The 2024 must-haves for every kitchen
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The 2024 must-haves for every kitchen

As every real estate agent knows, kitchens sell houses. Set yourself up for success with designs for every space

By Robyn Willis
Thu, Jan 5, 2023 9:42amGrey Clock 5 min

As a new year kicks off and summer holidays stretch out before you, it’s the perfect time to reassess your home, your property and your investments. Whether it’s time to sell or renovate, putting a kitchen renovation at the top of your to-do list for 2023 will set you up for a successful year. There’s no better time than now to start planning for a spring sale or summer entertaining so that, no matter the size of your space, you can have a beautiful, hardworking kitchen. Check out these three Sydney kitchen case studies in large, medium and small.

Large kitchen: The drinks are on us

By the time award-winning kitchen design duo Darren Genner and Simona Castagna from Minosa started working on this generously proportioned kitchen, their clients already had a pretty firm idea of what they wanted.

Overlooking the Bay Run in Sydney’s inner west, the property had already been partially renovated in a palette of steel blue and soft grey, setting the palette for the kitchen colours. 

“They wanted something really beautiful and the kitchen had to reflect what we had already done in the parents’ retreat, which was a contemporary feel with a bit of colour,” says Genner.

Part of a larger open plan living area, the original kitchen was characterised by a walk-in pantry and corridor, which shut down the floorplan and did not serve the owners’ needs given cooking wasn’t necessarily the highest priority.

“They are not really big cooks, they prefer to order in,” says Genner. “So the kitchen becomes more furniture-like.”

Streamlined joinery and integrated appliances ensure the kitchen naturally feels a part of the living area. Curved edges on the central island bench ensure easy circulation and straightforward access to the Vintec wine fridge, as well as a concealed bar for the owners’ gin collection.

“We call it hidden bling,” says Castagna. “They are really unassuming people who appreciate the finer things but they don’t like to show off. 

“We’ve worked with them before and every time we do a renovation, they go away and leave us to it.”

The kitchen was completed over a 10-week period. Joinery is finished in dark stain American oak while the splashback is polished concrete render. For the island benchtop, Genner and Castagna specified Laminam, a hi tech porcelain product ideal for areas where large, hardwearing slabs are required. The project was highly detailed to achieve such a clean, streamlined look. 

“There’s a lot of little detail,” says Genner.

Medium kitchen: The spice of life

Kitchens are hardworking spaces but it’s important that they say something about the people who live there. Interior designer Monique Sartor from Sartorial Interiors was keen to lean into the owners’ Sri Lankan heritage and their love of cooking to create this contemporary open plan space packed with storage at their home in Maroubra.

“The brief was ‘modern Sri Lankan’,” Sartor says. “The old kitchen was U-shaped and did not relate to the living room. It was cluttered and they felt it was dated but they still needed lots of storage.”

Sartor opened the space up, replacing the U-shape design with floor-to-ceiling joinery and a spacious central island bench with waterfall edge overlooking the dining area. Integrated appliances, including a French door fridge enhance the sense of continuity between the kitchen and living spaces. 

“Everything is integrated,” she says. “The dishwasher is under the island bench, and the cooktop is all induction except for one gas burner so that they can keep doing wok cooking. Appliances are not particularly attractive so the less you can see, the better.” 

Instead, attention is on surfaces, which have been selected for their natural look and feel.

“The kitchen is finished in Laminex Rural Oak. It needed to have that hand worked feel to it to give it some texture and warmth,” she says. “For the benchtops, Smartstone is so beautiful. This one had been discontinued and we tracked down the last five slabs.”

Key to the success of this space, however, is something that serves no practical function but brings the clients joy. Sartor chose a custom designed mural-style wallpaper from Kingdom Home to run the full length of the dining space.

“As a plain wall, it had no personality and it didn’t help to bring any interest into the space,” she says. “You want something that will reflect their story, and their heritage. It’s a vintage etching but it’s also very contemporary, especially with the design of the kitchen.”

Small kitchen: Making every centimetre count

Pictures: Jacqui Turk

If  large kitchens require an abundance of materials, small kitchens insist on an abundance of planning. The owner of this kitchen in the inner Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst loves to entertain but with just a narrow galley space to work with, design director at Bondi Kitchens, Charlotte Riggs, had her work cut out to pack everything in.

Fortunately, Riggs understood the space almost immediately.

“When I walked in I knew how the kitchen had to be configured,” she says. “It’s very narrow with a small nib wall, which was the perfect spot for a full height pantry. The most practical pantries are shallow because you don’t lose anything.”

Because it is separate from the dining room, which is on another level, Riggs says the kitchen needed to be a pleasure for the owner to work in, just on her own.

“There’s a little terrace just outside so when it gets warmer, she can eat outside,” she says. “But there’s things like a sink near the window and a fridge to the far right and a bi-fold nook next to the pantry for the kettle and toaster. 

“It’s very practical and logical as a layout.”

Given its location in the heart of the city, the owner was keen to create a sophisticated ambience in the kitchen. All appliances such as the fridge, rangehood and microwave are either hidden or integrated for a clean look. Riggs opted for navy cabinetry in a Shaker profile with classic cup door pulls in brass – the kitchen equivalent of a tailored suit with brass buttons.

“It’s all in the little details,” she says. “All the drawers and panels are 35mm thick for that extra deep Shaker cut out.”

Underbench strip lighting ensures that the benchtops are well lit when the kitchen is in use as a workstation while wall sconces provide optional mood lighting for later in the evening.



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Appliance technicians blame a push toward computerisation and an increase in the quantity of components inside a machine

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Thu, Feb 22, 2024 4 min

Our refrigerators, washing machines and ovens can do more than ever, from producing symmetrical ice cubes to remotely preheating on your commute home. The downside to all these snazzy features is that the appliances are more prone to breaking.

Appliance technicians and others in the industry say there has been an increase in items in need of repair. Yelp users, for example, requested 58% more quotes from thousands of appliance repair businesses last month than they did in January 2022.

Those in the industry blame a push toward computerisation, an increase in the quantity of individual components and flimsier materials for undercutting reliability. They say even higher-end items aren’t as durable.

American households spent 43% more on home appliances in 2023 than they did in 2013, rising from an inflation-adjusted average of $390 to $558, according to Euromonitor International. Prices for the category declined 12% from the beginning of 2013 through the end of 2023, according to the Labor Department.

One reason for the discrepancy between spending and prices is a higher rate of replacement, say consumers, repair technicians and others. That’s left some people wishing they had held on to their clunky ’90s-era appliances and others bargaining with repair workers over intractable ice makers and dryers that run cold.

“We’re making things more complicated, they’re harder to fix and more expensive to fix,” says Aaron Gianni, the founder of do-it-yourself home-repair app Plunjr.

Horror stories

Sharon J. Swan spent nearly $7,000 on a Bosch gas range and smart refrigerator. She thought the appliances would last at least through whenever she decided to sell her Alexandria, Va., home and impress would-be buyers.

That was before the oven caught fire the first time she tried the broiler, leading to a 911 call and hasty return. The ice-maker in the refrigerator, meanwhile, is now broken for the third time in under two years. Bosch covered the first two fridge fixes, but she says she’s on her own for the latest repair, totalling $250, plus parts.

“I feel like I wasted my money,” says the 65-year-old consultant for trade associations.

A Bosch spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that the company has been responsive to Swan’s concerns and will continue to work with her to resolve ongoing issues. “Bosch appliances are designed and manufactured to meet the highest quality standards, and they are built to last,” she said.

Kevin and Kellene Dinino wish they had held on to their white dishwasher from the ’90s that was still working great.

The sleeker $800 GE stainless steel interior dishwasher they purchased sprang a hidden leak within three years, causing more than $35,000 worth of damage to their San Diego kitchen.

Home insurance covered the claim, which included replacing the hardwood down to the subfloor and all their bottom cabinetry, but kicked the Dininos off their policy. The family also went without access to their kitchen for months.

“This was a $60 pump that was broken. What the hell happened?” says Kevin, 45, who runs a financial public-relations firm.

A GE Appliances spokeswoman said the company takes appliance issues seriously and works quickly to resolve them with consumers.

Increased complexity

Peel back the plastic on a modern refrigerator or washing machine and you’ll see a smattering of sensors and switches that its 10-year-old counterpart lacks. These extra components help ensure the appliance is using only the energy and water it needs for the job at hand, technicians say. With more parts, however, more tends to go wrong more quickly, they say.

Mansoor Soomro, a professor at Teesside University, a technical college in Middlesbrough, England, says home appliances are breaking down more often. He says that manufacturers used to rely mostly on straightforward mechanical parts (think an on/off switch that triggers a single lever). In the past decade or so, they’ve transitioned to relying more on sophisticated electrical and computerised parts (say, a touch screen that displays a dozen different sensor-controlled wash options).

When a complicated machine fails, technicians say they have a much harder time figuring out what went wrong. Even if the technician does diagnose the problem, consumers are often left with repairs that exceed half the cost of replacement, rendering the machine totalled.

“In the majority of cases, I would say buying a new one makes more economic sense than repairing it,” says Soomro, who spent seven years working at Siemens , including in the home-appliances division.

These machines are also now more likely to be made with plastic and aluminium rather than steel, Soomro says. High-efficiency motors and compressors, too, are likely to be lighter-duty, since they’re tasked with drawing less energy .

A spokeswoman for the Association for Home Appliance Manufacturers says the industry has “enhanced the safety, energy efficiency, capacity and performance of appliances while adding features and maintaining affordability and durability for purchasers.” She says data last updated in 2019 shows that the average life of an appliance has “not substantially shifted over the past two decades.”

When simpler is better

Kathryn Ryan and Kevin Sullivan needed a new sensor to fix their recently purchased $1,566 GE Unitized Spacemaker washer-dryer. GE wasn’t able to fix the sensor for months, so the couple paid a local technician $300 to get the machine working.

The repairman also offered them a suggestion: Avoid the sensor option and stick to timed dries.

“You should be able to use whatever function you please on a brand new appliance, ideally,” says Sullivan, a 32-year-old musician in Burbank, Calif.

More features might seem glamorous, Frontdoor virtual appliance tech Jim Zaccone says, but fewer is usually better.

“Consumers are wising up to the failures that are happening and going, ‘Do I really need my oven to preheat while I’m at the grocery store?’” jokes Zaccone, who has been in the appliance-repair business for 21 years.

He just replaced his own dishwasher and says he bought one with “the least bells and whistles.” He also opted for a mass-market brand with cheap and readily available parts. Most surprisingly, he chose a bottom-of-the-line model.

“Spending a lot of money on something doesn’t guarantee you more reliability,” says Zaccone.

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