Looking at a kitchen renovation? Don’t know where to start? In my experience the majority of people trying to re-design and improve their home’s kitchen simply re-write what was already existing. It is a very easy trap to fall into because often we have spent years, or even decades preparing food and cooking in the same space. It’s only natural that we tend to imagine our new dream kitchen as a shiny, more modern version of what already exists. Lets start by taking a look at what is common in an older style kitchen, and more importantly how they are by today’s standard relatively flawed.

Shortfall #1 – Shallow benchspace. How many kitchens have we cooked in, or still do cook in that have narrow benches, and not a lot of clear space for food preparation after we you take out the sink, cooker and microwave? The result of the narrow bench is invariably a shallow cupboard below. Not only narrow, but the majority of cupboards made in the traditional timber rail contsruction had fixed shelves. There always seems to be a cooking bowl or glass jug  that won’t fit.

Shortfall #2 – Limited drawer space. Traditionally kitchen drawers were hand made from solid timber, making them far more costly than standard doors with shelving. As such, many older kitchens have fewer drawers and far more cupboards. The biggest downside to having a large area of cupboard space below bench is that you have to quite literally get down on your hands and knees to access the bottom shelf, let alone the old corner cupboard.

Shortfall #3Dark Finishes. How many traditional kitchens have you walked into with a dark paint or timber finish? Dark timber finishes can be beautiful in their own right, don’t get me wrong. Often a specific home calls for a dark, more traditional finish. But it is fairly well recognised that dark colours tend to visually reduce the size of a room. So by nature if you have a dark toned kitchen the chances are its making your room look a lot smaller than it actually is!

So what does all this mean? It means that when you are planning a new kitchen for a new or existing home you should start by reversing these shortfalls so you get the very best out of your new kitchen layout and design. Lets look at exactly how you can do this.


Key #1. Keep your benches deep. Obviously space can be an issue here, but I have found in my experience if a room could have a 550mm benchtop in the original kitchen then a 650mm bench depth makes little impact on the overall floor space. For the new home, a minimum of 600-650mm bench depth should be acounted for in the early design stages and be a must have item on your checklist.

Now that you have a nice deep benchspace, lets look at what goes on top. The big ticket items include sink, cooktop or freestanding stove and that should be about it. Now that you have a nice deep benchtop to work with you should have room for a double bowl sink with a drying tray. Given that dishwashers are the general rule these days, often a one and a half bowl is more than enough with a conservative drying tray. Remembering that the benchspace is where you will be preparing food, and we want to optimize this space. The lovely kitchen pictured below has a 700mm wall bench and a 900mm island, creating a large working space.

Deep Benches

Key #2. Use lots of drawers. Your underbench space has now been increased with a deeper benchtop, and with this we can make the most of versatile drawer systems, adjustable shelving and some modern gadgets like pull out storage units, and waste bins. My recommendation is drawers, drawers and more drawers. Why? Drawers are a cook’s best friend. They keep everything under the bench at an easy access, even the infrequently used tupperware you choose to put at the back of the bottom drawers can be pulled out beyond the front of the kitchen. Drawers keep things organised, they enable you to categorise your storage and keep it that way. The kitchen below utilises multiple drawers of varied heights form shallow cutlery tray drawers, to deep pots and pan drawers ideal for a range of storage solutions.

Multiple Drawers

Key #3. Keep your colour palette light. Now that you have the opportunity to create your dream kitchen, try and keep it light and cheerful. We have found that light-coloured doors and benchtops work wonderfully, and if you want to bring in some character a dark shadow line or timber trim can give you this without overpowering the room. This kitchen uses a clean vivid white door colour with light Carrara marble top opening up the kitchen and making it feel spacious.


This should start you on your way to designing your new kitchen, or at least lead you in the right direction for making some vast improvements on what you already have. If designing or visualising a space is not your thing, find someone who will enjoy doing this for you.

Thanks for reading and please contact us if you wish to discuss the layout of your new kitchen.

Alistair McKendrick

Exhibit Furniture Pty Ltd