Future-proof your kitchen

With more homeowners planning to 'age in place', the focus is increasingly on the best way to ensure convenience, comfort and safety as we look to the future. Here are some tips and advice on future-proof design when renovating your kitchen.

Kitchen renovation with floating island bench and subway tiles
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Rather than waiting until problems associated with advancing age kick in, consider making any changes to the home environment well before they’re necessary; if a major renovation project is underway it can also be more cost-effective to include alterations to future-proof.
The kitchen is an area that frequently causes concern; most incidents in the home are kitchen related but, as Geoff Penrose points out, independent living requires access to all utilities. So ensuring the kitchen offers a safe working environment is paramount. “Your movement and agility changes and so it’s important to design space and appliance use in a way that allows you to age safely in place.”
One of the key standards is ensuring the kitchen is not a thoroughfare. “Congestion creates opportunities for collisions and accidents. We also encourage greater use of drawers, not cupboards, as these are easier to access. Task lighting is another safety feature often overlooked, and we advise slip-proof flooring and considered placement of hotplate controls.”
More thought is needed at the design stage, says Brian Johns, senior architectural designer for Create Design. Given that many people will be in wheelchairs, he highlights access space as one of the points to consider and suggests having storage available at arm’s reach. “Modular-style kitchens similar to a workstation are a good design, with everything at the right height and easily accessible.”
kitchen renovation with strong clean lines and view into back garden


Katie Bell at ECC Lighting says they recommend plenty of task lighting to ensure areas such as workstations, sculleries and cupboards are well lit. The placement of lighting to make sure there are no shadows or black spots in the kitchen space is important, particularly around cooking areas.
“LED light fittings that use less power than halogen, fluorescent or incandescent fittings are a smart choice – a good quality LED downlight is designed to last up to 50,000 hours,” she says. This not only minimises the risk of injury through falling when changing lightbulbs, but also gives greater energy efficiency.
“Our ECC Brightgreen LED downlight uses 15W of power as opposed to the 50W of a standard halogen downlight. While pendants in kitchen areas are still popular, trends change and installing the fittings with extra wire in the ceiling means these can easily be replaced with downlights.”
Katie also suggests ensuring wall switches are compatible with dimmable lights; which give the option to increase lighting level if necessary, and that switches are easily reached.

Kitchen tapware

The simple act of turning kitchen taps can be a problem for older hands, says James von Batenburg.
Lever handles are the good looking and practical solution.
“At Robertson Bathware we have a number of lever handle options such as the Laska Neu kitchen mixer with a longer lever making it easier to reach and use.”
James also suggests installing a kitchen mixer with a swiveling spout and pull-out spray, which will make cleaning dishes simpler and more comfortable.
Longevity is also an issue; repairs and replacement can be costly. All Ideal Standard tapware from Robertson comes with a Lifetime Dripfree guarantee. “This means no maintenance worries and shows we have confidence in the product.” And, says James, when you’re choosing tapware, look for the WELS rating. “Tapware with a higher WELS rating means it consumes less water, which saves you money and is better for the environment.”
BRITA water has filter taps with timeless design combined with the ultimate convenience. Our bodies are made up of around 70% water, so it makes sense to use filtered water for health benefits. The filter material of the MAXTRA filter cartridge from BRITA water contains a mixture of ion exchange resins and activated carbon that has been tested to food grade quality. The ion exchange resin used reduces the carbonate hardness (limescale) which is good news for your appliances. They also reduce metals, such as copper and lead. The activated carbon removes substances that may impair taste, such as chlorine and chlorine compounds.
close up of square sink on floating kitchen island

Image courtesy of BRITA


Fittings for life

Developments in design of storage and cabinetry mean it’s no longer necessary to sacrifice good looks for functionality, says Greg Adams at Hafele. An added bonus is that what were once costly specialty products, are now both affordable and readily available.
Greg cites their Convoy pull-out and close, and the Le Mans corner unit that brings stored items out from the cabinet. These are products that will enhance any kitchen makeover and ensure ease of use in the future.
“The advancement in pull-out storage for easy access has been incredible. German manufacturer Kessebohmer is the market leader and their “Clever Storage’ brand offers the most comprehensive range available.”
This includes pull-out pantries with uninterrupted shelves and accessible sides for greater visibility and access; and hands-free pull-out rubbish bins integrated into cupboards. “Not only sensible but user-friendly.”
And for the latest in future-proofing, look out for Hafele’s eTouch pantry electronic system. A new release, it opertates with a simple tap anywhere at the door front and is intuitive to individual cabinet payloads.
“Another sign of how previously specialist fittings are now available for everyday applications!”
Large kitchen with glass walk in pantry door


Choice of flooring is usually based on colour and ease of cleaning; but ensuring the surface is slip-free will enhance the long-term usability, says Lifemark’s Geoff Penrose. Slippery floors cause thousands of accidents every year. However, today there are a growing number of non-slip options for homeowners.
Erin Stephenson at Tile Space Commercial Division, recommends Blendstone, “a fantastic solution for future-proofing your home, without having to compromise on design. It has a matte glaze which makes it much less slippery and it looks great.”
Erin says traditional non-slip tiles frequently have a very rough surface, almost like sandpaper, which makes them difficult to clean and abrasive on the skin.
“Blendstone not only provides a good level of non-slip but is also extremely easy to maintain, easy to clean and hardwearing. The tiles won’t fade and are extremely water-resistant.”

Browse our project estimate articles to find out how much a typical kitchen renovation project costs in New Zealand.

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This article by Carolyn Brooke featured on page 102 of Issue 015 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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