Planning your perfect kitchen upgrade

New House = New Kitchen

Our first tip for your perfect kitchen upgrade is to “Know thyself”.

Socrates could have given up his day job as the founder of western philosophy and taken up kitchen design as a sideline. After all, Greek food is delicious and there was plenty of room in the old Athenian villa – better known back then as an oikos – to build the ultimate dream kitchen.

Socrates said “Know Thyself” and while that may seem a little bit airy fairy (hence the need for a second job), what he actually meant to say was you have to know what your needs are before you start to design a kitchen.

The point is borne out by top celebrity chefs who give their top tips in home kitchen must-haves.

One of America’s leading chefs, Richard Chamberlain knew what he wanted when he renovated his ultimate kitchen. He told lifeofanarchitect.com that the biggest must have on his renovation design list was easy flow and movement when guests were over for a total entertainment space. He began his kitchen remodel with a centre island that connected to the dining area and linked all the major centres of the kitchen.

Australian chef, Curtis Stone splashed out on top end appliances including the five-burner Gaggenau range and a Sub-Zero fridge. Yet, he knew he was also a bit of a romantic at heart and personalised the space with his favourite market bargains such as vintage London biscuit tins and Moroccan glasses.

Duncan Welgemold, a top Adelaide chef, prefers to be closer to nature when he cooks, so he spent his renovation budget in the garden and now has three barbecues, which also reflects his South African heritage.

So before you head off to buy all the top range items take a nod to Socrates, and like the celebrity chefs, know yourself and let your kitchen design reflect what cooking means to you.

Personalising the Space

A kitchen can function as a simple breakfast space and the only serious cooking happens is in a reheated takeaway dish. Or a kitchen can be where nothing happens at all and all the magic happens outside on the barbecue.

Some people regularly cook for up to 10 people while for others it is dinner for one.

Others see a kitchen as a place to decorate and to express themselves while others see it in terms of function and their dream kitchen could easily be installed at their favourite restaurant.

Upgrades and your budget

Experts agree that kitchen upgrades should be capped so homeowners add value, rather than overcapitalising, on their existing home. So it is important to know what your house is worth and stick with the corresponding new kitchen budgets.

How much should you spend on upgrading your kitchen?  It will depend on what is included with the build and standard specifications.  The Homesafe Group estimates that a total cost of a kitchen rebuild in Australia will cost $10,320 – $14,200 for a standard kitchen, $16,300 – $25,600 for a quality kitchen and $23,500 – $36,600 for a luxury rebuild. However, other sites actually double these figures with a standard refit at $17,000 across Australia and $23,000 in Sydney.

These prices can be further broken down to 30 per cent on cabinets, 14 per cent on appliances, 10 per cent on bench tops, nine per cent on lighting and plumbing fixtures, up to five per cent on paint and tiles and 35 per cent on construction.

If you are building for the purpose of investment or resale then cut costs wherever it seems appropriate. Keep the selections based on eye appeal, think of it as eye candy for food lovers.


Kitchen cupboards are like the wardrobe to Narnia, there never seems to be enough space but when you open them up you find loads of things that you never knew were in there.

If you are doing a custom build, you may need to work on more than just the upgrades and consider the shape and size of your kitchen.  A standard kitchen is between 10 – 12 metres square in Australia. If it is about the same size then it might be the organisation or layout that needs reconsideration rather than the actual room.

Think outside of the box, use your benches to define your space and create additional storage. You may add an additional bench space to turn a flow through kitchen into a U shape kitchen which will add cupboard and reduce people flow. You may also use the outward facing side of an island bench or breakfast bar as additional storage space or entertainment area with accompanying wine fridge. Lastly, you can add an island bench which will open the room and define the kitchen within it.

Many kitchens need additional storage but some need better organisation.

Do I need a luxury kitchen?

When the bank is footing the bill, you can feel a little carried away when it comes time to purchasing everything for your brand new kitchen. Splashing out on a top-end cooktop, stone bench tops and trendy tap wear may seem like the ultimate must-haves, but head back to Socrates and “know thyself” and add some fractured Socrates to the mix “be true to thy budget.”

A luxury kitchen is fantastic for those that can afford it and will use it. So if you are a celebrity chef in the making, opt for the best appliances you can manage, but if your kitchen is about making a statement then put your money into style and cabinets.

One of the overlooked areas in a kitchen is lighting which can be used as both a dramatic statement or to highlight one-off pieces. Either way, the lighting can be a very effective way to add style and personality to a home without breaking the budget.

The Flow

Once you start beginning the heavy lifting of design, forget aesthetics and your grandma’s tea set, and think flow. The best designed kitchen flows and connects workspaces to create an inviting space that is easy to work in.

The kitchen triangle is often highlighted as the optimum way of reducing movement within the preparation area. The fridge, oven and sink should be linked within a small space and should be connected to ample bench space for cutting. The bench space should also be near the sink and the bin for convenience. Cooks who like to chat or direct the household at the same time should also make sure that space does not require them to turn away from the other members of the household.

When a meal is finished there should be room for dirty dishes to pile up safely near the sink and the dishwasher. The dishwasher and fridge should also be able to open without cutting off walking space within the kitchen.

If you are an entertainer you might also add an additional triangle between the sink, drink fridge and wine glasses. You might also need a large bench area to plate up food that can also double as a breakfast bar.

Smart style

Kitchen disaster stories are everywhere, and while they are a lot of fun to laugh at – there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from other’s mistakes.

Choose storage solutions that will let you access everything in a neat and timeless way. Savvy storage solutions like pull out tea towel racks, bin runners, floor to ceiling cabinetry help keep a kitchen neat. Soft close doors and drawers will help keep hinges in great condition and will make a kitchen whoosh.

While there is never a right or wrong way to decorate your home it is important to remember you will live with a kitchen for a long time. You may grow out of hot trends and the latest fad within five years, yet your kitchen will be ready to keep giving you solid service for another 10.

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