how masterchef is shaping your kitchen

28.7.15

They're the hub of the home and often the scene of a retelling of the day’s activities. With elbows planted firmly on the bench, it’s the place where schoolgirls recount the latest news from their friends and where a shared cuppa and a couple of bikkies can solve the problems of the world.

But in recent years, the kitchen has become so much more.

Kitchen by IKEA
The rise and rise of open plan home design has moved the kitchen firmly into the centre of the home — often with the living, dining and outdoor areas positioned around it.

Instead of being away from the action, the home chef is now connected with the rest of the family and the island bench or breakfast bar has become a gathering spot for friends and family both during the week and on weekends.

But the geographic changes have also lead to changes in how we see our kitchens.

“The kitchen is still known as the heart of the home for a reason,” MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan says. “We all have that romantic notion of grandma’s kitchen where all of our fondest memories are and that idea has gradually crept back into Australian home design in the past 10 to 20 years.”

Especially for those of us who like to entertain, the kitchen has now become a showpiece in the home — the design and look of the space is just as important as its actual function.

Reality renovation shows such as House Rules, Selling Houses Australia, Reno Rumble and The Block have opened our eyes to design ideas and features while cooking shows such as MasterChef are showing us that almost anything is possible when we have the right equipment.

Masterchef can show us what's possible in our kitchens
“The phenomenon of reality TV shows and cooking shows has had a huge impact on the way people style their homes,” Hulya Suleyman, executive chef for kitchenware retailer Williams-Sonoma Australia, says. “Never before have we been given such an intimate glance at people’s personal spaces. Shows such as MasterChef not only showcase inspiring recipes, they also demonstrate how to use kitchen utensils and appliances people may not have seen before.”

Julie Hanover from The Good Guys Kitchens who supply kitchens for The Block says the show encourages customers to think a little more creatively when it comes to inclusions for their kitchen space. “The contestants have so many great ideas, and this inspires viewers to create their own dream kitchen too, “ she says.

Design is king

Kitchens have definitely become more than simply the place where the evening meal is prepared. Modern design is reflecting this with an emphasis on the overall look of the space rather than just its practicality.

“The focus of kitchen design seems to be moving more to a space for entertaining rather than just preparing meals,” Hanover says.

“Today, people are wanting to showcase a clean, streamlined and uncluttered space. The butler’s pantry is ideal for storing small appliances out of sight and keeping unsightly kitchen mess to a minimum.

“This is especially true in open plan designs as the butler’s pantry provides an excellent space to prepare meals and is also the perfect location for dirty dishes, so during a party the host won’t miss a valuable moment with their guests.”

High end appliances like these ones from Smeg are becoming more popular
And it seems our fascination with the look of our kitchens is extending to the appliances we choose to include with many of us opting for the high-end products we’re used to seeing on renovation and cooking shows.

“The Australian fascination with food has accelerated beyond even what those hardened foodies would have imagined over the past six or seven years,” Gary says.

“People are so well educated now and very specific with what they’re shopping for. If you like coffee, you want a coffee machine in the house and for wine connoisseurs, a fridge is simply not enough anymore — they need a temperature-controlled wine storage facility in their kitchens.”

Another trend is to choose professional standard major appliances, with upright ovens and double ovens now becoming common in many new homes. Multiple cooktops, warming drawers and integrated appliances such as fridges, dishwashers and rangehoods are other inclusions gaining momentum in the market.

“People are not only taking functionality into consideration when choosing an appliance, they are also making a design statement with the products they are choosing,” David Crane from Winning Appliances says.

“Traditionally 90cm ovens have been the standard in Australian kitchens, but now we’re seeing a number of people opting for two 60cm ovens in their homes.

“One oven is used for baking purposes and the other one for ‘dirty’ cooking — cooking meat, fish and vegetables.”

Form over function

With all this emphasis on design, is it possible we’ve forgotten what the kitchen was actually designed to do? “Nothing drives me crazier than a great looking kitchen that’s just not designed with functionality in mind,” Gary says.

“You see these beautiful big sinks set into these amazing benchtops but with no draining board — it’s ridiculous. I’m a big fan of a working kitchen. Give me a big wooden chopping board, plenty of bench space and storage and I’m happy.”

But retailers say savvy customers are looking for the best of both worlds.

“While aesthetics in the kitchen have come a long way, consumers today definitely demand more than just good looks — it’s got to work efficiently to make life easier,” Julie says.

Multi function appliances like the Thermomix are among the most-wanted kitchen accessories
Design ideas such as deep drawers for storage of pots and pans and dedicated appliance cupboards are leading the list of kitchen must-haves, with a strong focus on keeping benchtops clear of clutter. Niches for tablets and laptops are also becoming a common inclusion as family life moves to be centred around the kitchen.

“I think if you create a beautiful kitchen space that you love to spend time in, and a functional one that makes life easier, it stands to reason that you will be more likely to cook and entertain,” Julie says.

A recent study by Ikea found kitchen organisation was one of the main things people wanted to improve in their homes, with many people admitting to being ashamed of how messy their kitchen is.

In terms of cooking and food preparation, multi-function appliances are among some of this year’s bestsellers, with products such as the Thermomix among the most wanted.

“People still want to invest in quality kitchenwares that will look great but also be functional,” Hulya says. “If anything, kitchens are becoming more functional with the introduction of time-saving appliances such as slow cookers.

“Conventionally, the kitchen was used as a space to cook, but as consumer attitudes have shifted, more and more people are transforming their kitchens into multi-functional cooking and entertaining spaces.”

First published Home, The Daily Telegraph 25 June 2015

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