How to Design Your Kitchen

How to Design Your Kitchen

WORDS Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine PHOTOS Elsa Young Photography; Skinnies Gallery

Focusing on surfaces and hardware, layout and flow, and storage, we asked three experts for their tips on turning your Pinterest board into a reality.

With the pandemic reshaping the relationship we have with our homes, no room has worked harder than the kitchen. Previously a pit stop to make coffee or cook during the week, thanks to lockdowns, the kitchen has fully reclaimed its place as the heartbeat of the home, often doubling up as a social space or even a work room. But with all eyes focused there, suddenly the colour of the tiles has started to work on your nerves. The cupboards are looking shabby, and the desire for a gas stove is not just du jour but a necessity, given the frequency of loadshedding…

5 Key kitchen Design Considerations

  • LIGHTING A well-lit kitchen with lots of natural light feels more spacious.
  • BUDGET Choosing the best appliances your money can buy creates a well-designed space, and increases your home’s value.
  • STYLE As an extension of your home, the kitchen should be cohesive in style with the rest of the house.
  • FINISHES The correct combination of materials makes for a beautiful space. Stone tops, ultra-glossy handmade Zellige tiles or marble bring the wow factor, while the right handles on cabinets help to complete the aesthetic.
  • SPACE A separate wash-up area or scullery is great if you have the space for it.


Lumka Jordan, Dizain Pronounced

kitchen design

“More people are opting to bring a personal touchto their kitchen with the guidance of a designer,” says Lumka Jordan of Dizain Pronounced, a design and project- management company that specialises in kitchens. “I love asking the question: where do you see yourself cooking a delicious meal? Often, clients light up, and that sparkle informs the direction of the design.

Our process always begins with a home/site consultation to understand a client’s space and needs.

We then provide high-quality 3D-rendered images to show clients what their space will look like with all the finishes included. Finally, manufacturing and installation is conducted to provide a full turnkey experience, from concept to reality.”

Many homes battle with design solutions for kitchens that are too small, too narrow or awkwardly shaped, or are lacking in storage, which results in a cluttered space. “Introducing freestanding display cabinets or units can be a quick fix,” says Lumka. “These can be used as small appliance units or coffee stations, and to house the classic crockery that’s only ever used on ‘special’ occasions. When you can maximise the use of the entire space in a new build, think about designing cabinetry that extends to the ceiling, or reach-in cupboards for corner units. Countertop space is particularly important, so using more wall units and fewer tall units helps in small kitchens.

“Most people forget about kitchen waste, and end up with a freestanding bin, which is an eyesore. I believe that every kitchen needs a built-in bin – and a broom cupboard with clips, so all your mops and brooms can remain tucked away when not in use.”

Lumka’s Standout Storage Solutions

  • Reach-in carousels: these allow every corner to be used, and make access to stored kitchen items easier
  • A small, foldable ladder in its own drawer: having enough storage space can mean that some cupboards are difficult to reach
  • Grocery drawers or tandem units
  • Integrated appliances
  • Sink drawer units


Irene Kyriacou, Oniroco

kitchen design

Lockdown pressed a reset button for many homeowners, says Oniroco’s Irene Kyriacou, whose interiors include award-winning Jo’burg restaurants Saint and Marble, as well as corporate, retail and residential spaces. “More time spent at home has highlighted the importance of having a well-designed and equipped kitchen,” she says.

To hit the right note, surfaces need to strike a balance between style and functionality – and hardware plays a large part in that.

We’re not talking pretty blenders and state-of-the-art mixers, but rather appliances that integrate with technology to start roasting that chicken in the oven at a certain time, or let you know when your fridge is running low on essentials so you can add them to your grocery list. The Instant Pot smart multicooker, for example, is WiFi- and Alexa-enabled, and even has its own app.

South African homes may not have adopted smart kitchens as rapidly as the US and the UK, and they are expensive to install – but there are some manufacturers who offer all the gadgets. “I do like my sensor kitchen taps, and hi-tech fridges with air and water filters and a smart screen,” says Irene.

And what about smaller kitchens? Simple tricks, such as choosing a lighter colour palette, can make spaces look bigger and more open. Using reflective materials – glass, a smoked-mirror backsplash or high-gloss duco cabinets with a mirror finish – creates depth of space.

“Extending wall cabinets all the way to the ceiling is another trick,” says Irene. “It not only creates more storage space, but also draws the eye up to give an illusion of a bigger kitchen. If you don’t have an island, install a peninsula – a narrow island attached to the wall on one end – which will also introduce space for seating, storage and counters, while providing a division between the kitchen and the living space.”

You can also add interesting flooring – such as patterned porcelain or ceramic tile, or herringbone laminate – to make a bold statement, and to make the space look more expensive and luxurious.

Irene’s Design Don’ts

  • No mix-and-matching: don’t have a black hob, a chrome oven and a white fridge. Choose appliances that match in colour and finish, or are from the same manufacturer, to provide a clean look.
  • No fluorescent lighting: rather think about installing some task lighting – such as downlights, wall sconces or pendants over islands – as well as dimmer switches to provide the right light and mood for the time of day or purpose.
  • Don’t place wall cabinets too low, or leave space between the cabinets and the ceiling.
  • Tiles go on the wall. Don’t use tiles as counter surfaces – it’s outdated and unhygienic.


Stefan Marais, Optima Kitchens

kitchen design

A kitchen’s layout and flow will vary according to a family’s needs, says Stefan Marais, designer and CEO of Optima Kitchens. “We look at various zones – cooking, prep and storage – to plan a space.” He’s referring to Blum’s “dynamic space” concept, which bases kitchen layout on these task zones. “Blum has conducted research, tracking people’s movements in the kitchen, and configuring the use of space around that,” says Stefan. “The company found that drawers, for instance, are easier to use than cupboard doors – you don’t have to bend down too far to access items, which is particularly useful as you get older.”

The triangle is the most commonly used conceptual shape in kitchen design. “Consider your movements while you’re cooking: filling a pot with water at the sink, getting ingredients from the fridge, then moving to the stove. What you want to do is place the stove, fridge and sink at three triangulated corners to limit the steps you take.”

The location of the fridge controls the flow of the kitchen, says Stefan. “Whether you want to make coffee, grab a snack or cook breakfast, you need uninterrupted flow to the fridge and enough space to open the door, so that whoever is cooking at the stove is not hampered by the movement of other people. Our magic number
is 1.2m – it’s enough of a gap to allow people to work back-to-back comfortably, and for people to walk past.”

Budget to spend about 10% of the value of your house on updating your kitchen, so that you add value without overcapitalising, Stefan says. “We are a family company, so we’re big advocates of designing spaces around the family, their needs, and each member’s activities. Who makes lunch? What type of dinner do they enjoy? We like to design kitchens that act like a magnet, drawing people in.”

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