleaning liquids, flammable liquids and plastics.
I have organized this space to house a salad spinner, smaller chopping boards and big colanders on the top shelf. The bottom shelf is used for detergents, flammable liquids and washing agents.
4. Waste disposal bins
Sometimes, I lay awake at night wondering how plastic food wrappers, labels and cartons get degraded in landfill.
I am no greenie but I do prefer to segregate wet rubbish from recyclable plastics to do my bit for our increasingly fragile environment. What is important is to have rubbish bins located right next to the kitchen sink for ease of waste disposal. The drawer should also be high enough to accommodate standard wine and plastic bottles for the recycling bin.
With the amount of home entertainment that we do, Mysaucepan and I find a good dishwasher truly indispensible.
We inherited this Miele dishwasher when we bought this house and though it is due for a service, I find Miele dishwashers to be one of the best in the market (apart from Asko) as they are so silent. Most importantly, they do the job they are intended to do.
6. Dish rack
It is stylish to have a foldable dish rack that allows you the option to either leave it on the benchtop as a feature item or to store away for more benchtop space.
I have chosen a foldable bamboo dish rack that accommodates up to 24 dinner plates on the top. This rack acts as an occasional feature item on our island benchtop.
7. Utensils organizers
BLUM kitchen organizers are one of the most highly rated products in the market.
I opted for one that comes with 80mm x 255mm and 80mm x 165mm compartments to hold smaller items such as corkscrews, nutcracker, thongs, can openers, graters, peelers and spatulas.The remaining spaces are fully adjustable to accommodate larger items such as kitchen knives and cleavers.
Forks, tablespoons, dinner knives, teaspoons, soup spoons and chopsticks can be properly segregated.
It looks like we need to spice up our spice rack with more oomph.
8. Deep drawers
When it comes to crockery storage, I am a fan of drawers over cupboards because a stack of heavy dinner plates is easier on your back to lift than to slide.
Deep drawers allow stackable options and we can easily stack a dozen 300mm dinner plates and fifteen of our Thai celadon platters in a single stack.
Deep drawers also have the option of stacking cups, saucers and bowls.
Deep drawers can also accommodate the tallest of stock pots, stewing pots, pans and Asian woks.
9. Benchtop prep space
Whether you use it or not, ample benchtop space is invaluable for both food preparation or kitchen appliances such as the coffee machine, kettle, toaster or the odd Nutribullet blender.
With our new kitchen, I have allocated a 1,000mm x 600mm deep space on each side of the cooktop for prep and pre-cooking. We have found this space to be abundant for everyday benchtop items such as salt and pepper jars, black pepper mill and olive oil dispenser since we do most of the prep work on the island benchtop.
This is the most important piece of cooking appliance and I have chosen an Electrolux 5-ring gas burner.
The key feature that I love is the large wok burner located in the middle and this allows ample space for Asian style wok-tossing with minimal spillage. For western style cooking, I love the slow simmers and small saucepan burners on the bottom right.
The best feature of this cooktop is the control dials located to the right of the cooktop instead of the bottom. This enables easy dial adjustment during cooking and minimizes spillage over the control dials.
11. Cooking oil and cooking wine rack
This cooking oil rack comes with a rail to hang kitchen towels.
This rack is both a functional element because it is located right next to the stove top. In addition, it stores away everyday items, allowing your benchtop to look neat and tidy.
12. Overhead storage
Good overhead kitchen storage is important for two reasons:
a) Everyday items such as water and wine glasses are easily assessible and free up drawer space
b) From an aesthetics perspective, contemporary soft close overhead cabinets are such a pleasure to use and look absolutely stunning.
I chose a 900mm Schweigen undermount rangehood that showcases the best of German technology.
It comes with two task lights that are as bright as you will ever need them to be. The two best features are detachable filters that can be loaded into the dishwasher to get rid of messy cooking grease. This saves a lot of time and effort in wiping down greasy rangehoods.
Best of all, the motor for this rangehood is located on our rooftop which means a whisper quiet operation that allows you to talk to your dinner guests while cooking without shouting at the top of your voice.
14. Pyrolytic oven
Pyrolytic cleaning is an automatic function which cleans your oven with minimal effort. It works by heating the inside of the oven up to 500°C, at which temperature any grease or food residue is simply burned off.
Best of all, this oven has a soft closing feature that prevents slamming while your hands are full carrying that piping hot Sunday roast.
Now why didn’t oven manufacturers think of this much earlier?
15. Walk-in pantry and overhead storage above ovens and refrigerator
For any good kitchen, I believe a walk-in pantry is a must.
Though our walk-in pantry is certainly not the biggest, the size is ample for our needs. An automatic light for this pantry is yet to be installed at time of writing though this will be done in due course.
One of the features I fought tooth and nail with Mysaucepan during the renovation are these matt black tiles from Italy that bear earthy lines on its surface. She disliked tiles and wanted floorboards instead.
“Tiles are cold on bare feet in winter” she laments.
To create a luxurious setting, tiles certainly beat carpet and floorboards except for decadent marble. As this is the main living areas in the house, I have also installed under-floor heating that would lend glorious heat from beneath in winter.
Just like a beautiful woman, I fell head over heels the moment I saw these 600mm x 1200mm tiles. They look dramatic when their earthy lines are highlighted by the strip lighting along the kickboard in the kitchen, just like the curves of a beautiful woman as she walks under the spotlight.
When the lighting was finally installed and the warmth of its rays reflected against the earthy grains of the floor tiles, it was proven I made the right decision, yet again.
Mysaucepan was also dead against the textured wood paneling on the overhead cabinets and under bench but I was adamant it would create a beautiful contrast against the white background. I felt the wood element would also complement my chosen matt black down lights, tapware, door handles and hinges.
During the design stage of this kitchen, I saw the opportunity to install a two-way bio-ethanol fireplace that would heat up to 40sqm of space between the kitchen and the front lounge area.
The best thing about these fireplaces is they do not require a chimney or flue, the burning is odourless and there is absolutely no mess to clean up afterwards.
16. Under-bench storage
I have also allocated ample space on the overhang side of the island benchtop for more storage space for kitchen appliance and large serving platters.
17. Ambient lighting
When night falls, it is important for a kitchen to look warm and inviting. After all, there is good food and wine to be had, isn’t it?
I chose strip lighting along the kickboards and three copper pendants that emit warm ambient light over the benchtop. Copper is also a great contrast against our stone benchtop, wood veneeer and white polyurethane cabinets.
Last but not least, with my piano next to a glorious kitchen, what else could a man ask for?
So dear readers, what is your definition of a dream kitchen?