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Tips for designing the perfect kitchen

Our kitchen appliance experts share tips on what to consider when renovating or designing your kitchen

renovated modern kitchen
Last updated: 19 August 2019

Renovating your kitchen can either make your life so much simpler – or much harder than it needs to be. If you're thinking of renovating, here are some tips from our kitchen appliance experts to help you get a result that's more My Kitchen Rules than Kitchen Nightmares. 

1. Futureproof your design

Since you'll probably be living with your updated kitchen for years to come, you'll want to be able to change it to adapt to your life. 

  • Unless you're made of money and can afford to update your kitchen regularly, go for classic designs rather than on-trend styles that could date quickly – particularly when buying expensive appliances. 

Think twice about that trendy retro fridge. Fashions change, but a fridge should last you 15 years or more

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE whitegoods expert
  • Consider potential mobility issues when choosing appliances. For example, if you have a bad back, a wall oven or bottom-mount fridge will reduce the amount of bending down you have to do. You could also opt for a half-height dish drawer mounted higher in cabinetry instead of a full-size dishwasher, or an easy-lift bottom basket model to make it easier to unload without bending down.
  • Is your family likely to grow? You might want to go for a larger fridge, sink or oven to accommodate the extra mouths you'll be feeding (and cleaning up after). A number of fridges now have multi-use compartments. These make your fridge more versatile, letting you allocate extra capacity to freezer or fresh-food compartments, depending on your changing needs for food storage. 
  • Built-in fridges are becoming more popular, but they can limit your options if you want to upsize your fridge down the track. 

 2. Plan ahead

You'll probably be hiring a lineup of tradespeople to do the job, so have a think about what you might need installed. 

  • If you're thinking of putting in a freestanding oven, speak to an electrician first: they can advise whether you have the right phase for the amount of power it will draw. "Power consumption increases with features such as extra oven compartments, pyrolytic cleaning, fast heat-up and induction cooktops," says CHOICE's kitchen expert Fiona Mair. "This may be more than your home circuitry can handle, so they'll need to be hardwired by a licensed electrician. And if you're installing an induction cooktop, it will need to be hardwired."
  • Think about how you'll use your kitchen. "Make sure you have power outlets in the right place for your small counter appliances," says Fiona. "You don't want to be rushing between the double-boiler on the stove and the stand mixer at the other end of the kitchen."

Power consumption increases with features such as extra oven compartments and pyrolytic cleaning.

Fiona Mair, CHOICE kitchen expert
  • If you're switching to a gas cooktop or oven, you'll need to hire a licensed plumber or gasfitter to install it, and you'll need to either put in an extractor fan to deal with the emissions or have a big window you can open nearby. Here are our tips on finding a tradie. 
  • "If you're adding a dishwasher, a washing machine or a fridge with a water dispenser (or if you anticipate doing so in future), now might be a good time to have a plumber install the necessary pipework," says Ashley. "It's easier to do it all at once so you're good to go whenever you take the plunge on the other items." 
  • "Also consider fridge placement, with regards to which direction the door will open," Ashley adds. "Many fridges have reversible doors, but you may need to buy a kit for that – better to get it right the first time."
  • "While an expert kitchen designer will be able to measure up and show you possible layouts of your kitchen, there are a number of online kitchen planners available to help you visualise the finished product," says CHOICE household expert Kim Gilmour. "A number of these are free and could help you get a better idea of what's possible."
pizzas and open retro oven in rustic kitchen

Make sure you get advice from professional tradies such as gasfitters when choosing an oven.

3. Give yourself wiggle room

You know the old saying, "measure twice, cut once"? Well, it's especially true of kitchen renovations. Make sure you know exactly how much clearance you need around appliances and – just as importantly – make sure they'll fit through the front door!

  • Make sure you leave enough space for the fridge. You'll need space around the fridge for air to circulate. We suggest allowing at least 5cm on all sides as a default, but some manufacturers will have different recommendations. Allow a little more space if you think you're likely to upsize to a bigger fridge in the future.  
  • If you're thinking of adding a convection microwave, you may need to adjust your cabinetry to account for the extra clearance. "The fitted cabinet must not have a back wall behind the appliance," says Fiona. "Allow a space of 40cm on the top, 5cm on both sides and rear of the oven. Convection microwaves also have extra depth compared with a standard microwave."
  • "If you're revamping your cupboards, consider the height of the cupboard shelves," Fiona adds. "If you want an uncluttered benchtop, your cupboards will need to accommodate tall appliances such as blenders, food processors and stand mixers." 
  • If you have enough room, a butler's pantry can be a great way to keep your main kitchen clutter-free. "You can put some appliances in your butler's pantry: dishwasher, microwave, small appliances (bread maker, rice cooker, slow cooker, toaster, stand mixer, food processor, stick blender)," says Ashley. "If you have the space and budget, ideally you'd have your food prep equipment in the main kitchen and your cleanup in the butler's pantry."
modern kitchen showing island

Take great care with space, proportion and measurements when planning your new kitchen.

Don't buy on brand name alone

Sometimes the big brands don't deliver – or you might be able to find a product that performs just as well at a fraction of the price. 

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.