We take a look at the options available and design considerations for cupboards and benchtops.
There's a huge range of materials and construction methods available for kitchen cupboards and benchtops. This guide will provide you with a starting point for choosing a material and style.
Cabinets are one of the most visible elements of a kitchen. There's a multitude of styles on the market as usual, you're only limited by the depths of your pockets. Cabinets can be split into three basic types, depending on quality of materials and finishes.
These ready-to-assemble or pre-assembled cabinets are the cheapest option for your kitchen. While your range of finishes and styles will be limited, stock cabinets are convenient and cost-effective. They typically feature wood construction with a melamine finish, but can also be made of solid wood.
These cabinets take longer to make and deliver but allow greater personal choice. Modifications are made to standard designs so that cabinets closely fit the shape of your kitchen and here's a wide range of finishes and styles. Semi-custom cabinets generally feature higher quality workmanship than stock cabinets.
A custom-built cabinet is not constructed until it is ordered. All kinds of finishes are available and the cabinets can be tailored exactly to the dimensions of your kitchen. When ordering custom-made cabinetry, make sure you provide exact measurements. Custom-built cabinets can take a long time to deliver and cost more than either stock or semi-custom cabinets.
Below are design tips for choosing cabinets for your kitchen.
Design kitchen cabinetry with practicality in mind. Allow for visual and physical access, positioned for maximum efficiency, and ensure sufficient drawer and cupboard space.
The lowest recommended distance between the countertop and the lower edge of wall cabinets is 50cm. Cabinets positioned lower will block the view of the workspace. Putting storage at a higher level allows a better overview of the workspace, but makes things harder to reach.
Save floorspace and increase storage capacity with banks of high cabinets.
A pantry should be at least 900mm wide and 2/3m deep, with adjustable, shallow shelving. Or consider a 'pantry drawer' or cupboard with pull-out shelves.
Make best use of corners via lazy susans, bifold doors and dual-access doors.
Consider vertical storage for trays, cuttingboards, etc.
Spot lights installed under overhead cabinetry provide task lighting to benchtops.
Consider island benches or mobile storage units for extra workspace and to house dinnerware and cutlery.
Include a bank of easy-glide utility drawers: pull-out units 450-600mm wide for dinnerware, pots and pans.
Wall-mounted storage for knives, papertowels and spices will keep your counters clear.
Free cupboard and drawer space by storing bulky kitchen equipment on racks suspended from the ceiling and utensils on wall-mounted hooks.
Place fittings and storage close to where the stored items will be used. For example, the spice-rack should be located next to cooking area; plates and glassware near the dishwasher.
Use as many pull- or fold-out interior fittings as possible, especially for corner cabinets. Pull-out wire baskets or drawers make items in deep cabinets easily accessible. Pull-out larders make it easier to find and reach items in high cabinets.
Cabinets with solid doors hide clutter; cabinets with glass doors and lighting showcase objects and create atmosphere.
The kitchen benchtop is one of the most worked-upon areas in any house so it needs to be tough and durable. There's a massive range of options on the market, but the main benchtop types are:
Laminate: cheap and popular. Comes in a variety of colours. Not particularly hard wearing.
Tile: fairly cheap and come in a very wide range of colours and finishes. The tiles themselves are durable, but the grout that holds them together can be problematic.
Timber: adds character to any kitchen. Reasonably durable, although scratches from knives and burn marks from hot pans will show up. They may be unhygienic if meat or poultry is prepared on it. Can also require careful treatment and ongoing maintenance or resealing.
Stainless steel: highly durable and hygienic. Gives your kitchen a very contemporary look, although some people find it too minimal. Relatively expensive.
Solid-surface worktops: unlike laminate, which is made up of layers, solid-surface worktops are formed of a solid plastic block. They resist scratching and burning, and come in a wide variety of colours, but are moderately expensive.
Granite and other stone: very classy and can range in price from very expensive to inexpensive imports from China. It retains its colour and doesn't scratch or burn. It's also extremely durable and will last for years although can require extra maintenance.