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Back To Nature

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Back To Nature

Creating a brand new kitchen and bathroom that will retain a chic aesthetic for years to come is no easy feat, but warm, natural finishes and a minimalistic design make the goal achievable. Lara Bailey explores the benefits of going back to nature in the kitchen and bathroom.

Fortunately, major trends in residential design generally grow, peak and wane over a long period, but if you opt for an ontrend style at any given time, there is a risk your space will appear dated a few years down the track. This can make it  difficult for homeowners to embrace finishes, textures or design features that they love, for fear the room/s will eventually wear out their welcome.

To circumvent design regret, it’s a good idea to incorporate potentially fleeting trends on a small scale – think minor appliances, artwork, napery and the like – and keep the room itself (i.e. cabinets, vanities, splashbacks, sinks, benchtops, etc.) relatively neutral.

To help you navigate the potentially difficult field of design, one of the directors of the multiaward- winning firm Mint Kitchen Group, Frank Iaria, shares with Melbourne Kitchen + Bathroom Design readers his advice for creating rooms with long-term appeal. A highly experienced designer, Iaria is well-versed on all things kitchens and bathrooms and stays ahead of the trends.

Maximum Minimalism

In much the same way as fashion is influenced by the grand shows put on by couture designers, trends in residential design often begin at European events that showcase the latest in design and innovation. The spectacular EuroCucina  (also known as the International Kitchen Furniture Exhibition) is a biennial event ttended by more than 300,000 international visitors that is a constant source of inspiration for savvy designers. The trickle-down effect of products and styles seen at such shows eventually impacts Australian design. Iaria says the aesthetic dominating design at EuroCucina 2014 included “lots of natural tones, warm textures and an inviting feel”.

“[Natural materials] are definitely becoming more and more popular. During my recent design tour in Milan visiting the trade fair EuroCucina, which is the biggest in the world, I definitely noticed a huge presence of natural, almost raw finishes dominating the whole show. 

“[I saw a lot of] solid timber for tabletops with natural crevices left exposed; veneers – both natural and laminate versions – that were heavily textured; stone and granite, [and] even stainless benchtops with an almost raw, textured feel.”

With this in mind, Iaria says “high gloss finishes are not quite as popular as they have been in the last few years”.

In terms of the current and evolving aesthetic defining residential kitchen and bathroom design, Iaria summarises it as “definitely still the minimalist look, with handle-less options ever-increasing”.

“With the likes of major appliance companies such as Smeg developing a range of handleless appliances as well … designers [are able] to totally eliminate handles on integrated fridges and dishwashers, which were always the hardest items to overcome.

“Again, going on with the naturalism I’ve mentioned, feature elements, such as solid timber as a feature benchtop (on an island or tabletop) [is one example].

“Natural veneer or laminate veneer for feature panels or doors, [or] even used on a wall as feature panelling [is another instance, as is] natural stones with texture, as opposed to being highly polished.

“So I suppose with all this, we could say the minimalist look is definitely still with us and here to stay for a long while.”

Based on the emerging trends at EuroCucina and his wealth of experience in design, below are Iaria’s tips and suggestions for creating a kitchen and bathroom you’ll love for a lifetime.

Kitchen Design

Laria says in terms of kitchen design, openplan layouts are here to stay, and the use of the kitchen as a living area as well as a cooking space is on the rise. This includes tables attached to cabinetry to provide a place to eat meals in the kitchen, and a continuation of shared space for study, cooking and dining, for example.

“I don’t see formal dining making a huge comeback, especially with the size of dwellings being smaller rather than larger,” he says. “An island bench with seating will allow for children to be part of the kitchen or guests able to mingle with you while [you’re] preparing the meal.

“Designing the kitchen using the zone format makes a standard kitchen a great deal more functional [and means] the storage of items [relates] to where they will actually be used. As an example, an oil/spice storage drawer or pullout unit beside the cooktop will avoid several trips back to the pantry.”

When it comes to colour selection, Iaria says: “I believe that if you stick with neutral tones and warm textures, you will get a longer life out of anything. It’s generally strong, bold colours that tend to date”.

“I call [colour trends in kitchens] ‘back to nature’ [because of] all the natural-looking colours and elements being used – timber grains for doors, floors, panels, and even tiles.”

The tendency towards a natural look and finish also means “texture, texture, and even more texture” is the way to go – think surfaces that appeal in a tactile as well as a visual sense, such as timber and stone.

“Concrete, stone-look finishes for benchtops and also floors [are in style]; there was even an aerated concrete finish for doors and benchtops on display at EuroCucina. Granites, marbles and solid surfaces, as well as reconstituted stones with a marble/granite look, and stainless steel for benchtops in a solid 6mm form [that are] natural and unpolished [are on-trend].

“[At EuroCucina] splashbacks appeared to be less dramatic and with a subtle texture, moving away from glass and back to a tile format – a large tile format. A new porcelain sheet is now vailable for splashbacks as well (3000mm x 1500mm sheet size) with the look of marble and stone – these will certainly be in high demand.”

As well as being visually appealing, good design must be functional, especially in places like the kitchen and bathroom, where an impractical or inadequate design can make a room unpleasant or difficult to use. Key in the kitchen, in particular, is appropriate lighting.

“Lighting has now become a huge part of kitchen design and with the large amount of LED lighting available, this has made a designer’s job a great deal more interesting,” says Iaria. “Under-cabinet lighting, pantry lighting, drawer lighting – all of these can add to the effect … you’re trying to create. With LEDs available in cool, warm or coloured [tones], this allows the designer to create whatever effect is desired by the client. Mood lighting, task lighting or effect lighting at the touch of a button [is all accessible].”

Bathroom Design

The ‘back to nature’ vibe continues into bathroom design, says Iaria. The conceptualisation of the bathroom as a luxurious retreat continues to gain strength as homeowners increasingly wish to relax in a resort-style environment at the end of a stressful day. Cultivating a peaceful atmosphere and comfortable space are key to achieving this, but the room available must be carefully considered.

“The overall bathroom design is really dependent on the space,” says Iaria.

“For the larger rooms, definitely a day spa feel is still in high-demand, with freestanding baths and large expanses of benchtops to work from – not crowded around a basin.

“[Also in demand are] huge walk-in showers with multiple showerheads from the top, sides and bottom. The larger rooms also lend themselves to darker, more exotic colour tones. With the smaller rooms, it’s about making the space feel bigger than what it is by [having] tiles from the floor to the ceiling in lighter colours, [having] an open shower if the space permits and omitting the bathtub to create a larger shower enclosure.

“The colours in the bathrooms are very similar to kitchens, keeping in form with the neutral tones of the earth; natural and raw. Warm whites, cool greys, chocolate and mousse [are popular] – all colours that make you feel warm and comfortable.

“Textured surfaces are also evident in the bathroom; however two-pack paint in a satin finish (as opposed to high gloss) is still in high demand. The introduction of timber-look longformat textured tiles has certainly made a high impact in bathrooms as this brings the natural feel into the bathroom that could not be done with real timber before due to water-related issues with natural timber.”

Despite a rise in the use of timber, however, tiles remain a perennial favourite for use in the bathroom. “Tiles are still the most commonly used product for bathroom floors and walls – large-format rather than small tiles. The new porcelain sheets will soon become a popular choice, once a large range of colours is available.

“Vanity cabinets seem to be more smooth and silky, such as [the look achieved with] a satin paint finish, [while] benchtops in natural finishes such as marbles and granites or similar-looking products [are prevalent]. Solid surface benchtops are still [favoured] among most designers because you can have formed bowls made from the same product, whether as a feature abovecounter type or fully integrated into the bench.”

Lighting, too, is vital. Too bright and you’ll get a headache but too dull and it will be difficult to use when applying makeup at the vanity, for example. “Lighting in the bathroom, as per the kitchen, can be used for dramatic effect or simply for lighting up the space,” says Iaria.

“What we tend to do with bathroom lighting though is concentrate more on the tasks involved. In other words, we light up [the space] around the shower, over the bath and toilet and around the vanity mirror. It’s quite common nowadays to actually surround the mirror with LED strip lighting around the whole perimeter, giving a nice glow to the mirror [and] enabling the face to be lit up from the front instead of shadowing over the top. This makes shaving or applying makeup a great deal easier.”

Design Aspirations

Above all, when you envisage your perfect space, it has to be somewhere you’ll enjoy spending time, whether it’s working, relaxing, cooking or dining. With a vision and a budget in mind, the most important thing to do is to enlist a designer who shares your vision and can help you bring it to life, as Iaria explains.

“I believe that when choosing a designer for the job at hand, you must engage with the person you feel most comfortable with and who you feel will be able to deliver your brief most accurately. Design is always an individual aspiration and therefore there really is no right or wrong [about] what a designer says. You can talk to five different designers about the same brief and you will have five totally different designers interpreting that brief.

“At the end of the day you are the only one who can decide who interprets your brief the most accurately and who adds the most valuable inspiration and design concepts to your brief. Check out the designer’s credentials, experience, past work and achievements [to ensure] they have done the type of work you want to engage them to do.”

Once you’ve selected your designer and discussed your ideas and your budget, you can create a kitchen and bathroom that you will love coming home to.

Read 204561 times Last modified on Monday, 11 August 2014 23:54