An interior designer shares her 5 golden rules for kitchen design

Designer Annique Heesen from Gezellig Interiors offers advice for killer kitchens

kitchen design


Be it small and unassuming or large and glamorous, the kitchen’s importance as a gathering point, a hub and the heart of the home remains the same. With open-plan spaces soaring back into popularity, the kitchen’s role has expanded so it now needs to function as an entertaining zone as well as a cooking one.

There are a few key ingredients that contribute to the recipe for stand-out kitchen design; layout, storage, appliances, accessibility and, of course, style. Whether it’s industrial, Shaker, modern, retro or minimalist, an eye-catching kitchen serves up visual impact as well as cooking performance and functionality.

kitchen design

1. Consider your kitchen island’s form and function

Think about how you live and entertain. If you use the island as a servery and sitting area for entertaining, keep it clear of a sink or hob. If you prefer to be engaged with your guests and face them while you cook, turn it into a utility space by adding a sink and/or hob (don’t forget down-drafted ventilation). Either way, give it a point of difference from the back bench, maybe through a leg detail or your choice of materials for the island top or front, such as a monolithic block of stone, wood or glass. Make it look special, because it’s a star feature of any open-plan living space.

kitchen design

2. Think about the way you cook

If there’s generally just one of you in the kitchen, a galley with a narrow gap between the island and back bench is sufficient, but if you cook as a couple or family you’ll need more space for people working on both sides of the kitchen. Now consider how you cook. Do you prep food sink-side or hob-side? Do you clean up as you go? Do you need fridge and pantry close by or do you use them at different times and therefore want them in different areas, for example with the dry goods near the hob and cold foods where you prep? Consider the old triangle rule (having the stove, sink and fridge in a triangle shape) but question the norm and make your kitchen work for you. For example, we put ovens in sculleries now because you don’t usually need to stand in front of your oven while something’s cooking. In a new build, we suggest a door off the kitchen that gives you access to your vege garden. Don’t think you need to stick with the traditional way of laying out kitchens – times have changed.

kitchen design

3. Think about the sink

We’re seeing an increase in the popularity of having two sinks, minimum, in a kitchen – often a small sink with a hot/cold tap in the pantry, a small sink in the prep area and a larger sink for washing up. We’re also seeing pot-fillers – taps above the hob so you can fill a pot without having to drag it to and from the sink. Sometimes these can be worth the investment because they make working in the kitchen easier.

4. Make sure your materials work together

Grab samples of all the materials you’re going to use, including flooring, upholstery, window treatments and handles, and put them in the area where your kitchen will go. Look at them at different times of the day, as different light will affect how they look. When choosing colours, materials or finishes for cabinetry, always hold samples vertical because that’s how you’ll see them when installed. More important than colour palette is making sure finishes are suitable for purpose – for example, if you’re a young family with kids, a dark or black lacquered kitchen will see you constantly cleaning up fingerprints and marks. Consider how durable your materials are. You might even mix it up, using a natural stone benchtop on the island and a more durable option on the back bench working space. Materials matter, so don’t rush this step.

5. Don’t underestimate what art can do

Add a photograph, sculpture or artwork to soften the space and bring it to life. Even a small painting, vase, decorative fruit bowl or arrangement of pot plants adds interest and personality.

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