The Kitchen - Heart of the Homes


With Lemke Wapstra, Interior Designer

The kitchen is often called ‘The heart of the home’ - a space for all to unite, talk about their day, cook, bake, eat, drink, do work or homework - the list goes on. Therefore, it’s no surprise that buyers who are shopping for a new home often have a nice kitchen high on their priority list. Getting the kitchen right is also of significant importance to the value of your home. So let’s crack some numbers…

The kitchen, as a rule of thumb, should be about 6% of the home's total value. This used to be 5-10%, however with inflated housing prices (especially in Auckland), this has decreased to 6% on an average Auckland house price of $700,000.00, which works out to $42,000.00. This amount includes plumbing, construction work and electricity. Of this amount 60-65% is immediately recovered by the value added to the home.

Form Follows Function

As usual I start with my golden rule - ‘Form Follows Function’. There is no gain in creating a beautiful kitchen if the layout doesn't work for you and your family in a practical sense. As already mentioned, the kitchen is a space for all to unite, and that’s why, as with every design, we have to think about the practicality of the layout first.

Your kitchen designer will talk to you about the ‘work triangle’ while designing a layout. The goal is to place the three most common work sites – sink/dishwasher, stove and fridge -  the most efficient distance apart to minimise traffic through the work zone. The work triangle is the principle at the core of most kitchen designs.


Social Change

In the past, the kitchen used to be one person’s domain…the lady of the house. Times have changed, and now the kitchen is often everybody’s domain, it’s a place where the whole family comes together. This means we do not only need to create space for the cook of the house, but for the whole team. Before, we wanted small distances between the three points of the triangle. Now we require more room so Joe can look through the pantry for a snack, while Alice finds a drink in the fridge, Katy microwaves some popcorn and Dad cooks dinner. This social transformation goes some way to explaining why kitchens on average have been getting larger over the years.

Location of the Kitchen in the Home

Because of the change in our lifestyles, you will have noticed that most new homes have open plan kitchens where the kitchen is actually part of the living room or dining area, or both. This can also create the illusion of a bigger home because by joining areas together instead of boxing them in, it gives the impression of a bigger space. With this configuration, while cooking takes place others can sit at the cooking island or (breakfast) bar. Nearby members of the household can enjoy a drink and a chat, do work or homework, or help out. 

The Kitchen Splashback

In my view, this is a great place to add some colour and personality to your kitchen, however aesthetics are not the only function of the splashback - it's primarily there for safety and hygiene. Behind the hob/stove the wall material needs to be fire retardant - you can have painted wallboards (GIB), however they also need to be fire retardant. Today, the most popular choice for splashbacks is glass. Glass can be supplied in any shape, colour and can also feature images. My personal favourite is the landscape or nature splashback as it gives the illusion of looking through a window. 

To add some country character to your kitchen, lively hand glazed tiles are a unique feature. Hand glazed terracotta tiles come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and even mosaics. There are also many other tiled options available.

6 Do’s For Your Splashback

1. Wait until after the kitchen has been installed and then decide what it needs to add the right impact to the space.

2. Add colour.

3. If you go for a feature colour, paint the whole wall, not just a strip or behind the hob.


4. Think practical, will it be easy to clean?

5. If the cabinetry is all white, go for a softer shade instead of a bright colour.

6. If you have decided to tile, use an epoxy grout - it will not discolour or stain due to its resistance to liquids.


Hard flooring is the standard for rooms where water is in place; tiles, vinyl, wood, wood-like and cork are the most common options. If you don’t have hardwood in the adjacent areas running through into the kitchen area, choose flooring in a similar colour scheme - this way you keep the flow and make the areas blend together visually. 

My rule of thumb is to use the following combinations:

  • Dark floor – light cabinets – dark benchtop – lighter, but coloured wall/splashback
  • Light floor – darker cabinets – light benchtop – darker, but coloured wall/splashback.
  • Exception to the rule; uni-colour scheme; a totally white kitchen or a grey/stainless steel kitchen.


Power Supply

The electrical plan is equally important. All of our appliances need to be plugged in somewhere, however it’s not a pretty sight to have a socket in the middle of your gorgeous splash back or cords running everywhere, so think about using ‘hidden’ options like you see below.



When we talk about appliances, there are the fitted items like fridges, stoves, ovens, rangehoods, microwaves and dishwashers. Then there are the non-fitted appliances - mixers, coffee machines, toasters etc. There are a lot of options here, so I will only touch on the fitted appliances as they are the most important in regards to the topic we are addressing in this article.

Besides all the different features each brand and style has, there are basic 3 aesthetic choices:

1. Stainless Steel

2. Coloured

3. Hidden

Stainless is the most popular and has been for many years in New Zealand, while hidden seems to be more popular in Europe. I believe this trend might also be related to the fact that we, as New Zealanders, seem to move home more frequently than the Europeans, and we often take our appliances with us.

Hidden appliances can include fridges, dishwashers, rangehoods and even washing machines and dryers. This look is the way to go to create an integrated look with your living area, but it will come with a more expensive price tag. Below is an image of a featured range that brings homage to mid last century.


SMEG has a range in bright and pastel colours to suit modern to classic kitchen interiors, and they even offer art prints. They are definitely worth to have a look at if you are wanting something different.

Lemke’s Pick

This kitchen is a great example of how the kitchen has become one with our living space and demonstrates some of the concepts discussed in this article.


Here are the 5 things that make this kitchen work:

1. Having no door handles on the cabinets makes the cabinetry look like a beautiful furniture piece, especially with the integrated hidden kitchen appliances.

2. The walls are painted in one (contrasting) colour, with no splashback colour break.

3. This beachside backdrop shows that you don’t have to use a solid colour or print. By leaving part of the glass clear the wall paint comes through. 

4. The book shelving is made from the same material as the kitchen, and creates a great flow visually.

5. Using the same flooring throughout enhances the flow. Breaking it with a rug adds a softer homely touch to the space. 

If you are thinking of enhancing your existing kitchen or purchasing a new one, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Start behind a drawing table before you hit the shops - this way you won’t get side-tracked. Or use an experienced designer to guide you, and you will be left with an amazing result.

Get in touch

We are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy and only use your personal information to provide the services you request from us.

By submitting this form you agree to have one of our team members contact you.