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Kitchen Design Tips from Neale Whitaker

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Silestone® Brand Ambassador Neale Whitaker is a much-loved household name, known and admired for his impeccable style and discerning eye for detail. The interior design expert, writer and television presenter takes an approach to interior design and home improvements based on finding solutions to lifestyle problems.

Neale and his partner David recently renovated their late-1930’s country property located on the NSW South Coast. So far they have completed the kitchen, Laundry and living/dining area, using Cosentino’s Silestone® and Dekton®. From personal experience and as host of The Block and Love It or List It Australia, Neale appreciates both products for their good looks, durability and functionality.

We bring you Neale’s top design tips for timeless, functional kitchen:

1. Establish your budget. Let’s get the boring-but-important one out of the way first. Kitchens are expensive and can easily run away with the budget, so it’s absolutely vital to decide upfront what you can afford to spend and keep a contingency of around 25% in reserve if possible.

2. Be honest and realistic about what you require of your kitchen. Is this a family kitchen? Do you love to entertain? Or are you a microwave-and-home-delivery type of cook? There are so many sleek and desirable kitchen gadgets available these days, but no point installing the teppanyaki grill unless you really plan to use it.

3. Location. Your budget will determine the scope of your kitchen design (are you relocating or working within the existing kitchen space?) but consider the best use of space and light. Do you have enough of each? A kitchen that opens to the outdoors is often the ideal in Australia, but if that’s not possible consider the orientation of workspaces and appliances in relation to available light, access to other areas of the home and, where appropriate, the view.

4. Ignore the latest trends! Kitchens should have a lifespan of at least ten years. Trend-driven kitchens are likely to date more quickly. Choose benchtops, cabinetry, splash backs and appliances that will stand the test of time. Trend details can always be added through artwork, lighting, bar stools and cookware. Some people prefer their kitchen to work with their overall decor while others like the kitchen to add a modern contrast.

5. If you’re updating an existing kitchen, think about what can be recycled. Do you actually need to replace everything? And can you work with the existing layout? Sometimes a change of benchtop and some new cabinetry is all that’s required. Think too about whether you prefer to cook with gas or induction. My own kitchen features both to suit everyday cooking and entertaining.

6. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the island bench is the heart of the kitchen. It’s size, position and design is vital. In my home, the island bench is used for food preparation, cooking, dining, dishwashing, storage, chatting, watching TV, listening to music … it’s where life happens. Choose a bench top that is as practical and hardwearing as it is great-looking and good to the touch. Our choice of Silestone Calacatta Gold in Suede was perfect for our lifestyle and aesthetic.

7. It sounds old-fashioned but the ‘kitchen triangle’ is still important to good, functional kitchen design. The relationship and distance between fridge, sink and cooktop. Common sense dictates that they should be within easy reach of each other. It’s as true now as it was decades ago when the term was first coined.

8. It’s a sign of the times that a butler’s pantry is a point on its own. Do you need one? Do you have room for one? There’s no doubt that an extra kitchen space offers great additional storage and a home for secondary kitchen appliances like microwaves, toasters, kettles and wine fridges. I have also seen butler’s pantries combined very effectively and efficiently with laundries.

9. Colour is an increasingly important consideration. Once upon a time the choice was white, white or white. Contemporary kitchens feature cabinetry, splash backs and benchtops that range from black, through midnight blue to primary colours and pastels. In my opinion a neutral colour scheme gives a kitchen longevity. Neutral needn’t mean boring though. My own kitchen features pale grey cabinetry, white splashbacks, brass tapware and suede-finish bench tops with a fine, marble-like vein. It feels glamorous and layered but timeless.

10. The kitchen devil really is in the detail. Think about adequate storage, both task and mood lighting, position and quantity of power points and the height of benchtops and bar stools. Do you prefer handles or soft-close drawers and cupboards? Integrated appliances? Open-fronted or closed cabinetry? These are the details that will dictate the convenience and functionality of your kitchen, so it’s worth investing time and thought at the outset.

Read more about the Cosentino products used in Neale Whitaker’s home renovation here.

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