10 Kitchen Upgrades That Really Make A Difference


10 Kitchen Upgrades That Really Make A Difference

When your kitchen budget's tight, you need to spend wisely. Here are 10 things experts agree are worth splashing out on



Planning a new kitchen? Knowing where to spend and where to save is one of the toughest parts of the process. To help make it easier, we asked three kitchen-design experts to reveal their must-have inclusions and upgrades.

Graeme Metcalf, multi-disciplinary designer at Dan Kitchens Australia, says:

1. Bin drawer
Keep waste under control by upgrading to a pull-out bin drawer.

A bin drawer is ideally placed near the sink and typically has loose bins inside it for waste and recycling, but can also contain bins for soft plastics and compost too. A bin drawer can either be retrofitted to an existing kitchen (space permitting) or designed into new kitchens.

The design options are greater in new kitchens and, as such, they tend to be more practical. For instance, a new kitchen can have a bin drawer fitted with a touch-to-open system so you can open the drawer with the bump of a knee, leaving your hands free to place items in the bin.

This upgrade ranges from quite cheap (such as the retrofitted option) to more expensive.

2. Waterproof kickboards and sink cabinets
When it comes to insurance claims involving kitchens, water damage is the biggest cause. This can be due to flooding, accidents, storms, faulty plumbing or appliances.

Kitchens are primarily made of panels with a substrate of MDF board and particle board, which when exposed to water repeatedly or over a length of time will expand and become damaged.

Upgrading your new kitchen to include waterproof board to at-risk panels, such as kickboards and sink cabinets, will save you a tonne of pain in the unlikely event you have one of the water issues listed above. Waterproof board is not cheap – expect to pay many times the cost of regular substrates – but it’s well worth the expense.

3. Wine and beverage storage
Wine needs to be kept within a strict temperature range (depending on the variety) for best preservation, and you won’t achieve this by storing it in the pantry or in pigeon holes in the kitchen. A
wine fridge is the next best thing to having your own private wine cellar.

Wine fridges come as built-in, under-bench and tall units. Many feature dual-temperature zones, typically separating your reds and whites, but can also include provisions for beer and other cold drinks, giving them added utility.

I usually place small an under-bench wine fridge at the kitchen island, in a spot that is away from direct view of adjoining spaces. Taller fridge-sized units can be installed in laundries, sculleries or dedicated wine cellars. Wine fridges are not for everyone, but have their place in the modern home.

4. Soft-close drawers and full-extension runners
Soft-closing doors and drawers are extremely functional and well-worth installing. They close smoothly and softly without banging shut like standard doors and drawers do.

If you’re interested in soft-closing doors and drawers, be sure to plan early; they need to be factored in at the costing stage to ensure you get the correct pricing.

Full-extension runners are another worthwhile investment. The drawer pulls right out towards you so you can fit more into it and you don’t have to reach into the back to find items.

Soft-closing drawers and full-extension runners used to be a costly luxury, but not anymore. You’ll find all sorts of options at different price points on the market. One I’d recommend is
Blum’s Antaro soft-closing runner range – it’s an amazing system that won’t break the bank.

5. Butler’s pantry
Having a pantry is worth it because it gives you a dedicated area to make breakfast, tea and coffee. A walk-in butler’s pantry is the crème de la crème of pantries – it gives you maximum functionality and screams high-end kitchen.

Position your butler’s pantry at the far end of the kitchen, ideally with a matching joinery door on a pivot system. Include bench space to house appliances so you can free up surface space in your kitchen.

As with any pantry, you’ll need to incorporate a butler’s pantry at the design stage so you get the functionality correct.

6. Appliance niche
If you don’t have the space for a separate butler’s pantry, consider installing an appliance pantry or niche – it’s not only practical, but great for adding wow factor to your kitchen.

It looks like a normal pantry, but when you open it – either with bi-fold or pocket doors, depending on your budget – the inside is a dream space with internal drawers below, shelving above for glassware/mugs, and bench space for appliances, such as the toaster, kettle and juicer.

An appliance niche is cheaper than a butler’s pantry, but upgrading it with internal drawers and pocket doors is still an expensive option compared with a standard pantry.

I would recommend positioning an appliance pantry next to the fridge, which is normally the second cabinet inside the kitchen. This way the person using it won’t get in the way of others who are using the kitchen to cook and clean.

7. Integrated appliances
Freestanding appliances, such as the fridge, need to stick out past the line of your joinery in order to open properly, which can create a cluttered look. Instead, consider integrating your fridge and dishwasher so you can create a flush, streamlined wall of joinery – ideal for an entertainer’s or open-plan kitchen.

Look to position your integrated fridge at the end of the kitchen run for easy access and so it won’t interrupt the functionality of the kitchen when it’s in use.

An integrated dishwasher should be positioned next to the sink.

Be aware that these elements – as well as a wine fridge, if you wish to include one – need to be incorporated at the design phase since they affect your kitchen’s layout. Most integrated fridges on the market also require extra depth in the joinery, which will greatly impact the design of the space.

Also be aware that integrated fridges can be much more expensive than standard freestanding styles as the joinery manufacture is very detailed and customised. They can also be quite hard to replace.

Integrated dishwashers, on the other hand, aren’t an expensive upgrade as they simply require a joinery panel on the front. They are usually easy to replace.

8. Power points with USB chargers
Today’s kitchens are used for more than just cooking – they’re where homework is done, emails are sent and families gather. Having sufficient power points with USB outlets makes practical sense.

Position power points at the end of your kitchen island, on your splashback, or consider a style that pops up from the benchtop when required and sits flush with the surface when not in use, such as EVOline BackFlip.

9. High-fold cabinets
We find Blum HM bi-fold cabinets to be extremely practical for high and mid-level wall cabinets. They open smoothly, items are easy to access as there are no doors in the way, and when closed the cabinets create a long, sleek look. For added luxury, you can also upgrade to Blum Servo-Drive so the doors open with a light push.

These cabinets are more expensive than standard overhead cabinets, but so worth it.

10. Vertical storage
Storing cutting boards, trays and baking trays vertically makes them far more accessible than storing them horizontally – you simply pull them out when required. Plus, they’re easy to put back.

Vertical storage comes at a minimal cost, but needs to be incorporated in the design phase.

Source: Georgia Madden Houzz Australia