Just decades ago, the kitchen was located at the rear of the home, not exactly hidden but not considered a vital interior insofar as design; rather it was a place where meals were prepared and dishes and utensils cleansed. Fast forward to 2018 and the kitchen has a far different role. Today, it’s the focal point of the home, a core location that brings people together largely at early morning and in the evening. As a result, the kitchen is now celebrated and showcased as a ‘designer’ interior.

cover image: Inside Living

‘Form and function should merge to create a single entity,’ so says Ramón Casadó of bulthaup. ‘Both their design and utility are tailored to the individual, adapted accurately to the personal processes of the user. This kitchen environment makes the work easier, whether it’s about creating storage space, preparing and serving dishes, or working around the water point and cooktop. The end result is an overall better quality of life.’

Kitchen Studio / Poggenpohl’s Dane Maharaj takes an informed overview: ‘The contemporary European-style kitchen continues to dominate global kitchen design trends but, what we are seeing this year – and what we will hopefully continue to see – is the public diversifying their aesthetic sensibility to other styles of design. High-gloss synthetic monotone finishes have dominated modern kitchen trends for several years, but we are noticing a shift with more use of textured boards, natural, wild and engineered veneers and hardwoods (sustainably sourced from indigenous African trees); and painted hardwoods with an exposed grain, combined with the same veneer / hardwood in its natural state, either sealed, or with a simple, almost-translucent white-wash to remove any yellow hues.

Daniel Slavin of local manufacturer / importer Slavin says: ‘People have embraced open-plan living and we see this format more in both new homes and renovations. This additional open space lends itself to island cooking with feature walls being a focus. Darker colours are being used, but the palette is still neutral and there’s an increase in natural materials incorporated within the kitchen space: glass, metals, concrete, stone and timber.’

‘We see 2018 as the year that the soulless kitchen composed of light gloss surfaces and minimal details finally dies a deserved death. Bold colours, open shelving, signature pieces and appliances are set to make a welcome return to the heart of the home. With a growing realisation that the robots are coming, the super machined vacuity of the past decade will give way to the handmade, with a greater value placed on craftsmanship, legacy and artisanal skill,’ believes Dino Valente of Officine Gullo.

Rika Bornman of Inside Living doesn’t wholly agree: ‘Sleek modern, minimalist trends still rule, where function is hidden behind well formed units and handles have given way to channels and grips in many kitchens. Integrated appliances, in combination with minimal lines in units, cause the kitchen to present as an even sleeker, more furniture-like installation in the living area.’

Smart Moves

Erin Braithwaite of Fabri who import Portuguese kitchen design is bullish on a space-age surface material: ‘Nano-tech finishes are set to make an impression in 2019. They offer a chic matt look, resistance to stains, water, heat and fingerprints, and self-regeneration from minor scratches with a damp cloth. Materials with these attributes will revolutionise the way a kitchen wears, so although still fairly new to the South African countertop market, Nano-tech material should become increasingly popular for work surfaces.

‘But, engineered surfaces such as quartz or sintered porcelain remain the favoured choice, now leaning towards a dramatic look through darker surfaces in grey or black combined with striking marble effects. And timber is a popular way to add warmth to a kitchen design, when paired with contemporary or minimalist design elements it becomes a stylish accent.’

So tech has entered the kitchen in full force and not just in the form of fancy gadgets. Today, technology can be integrated with every cabinet function and appliance – from the taps to the refrigerator, the lighting plan and the work surface material – such is the essence of the smart kitchen.

Marita Boyers is an interior architect and she comments on Valcucine design ethos for Sandton-based Casarredo: ‘Combining functionality with the core value of sustainable living is key. A home that is well designed generates wellness with products that contribute to the pleasures of everyday life. These are innovative kitchens that are made to last generations, are impervious to trends and therefore truly ageless.

Changing Spectrum

Neutral colours for cabinetry historically reign supreme, but this year there’s been a twist – actually more than one. The all-white kitchen in all its hygienic purity and tricky-to-keep-clean glory, is slowly moving to the rear. Taking centre stage in 2018 are very light and soft greys, semi-opaque cream finishes on wood and a surprising micro emerging trend of light khaki tones. Greys and warm greys in medium to dark shades are also being more widely seen in stylish kitchens than in previous years; often mixed with a soft white, a duo that presents as an update to classic black and white. A micro trend of gold finishes on cabinet doors is new in 2018.

‘I feel that the trend for cabinetry finishes are moving away from the harsh clinical feel of high-gloss and more toward a softer matt paint finish with a contrasting rough texture brought in by either wood detailing or stone worktops. Darker tones are also making an appearance in finishes, but are enlivened by feature lighting, which gives a warmer and more inviting feel to the overall design,’ so says Linear ConceptsSelma Zaifoglu.

Philip Richards of local manufacturer blu_line comments on 2018 / ‘19 design directions and finishes: ‘We are working with a new concept: essentiality merging the function and the form of the kitchen. What this is beginning to reveal is that the functional elements – as well as the overall layout – need not be separated from the aesthetics. The inner dividers for storage can be as much a showpiece as the island for example. The door detail must be functional, but can also be a feature. Details matter and this has never been more important than today where so much is copied. The details are the very elements that help us distinguish a true modern product from a plagiaristic replica.

‘We have a variety of new surfaces being developed, such as an exclusive terrazzo finish and a cast concrete that works for various applications. A new aluminium range features exquisite detailing and a bespoke Cartier brass door; and a new marble surface collection is taking design possibilities even further.

Black is back as both a leading (all cabinets) and supporting (just accents) player; the latter being much more common for 2018. Contrast is used as a design and style element in light and dark, or as a mix of cool and warm tones. Playing with contrasting interior and exterior cabinet finishes adds interest and painted cabinet colours are being seen in a range of soft medium blues with bolder blues also on trend in 2018. Matt black stainless appliances can add panache to such schemes.

While styles like country farmhouse and mid-century modern remain popular, there is a definite move towards more streamlining in the overall aesthetic, via ongoing R&D for both the design and use of alternative materials for kitchens. Stress-free residential environments are what most prefer to embrace and this design direction usually translates into simplicity.

Megan Schumann of Caesarstone SA: ‘Kitchen surfaces are the most hardworking in the home. They get touched, cleaned, chopped on and pressured every day; so as a surface they have to be both durable and reliable. With the kitchen acknowledged to be the leading asset in terms of resale value in most modern homes, this is where financial investment needs to be considered. Caesarstone is an engineered quartz surface built to last for generations and is recogniserd globally amongst realtors for this quality and its lifetime warranty. Being completely non-porous it also provides a hygienic cooking experience and low maintenance. Design- and finish-wise we are seeing a notable trend for organic looking, naturally worn colours and finishes. Note that while the genuine concrete look may be on trend it’s not great in terms of longevity and porosity, so we introduced a range of designs (The Metropolitan Collection) inspired by concrete – they look like concrete and feel like concrete, but will last a lifetime and not stain.’

Miele SA’s Mercia de Jager takes a wide view on the palette: ‘Gone are the days of plain and dull kitchens, as kitchens cement their role as a home’s central gathering place, they’re taking on increasingly more vibrant colours. The kitchen is a key place for colour, it’s a gathering place, and so it’s apt to project some mixing and matching of colours to create a high-energy impact.

‘White remains the popular option – it’s bright, clean and light, is timeless and coordinates with virtually any kitchen style – and it offers a clean and hygienic impression. Homeowners are either opting for an all-white monochromatic kitchen, or they choose to go overall white and break it up with a coloured island. Further, a mixing of finishes allows the creation of accent pieces that offer pops of colour, without making them too visually overwhelming.

Elizabete Nelson of Gaggenau: ‘It is design that assures, entertains, sparks conversation and is ultimately a unique fit with the culture of the consumer. We share an appreciation of a purist design aesthetic, have an open-minded approach to innovation and a desire to enable consumers’ culinary culture. One of the design trends that we see emerging this year is the replication of natural surfaces like wood and stone, which is a foil for the contemporary design of the new cooktops. Our new cooktop is inspired by the features of a professional kitchen and specifically designed for those with a high ambition for their cooking.

‘The kitchen island is the central point of communication, shared cooking and enjoyment. Homeowners seek the perfect look for this cooking space, and colour palettes such as dark jewel tones. Black and navy will surprise as to how well darker surfaces can enhance a kitchen space.’


We’re still seeing natural wood elements in the kitchen and in 2018 the floor is key as to where this design statement is being made. In the US this might be complemented by wood countertops, thick wood shelving and more textured door styles in clear or semi-opaque stains; natural and light oak being the most favoured timber.

Mathilda Venter of Valcucine Cape Town explains: ‘It’s called WELLth TREND. Just as kitchens include space for appliances, so fit-outs with a system of purpose-designed planters (with topsoil, irrigation and special lighting) make it possible to grow organic herbs and vegetables in the kitchen. Not only does this enhance air quality and provide other efficiencies, such as reducing the number of steps from ‘plot to plate,’ but it also provides psychological benefit through a connection to nature and the organic world in highly built-up areas globally. For this reason, we are seeing new innovation coming to the fore in kitchen design that allows for produce to be displayed and showcased rather than concealed as in days gone by.

Richard Lurie and Dorothee Bonse of importers Eurocasa Cape Town attended the biennial International Kitchen Exhibition, EuroCucina at the Salone del Mobile in Milan to research trends and new directions in kitchen design and technology. Dorothee Bronse comments: ‘At the same time as technology is becoming ubiquitous and deeply embedded in all aspects of our lives, we see the materiality of objects being emphasised in kitchen design for their solid, tactile qualities as well as natural or organic origins. There is also longevity in organic materials that ties in with previous, non-throwaway generations. And new developments in technology are being harnessed to help us not only be efficient with our time and energy but also take into consideration efficiency for the sake of our planet.

‘The connection between design and its capacity to enhance health and wellbeing is making its way into the kitchen and whilst greenery in the kitchen is a legacy from EuroCucina 2016, it was more prevalent this year with plants, herbs and easy access fresh ingredients now being a very strong trend. The WELLth concept is one that will continue to gain momentum in SA,’ says Richard Lurie. ‘In a few months’ time we will start seeing in-home plant (herb) incubators for sale in leading retailers for the first time in SA. This is a major acknowledgement of this trend.’

For the full article see Habitat #267 September / October 2018


Newsletter Sign Up