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Eve Mercier’s Design Tips and Tricks: Tidy up your cooking space!

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At Insight school of Interior Design I always start my “kitchen design” course with this very obvious but often forsaken observation: behind each kitchen hides a woman. Discreet, flamboyant, classic or even adventurous.

So when designing a kitchen, make sure the room reflects who you truly are and think beyond the generic lacquer cabinets arrangement. Be careful though! The kitchen is, like a woman, a complex matter to handle with care…

Start by being practical: 

You’ll be using your kitchen at the very least a few hours a day and if you design a mistake, it will nag you every time you step into the space!


  • First thing to always keep in mind is your traffic flow or work triangle (fridge, sink, oven). The sink, stove and refrigerator are referred as the kitchen triangle – the area of greatest activity which requires careful planning and unobstructed access. Of the three, the sink will see the most action and should have easy access to the stove and refrigerator, as well as your countertop workstations.
  • Make the walkway for a double-sided workspace a minimum of 90cm and avoid placing appliances directly across from each other to keep the circulation clear.
  • Think of leaving some space on either side of your sink for the preparation area. Aim to have at least 90cm of counter space on either side.
  • Recess storage. Tuck shelving or cabinets flush with the wall to keep from obstructing the kitchen’s flow. It’s fairly easy to retrofit a recessed niche, between wall studs.
  • Consider using pocket doors. They’re perfect for a small kitchen: pocket doors look just like any other cabinet doors, but when they close, they slide back into small internal pockets built into either side of the cabinet so you won’t bump your elbow on the cabinet door when open.

closet space

  • Design a pullout trashcan. It hides unattractive bins and frees up floor space. And be extra smart by designing a side compartment to house bin bags, which always seem to pile up in a messy manner under the sink!
  • Don’t forget the splash back unless you want to repaint your back wall every two months.
  • Don’t go cheap on the counter top: shy away from laminate which will age badly. Stones such as marble and limestone are quite fragile but are great for the aged, worn out style. Another alternative would be more sturdy granite or the new composites available on the market such as Silestone, Caesartone or Starron. They’re available in big slabs, so you will have minimum joints and they are very resistant to staining and heating.

Think clever: 

  • Select your appliances before you design your kitchen so that the plans reflect the proper sizes and cabinetry layout. Fridges, stoves and ovens come in various sizes and shapes. Their measurements will have a big impact on your layout plan.

kitchen sink

  • If you’re dealing with a small space, make the kitchen disappear by hiding it under some cabinetry lined up in a nice veneer.
  • Buy appropriate appliances for your space, for example, Fisher and Paykel dishwashers work great in small kitchens.

Think beautiful: 

  • Make sure the materials you’re using work together. The best way to operate is to put all your ideas and chosen materials on a physical foam board and make sure they go well together. Start with many samples and edit, edit, edit!
  • Don’t be afraid to play with interesting materials such as cement or metallic tiles to break up the look.
  • Be daring with your colour palette, but be aware of different cues. For example, blue and green tend to be cold colours. If you want to add warmth to the space, add some orange, yellow and red touches.

kitchen design

  • Eclectic is cool: Who wants the total look anymore? It’s all about mixing and matching! I really like breaking the very modern look of a minimalist kitchen with a retro-looking appliance such as a La Cornue or Aga oven or a playful Smeg retro standalone fridge. It’s the same with fashion – add a big statement vintage necklace to a rather bland outfit and the whole look gets another twist. Use this same trick if you want to jazz up your kitchen!
  • Introduce some more homey elements in the kitchen such as cooking books, handwritten recipes and family photos. The kitchen is often the hub of a home where everybody meets to share good food and wine, and you want the decor to reflect that.

kitchen stuff

  • Innovate with lighting. People get lazy with the perfectly acceptable collection of down lights and under lighting cabinets but decorative lighting such as chandelier or hanging lamps will brighten up your kitchen with a twist. Don’t hesitate to add an original fixture in the room such as a Venetian chandelier or “office-looking” pendants. Here’s a good tip to remember: always add an element of surprise when you design a room – observers will smile to the unexpected and happiness is after all the ultimate goal of interior design!

And voila! There you have it – your fabulous new kitchen space!

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