Today’s residential kitchen has little in common with its predecessors of a century past. But for the most part, it’s not markedly different from 50 years ago. Appliances are undoubtedly sleeker and function far better, as do materials, and colour palettes are more expansive. Yet ultimately, this keyspace remains the hard-working heart of the home.

So for the kitchen of the future what are the indications?

The imagination can run wild. Envisage kitchens that are completely voice-operated, where cooking a meal takes merely the press of a button to activate a programme. However, popular opinion among designers and architects would suggest that the kitchens of tomorrow won’t be that much different to those now current.

With the exception of more innovative appliances, the basic elements that constitute the modern kitchen will remain; slick cabinetry, well planned drawers, pull-out garbage and recycling bins, pantry storage and impermeable countertops. At the top of the list for homeowners are materials and features that provide basic function and timeless style. And while climate, available space and cultural differences influence how an individual project might look, that golden thread of familiarity still runs through kitchen design.

Klyne Maharaj of The Kitchen Studio / Poggenpohl says: ‘Every aspect of the kitchen – from doors to worktops and appliances – is constantly being improved upon. The kitchen of the future will likely feature a combination of increasingly durable but beautiful synthetic materials, natural finishes like wood which never go out of style, thin yet tough work surfaces, and ‘smart’ appliances. In fact, in 2019, we’re not too far off this vision.’

‘Primarily, it will be a dynamic space,’ says Philip Richards of designer / manufacturer blu_line, ‘The functionality of the kitchen will extend beyond food prep and adapt and change according to the surrounding environments and the demands made by modern users. As a hub, the kitchen serves as an architectural anchor to the rest of the home and the future kitchen’s functions will be driven increasingly by technology. This said, I believe the future kitchen will be more bold with texture, authentic finishes and touch materials; so that the introduction of more technology will not make the space feel colder, but rather enable it to adapt more seamlessly to its requirements and surroundings. Materials will serve relational interaction through touch, sight and smell. The technology will be concealed and only appear as needed, enabling the concept of the kitchen as furniture to continue developing.’

Green Sinks and dishwashers reinforce a kitchen focus that will have an ongoing impact; with emphasis on less waste. So the future of the sustainable kitchen is looking bright. Discarded water from sinks and dishwashers, for example, won’t be flushed immediately, but divided into safe and unsafe water to be used to feed plants. Food waste will be composted, and devices of the future will have added functionality in smaller packages.

Mathilda Venter from Valcucine Cape Town expands: ‘Conscious consumption is taking a pivotal role in consumerism and consumers are gravitating towards products that align with their values and support sustainability through their production methods and end products. Design and décor trends are also favouring products that are sustainable and show innovation regarding the protection of the environment.

‘The Riciclantica collection focuses on the reduction of materials used. This ethos has resulted in extreme door dematerialisation and the lightest door in the world that fits into an aluminium structure that is water, steam and heat-resistant. Due to this remarkable reduction of materials used, combined with eco-tech finishes, this kitchen is sustainable, recyclable and innovative. It was conceptualised for those who pay a great deal of attention to their well-being while living in harmony with nature.’

As a confirmed multipurpose interior, the kitchen to some extent demands more than a measure of design focus purely because it adjoins other living spaces in today’s contemporary builds; open-plan layouts for kitchen / dining / living being typical. A coordinated signature is an obvious creative consideration for the kitchen zone, which includes tones, textures, forms and materials – and their relative functionality.

As far as eye appeal, what’s popular in design and décor trends?

‘Because there is no longer a clear distinction between the living area and kitchen, this has promoted sophistication in the overall design. A prerequisite here is for the kitchen to remain functional while being partially concealed when not in use. As such it needs to be appealing enough to form part of the overall home and coordinate with its look. This trend is now challenging designers and manufacturers on multiple levels to increase the sophistication of this area with new standards in finishes that can be customised to meet the user’s personal style,’ so says Dorothee Bonse of Eurocasa.

Eurocasa’s free-standing K-IN / K-OUT kitchen island is a seamless central unit that features hidden countertops, which slide out in two directions. These mobile tops conceal appliances and other work surfaces when not used, yet form a highly functional and flexible work surface when required.

‘We see a trend towards the use of metals to introduce an element of detail, combined with stone to maintain a luxurious handwriting. The DC10 kitchen series includes unique brushed nickel, burnished brass and gilded steel finishes, which promote a warm surface feel when matched to marble countertops.’

Klyne Maharaj: ‘Mixing ultra-modern synthetic materials, like semi-tempered glass or Rehau’s crystal, with natural finishes such as solid wood and engineered wood veneers is an evident trend in kitchen interior design. Dark finishes are also making a
strong comeback.’

Daniel Slavin of local designer / manufacturer Slavin adds: ‘We foresee a highly personalised kitchen using lots of natural materials, such as wood, glass and metal, that is extremely functional as well as aesthetically exciting. Planning-wise, the open-plan concept adds energy to any home space while incorporating the necessary workings of the kitchen into the living area, making it the collective meeting point of the family. However, this can lead to untidiness, so it’s worth investing in clever ways to conceal any slightly messy prep / cleaning areas.

‘A neutral colour palette will always remain a staple but more and more people are looking to inject personality into the kitchen space. Natural materials and finishes remain exceptionally popular and we’re experiencing a revival in old finishes that have been re-invented and are being used in new and exciting ways. Back-painted glass appliances, raw wooden surfaces, concrete, stone, brass and copper are but a few of the key trend pieces of the future.’

Neolith is a specialist supplier for today’s kitchen surfaces. Says their Mar Esteve Cortes: ‘We believe in looking to the past to see the future. Nostalgia is nothing new, but across the industry, we’re noticing a revival in design classics. Terrazzo immediately springs to mind; as a playful and colourful stone once so popular as a flooring material, it’s finding a new lease of life as designers rediscover this style icon.

‘And it’s not the only traditional material that will make a comeback in the near future. The organic look and feel of unpolished wood has timeless appeal and, with the steadily increasing desire for Scandinavian chic over the last few years, it’s become highly sought after. In contemporary kitchens, this can be combined with contrasting materials such as concrete and / or metal effects, – to evoke a captivating juxtaposition of the natural and industrial.’

So, in 2019, perhaps overall residential interior signatures for living spaces can to some extent fall under the widening influence of kitchen design. As the most used interior in the modern home by all family members – over a variety of functions from food preparation to schoolwork – the kitchen creates a unique opportunity as a decorative hub. Vibrancy, ease of function and maintenance are ideally combined with eye appeal in best-case scenarios.

In an open-plan layout, skylights can add natural light during daytime, especially over counter-height islands, which are useful in expanding valuable prep and cooking space. In smaller areas, varying ceiling levels might introduce design pizazz, perhaps with bulkheads that include concealed
LED downlights.

If an open-plan kitchen with an island is the ultimate 2019 floorplan in SA, then note that this is still in line with global trends. It’s the ‘now’ design direction to follow, a core fixture in terms of the modern living machine we call home.

Philip Richards: ‘The possibilities are endless as to how we keep pushing the boundaries of kitchen architecture. Open-plan is not just having a visible kitchen, it’s more allowing interaction with the various functions of the modern home, where it also enhances the overall aesthetic feel. To some, the downside might be that we see food being prepared and experience cooking odours. But to me this is actually a positive as it helps us be reminded that we are living beings and touch, taste and smell are essential for us to feel human. Open-plan is also more relational as it ensures that family members can be involved directly or indirectly with all that happens in the kitchen.’

Megan Noel of Interslab for Caesarstone adds: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we are seeing people embracing their personal style and needs to create kitchens that are both functional and beautiful. So the kitchen of the future is personalised. If the space is available then a multifunctional central island is the solution; however, in more compact spaces it may be necessary to design cleverly with customised compartments for storage and fully-integrated appliances.’

Such a kitchen format is already widely seen in South Africa, evident in high end imported kitchens – from Italy, Germany and Portugal – and in leading local designer / manufacturer’s collections. And indeed the overall format is largely open-plan, very often incorporating an island.

South African interior architecture is leaning towards homes that are definitively designed around the kitchen. It’s a floorplan that opts to position it at the centre of open, inter-leading reception spaces; which allow flexibility while adapting to an ever-changing lifestyle. Think of the entire kitchen as a large island situated in the centre of the living / dining area, with form following function. It’s an activity core around which living essentials flow.

In such open-plan areas, an overhead hood / extractor centrally placed to remove steam and cooking odours could be a prerequisite.

Selma Zaifoglu of Linear Concepts agrees: ‘Open-plan kitchens tend to bring everyone together, which leads to more sociable living spaces, this is a positive. But such areas must have both a functional and durable extractor to prevent any cooking odours permeating the rest of the space. Minimalist kitchens are becoming increasingly more popular and in future, this look will likely become the benchmark. It can be accentuated by adding shopfitting elements such as metals, lots of glass and LED lights. The interior architectural approach is important when creating a kitchen in this style.’

So, with the kitchen becoming an extension of the living area the island transcends into a multifunctional design element, ideally used both for cooking and as a counter, with the work surface extending on one side at least to allow for bar-style seating.

Italian import Officine Gullo is absolutely in favour of open-plan kitchens. ‘A linear kitchen, without corners but completed with one or more kitchen islands, allows a better use of the space, both from a walkable point of view, increasing the floor area, and from a storage angle,’ says their Paolo Valente. ‘For example, the islands offer the possibility of using even the sides as containment compartments. Another advantage is relative cost, a corner kitchen requires a more complex tailor-made project which, compared to an open-plan kitchen and is, therefore, more costly.’

Other factors apply to the morphing of previously enclosed kitchen ‘rooms’ into open spaces. With the kitchen island becoming the focal point of the living room, as a consequence, it requires special attention insofar as both looks and functionality. Key appliances are part of this picture with smart solutions that can coordinate them perfectly. An example is integrated sinks, built-in and of the same material as the countertop, to form a smooth, contemporary design handwriting.

Marita Boyers of Valcucine Johannesburg for Casarredo: ‘The future is now. Perfectly integrating kitchen units with ergonomics increases their performance, so that using them becomes a superlative experience. Such as soft and effortless opening and closing mechanisms, plus height, weight and depth planned around the specific requirements of the user. This improves visibility and simplifies every movement, from access to wall units to grasping doors. Proportions and functionalities are designed to maximise simplicity.

‘The open-plan kitchen has become a public function in a private space; it’s the heart of the home, the social engine. However, exposed mess while cooking and entertaining in an open kitchen presents problems. Logica Celata, designed by Gabriele Centazzo, offers a novel take on space exploitation that reinvents ergonomics and plans new, exciting ways of using an open-plan kitchen. Thanks to an advanced, counterweight balancing mechanism, the door glides gently upwards to reveal the whole work area: a large, fully-customisable space. Various interior options are available i.e. kitchen bar, food preparation area and storage. Each of these is provided with accessories and functions designed to meet its specific needs. In these configurations, everything is ready to be used as efficiently as possible and hidden just as fast, concealing any mess.’

The trend towards a more flexible and open kitchen layout has introduced a radical change in the role of kitchen walls. With an island installed most cooking functions are located towards the central floor space, leaving the walls to be utilised for storage. Floor-to-ceiling storage is still in effect in 2019, but even with the currently more preferable below-counter cabinetry, maximum use of space can be realised. Then add the location of the oven at below or above counter height (eye-level) depending on the stature of the end-user.

Kitchen designers are incorporating fashion-forward features like glass fronts and LED lights on fridges, chic metal hardware on appliances and cabinetry, and backsplashes with unusual finishes such as metals, raw wood and / or artful tile murals.

Marita Boyers: ‘After more than 30 years of expertise in glass, Valcucine is offering another first: an ultra-thin ceramic top, fused to a bottom layer of clear glass to strengthen the product, yet retaining the appearance of a thin floating surface. It’s an exclusive technique, which is heat-, scratch-, abrasion-, stain- and impact-resistant and carries a 10-year guarantee.’

High-tech Havens – latest kitchen R&D

Yet another state-of-the-art / top of the wishlist item is interactive induction hobs that maximize the use of space while virtually disappearing into the countertop. The induction zones have touch controls and each has variable low-to-high power, plus a pan detection system. Residual heat indicators warn if the hob is hot, even when the zone is switched off. Wear-resistant ceramic glass tops with smart bevelled edges and touch controls ensure that these hobs are easy to clean.

So say goodbye to burners. The future of hob cooking undoubtedly lies in induction heating that employs magnetic components concealed below the cooktop to heat pots and pans. Yet instead of just heating the bottom the induction system heats the entire utensil, which means that food is cooked faster and more evenly. And pots and pans can be placed anywhere on the cooking surface rather than one particular heating area.

Technology is the talk of the kitchen-design sector; the future of kitchen appliances being undeniably digital. In the US companies such as JennAir have developed more than 100 new products with what is known as ‘an enhanced digital backbone.’ This translates to dishwashers that respond to voice commands, and ovens that help craft a particular menu. And both LG and Miele are working on appliances that could communicate with each other to create shopping lists, meal recommendations and cooking instruction. The term coined for the next generation of forward-thinking cooks is ‘technicureans.’

Liam Gawne from Miele SA on future kitchen tech: ‘The biggest impact will involve the onset of revolutionary smart technology. This will ensure the best possible energy and water-efficiency and will take the guesswork out of cooking to make tasks simple and easy. And there will be streamlined, design aesthetics and functionality, easy operation, and time-saving efficiencies.

‘However, it’s important to make a distinction between smart technology that will make life easier and more efficient, and a marketing gimmick. Miele technology must add significant value and convenience, which won’t be outdated or unsupported over the full 20-year-lifespan of the appliances. For new products and services, the focus must be on customer benefits and simple application has to be the ultimate goal. The software on all new Miele devices can be completely updated via Remote Service so that new functions can be added over the entire service life and proven programmes can be further optimised.’

Miele’s new Generation 7000 range of appliances are at the forefront of smart home technology, with many innovative inclusions such as TasteControl, that prevents over-cooking of food in the oven, or FoodView, which involves the transmission of high definition images taken by a built-in camera in the oven interior and sent to a smartphone, tablet or PC in real-time.

Another Miele first is the South African launch of the revolutionary Dialog oven. Introducing world-first technology, it employs a technology where electromagnetic waves respond to the texture of food in an intelligent manner. Meat, for example, is cooked more uniformly, retaining its juices. Fish and vegetables retain their fine structure, and dough rises significantly better. Various fresh ingredients for a complete meal can be placed together on an oven tray and are all finished to perfection at the same time – and up to 70% faster than using conventional cooking methods. The Dialog oven will be available in early 2020, offering South Africans access to this ultimate food experience.

Technology is equally vital in terms of water supply and control, plus aesthetic appeal. Michelle Lowe of Lixil Africa has info: ‘The kitchen of the future is about products that are able to make life easier and more convenient, the Grohe Blue is an example: This system allows the user to draw filtered, chilled and sparkling water directly from the kitchen tap; refreshment is always within reach and plastic bottles are a thing of the past.

‘The open-plan kitchen format puts a perfect spotlight on the kitchen tap. Try something exciting and introduce colour with the new GROHE SPA collection in the Essence Range: Warm Sunset, Cool Sunrise, Hard Graphite or Nickel. Bon appétit!’

Undoubtedly, upwardly mobile homeowners are far more tech-focused than previous generations. They’ve upped their culinary expectations to include precise prep and flexible cooking experiences, alongside a well defined appreciation for leading-edge design.

Surely, we will see smart kitchen technology become more sophisticated and easier to use. Already some taps operate with just a touch and Samsung and Liebherr have developed refrigerators that feature integrated cameras, allowing users to check grocery stock from anywhere.

While this tech exists already (users have to input their goods into an app one-by-one), fridges of the future will be able to determine what’s inside without any user interaction. This will likely be done through barcode scanners installed within, or pressure sensors built into the fridge shelves.

Certain industrial designers suggest that fridges, as we know them, will disappear completely in future kitchens. In their place, inductive cooling containers will sit on induction shelves to cool goods. It will simply be a case of setting the container on a cooling surface where the contents will be chilled in an instant. Manufacturers are making huge strides in facilitating such individual cooling zones so that refrigerated goods can be stored at optimal temperatures.

However, homeowners still value reliability and performance as being most vital in appliances. There is a viable concern as to technology quickly becoming outdated and unsupported in an appliance that may be expected to last for 10 to 20 years. Might it be more apt to focus on advancing the production and design of kitchens, rather than cultivating unnecessary smart tech in appliances that can hinder a product’s lifespan?

In today’s fast-changing and economically threatened world, the kitchen space is a much valued individual hub of domesticity. People are proud of their kitchens, they want them to be distinctive so there is some rewriting of the rules – such as smoothie stations and wine fridges; more colour, more unusual tile and mosaic. More character.

What is the latest R&D in the sector of countertops and tiled surface trends?

Klyne Maharaj: ‘Quartz remains the most popular of the synthetic work surfaces and for good reason: certain brands, like Brutestone, offer a wide variety of colours at very competitive prices. We’re however seeing sintered stones, like Franke’s Lapitec, Dekton and Silestone becoming increasingly popular for their thin profile, high heat, scratch resistance and unique finishes.’

Philip Richards: ‘We’re focusing on the constant exploration of new materials and textures, working with many marbles and using various finishing processes to impart unique touch experiences. And we’ve found that wood is still essential in bringing warmth to a space, so we employ veneers in different ways and directions to add that authentic luxury touch that’s still required in 2019. We’ve also been exploring the different properties of glass and how from one piece of glass it’s possible to create various effects, which can provide intriguing possibilities.’

Mar Esteve Cortes: ‘Neolith has recently put significant investment into research and development to ensure our surfaces are as sustainable as possible. This has resulted in adopting a new pioneering decoration technology, Hydro NDD 2.0, which means all of our patterns are printed using water-based inks. This new tech delivers high-quality colour and textural definition with a far lower carbon footprint.’

Selma Zaifoglu: ‘A new, exciting development is the application of flame to stone, which changes its texture and gives it an even more natural, rough look, while still allowing for the surface to be sealed.’

There are very strong opinions when it comes to countertops. And for good reason. A quality surface not only looks good but is better to work on and easier to clean. Granite and marble have fulfilled a role for decades as popular kitchen counter choices, but it’s the rise of porcelain and quartz stone tops that might offer a clue as to how kitchens of the future could look.

Oren Sachs of WOMAG comments: ‘Quartz-based and porcelain surfaces are a well established trend that inspires timeless appeal. With materials that mimic the movement and look of natural stone, the Nova Calacatta Phoenix Stone provides a clean-lined design for modern and cohesive countertops, flooring or backsplashes.

‘Dark and moody countertops can add plenty of drama to a kitchen storyboard, making a bold yet deeply sophisticated statement. Fast becoming one of the hottest new kitchen trends, brushed Volcanic Grey granite offers a smooth and silky look with a slightly textured feel that evokes an emotionally contemplative space to cook. Striking yet elegant, a boldly patterned surface is both vibrant and fresh. The Galaxy Sky and White River granite slabs can lift a dark or small area and open up the space.’

Engineered quartz is especially popular because it combines the best that man and nature have to offer. It’s made by combining natural quartz and resins to create a surface with the same strength as granite, yet with better impact resistance. It also doesn’t need to be sealed, making it a popular key inclusion in kitchen design since the turn of the millennium. Quartz and engineered stone counters may have semi-matt or gloss surfaces and there are a host of options insofar as grain, veining and other faux finishes – such as marble, granite and terrazzo.

Megan Noel: ‘Knowledge is power. There are several new countertops on the market, each with their own benefits. But it’s important that the consumer is well informed because there are inexpensive replicas available that claim to offer the same standards yet do not. So consider certain important questions when choosing a countertop:

‘Always request the quote from your designer and installer to be itemised to establish the material, costs separately from their service and installation fee. You will then be able to compare prices accurately with other brands. And when choosing a countertop brand ask your designer or installer key questions: where is it manufactured, how long on the market, is the warranty legitimate, does the company have a green rating? Lastly, on installation make sure to be on site when the surface arrives so that you can check the barcoding underneath the slab to establish that it is the genuine brand and not a cheaper replacement.’

Paolo Valente: ‘Officine Gullo believes that steel offers a par excellence solution for kitchen worktops. In addition to being a trending material that can be placed in any type of kitchen, whether classic or contemporary, steel offers significant advantages in hygiene and wear resistance. The use of a very basic orbital sander for regular maintenance keeps surfaces looking new even after many years of use.’

Another material edging into the picture is porcelain, which also replicates genuine stones. Unlike quartz, porcelain can’t be scratched or burned and it doesn’t show fingerprints. So the countertop material of choice in the near future will likely include these frontrunners.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles remain crucial inclusions in most contemporary kitchens, Nicole Russel from Italtile SA offers an overview: ‘The kitchen space must be functional, simple, practical and well organised – and aesthetically beautiful. Tile-wise, whites and light greys are still high on the list and are ideal for smaller kitchens where lighter tones help to achieve a spatial plus, making the area seem bigger.

‘For a kitchen island, choose large format tiles. This can create a seamless signature on surfaces – the island coordinating with the floor and / or wall tiles. Lastly, well chosen tiles offer a timeless look, as well as longevity, plus low maintenance.’

The future of kitchen design is bright, with constantly evolving technologies and smart aesthetics. Even if these future kitchens might look similar to what’s current in 2019, that which is hidden under hobs, counters and within cabinets represents a whole new world of possibilities.

So the march of progress in the contemporary kitchen environment is a 2019 / ‘20 fact of residential life, where technology will continue to make waves in both design and usage. It’s become ever more important in benefitting this efficient, multipurpose core of the modern home. Yet, while function is very obviously paramount to this vital space, design and decoration are equally key.

cover image: @home

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