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Stay in sync with kitchen culture

Martin Castilla            No comments            Aug, 15

Tastes have changed and a dream kitchen is never cheap but, according to Houzz, we’re ready to spend

Hands up how many of you have sneakily spent an absolute fortune on a new kitchen lately? Anyone? More of you than are admitting it, I suspect, in post-recession – yet not-quite-over-it – Ireland. Luckily Houzz, the global interior design website, has been checking up on you. It surveyed its users and has just released its Kitchen Trends 2017 report. The results, I have to say, took me aback.

More than one in 10 among you spent more than €50,000 on a kitchen renovation last year. You read that correctly: five-zero-K of your hard-earned euros. A fifth of you, meanwhile, spent between €25,000 and €50,000 on a kitchen renovation, which raised my other eyebrow. Cold, hard cash is being dropped on the hardest working – and most expensive – room in the house again. Some of us, it seems, are partying like it’s 2005, a time when snazzy kitchens were installed not for cooking in (for meals, we had restaurants), but to top up the value of your house.

The money being spent, however, comes into sharper focus when you consider the fact that in two-thirds of renovations, the kitchen in question was increased in size, so the expense of bricks and mortar comes into play. Some of the renovation will have simply been to improve some of the home’s utilities and structural elements. For example, for appliances that required access to a water supply, or if sinks and faucets were being moved, plumbing services, such as those at Sarkinen Plumbing, may have been utilized.

Today’s Irish kitchen has clean contemporary lines with a traditional touch such as an old-style pantry rather than above-counter cupboards

Expenditure aside, the Houzz report threw some interesting light on our taste, as a nation. The last time Irish kitchen preferences were measured in any meaningful way, was by Ikea in 2012, when colourful, hi-gloss design was all the rage. Today, we’ve gone matt in finish, and a quarter of all new kitchens have grey cabinets, making it the dominant shade on the colour spectrum.

A surprisingly high 45% of cabinets are custom-made rather than bought off the peg from shops such as Ikea or the larger DIY superstores.

The detail in the report is telling, indeed, and shows that as a nation we’re not as traditional as we once were. More than half of us opted for a contemporary kitchen design when we renovated last year, and of those who did so, 32% had been owners of a “traditional style” kitchen before that.

We still lag behind global trends in some areas, however. Just as homeowners in design-led cities such as New York, Paris and London are throwing their kitchen islands in the nearest skip, the island remains the number-one feature of new Irish kitchens. Pantries, happily, come second on the list, which means we have finally learnt that expecting classic eye-level Shaker-style cupboards to fit all of our food is, officially, madness. Nearly a fifth of new kitchens have a built-in wine rack, which tallies with the rise in middle-class drinking at home.

Houzz was smart enough to ask about the element that can make or break a good kitchen: the appliances. I, for one, am gleeful that white goods are reportedly no longer always white. The top choice for those upgrading kitchen appliances was stainless steel, followed by black. Despite this, I expect we will continue to call them white goods for the foreseeable future.

So far as hobs go, the induction variety has a 1% edge on gas, while regular old electric plummets to 21% of all new hob fitouts; 30% more people replaced their dishwasher than their microwave, which is either an indictment of dishwasher quality, or a relegation of the importance of the microwave as a 21st-century cooking method. In worktops, white engineered quartz is the new granite, while underfoot, beige tiles were the top flooring choice – predictably, but dishearteningly.

These solid-timber kitchens are by Irish company Noel Dempsey, priced from €20,000

The jury is out on whether or not we have learnt from past renovation mistakes. Despite the popularity of television shows such as Room to Improve, Ireland’s Best Home and Grand Designs, only 35% of us opted for the input of a qualified architect to plan renovation works, which calls for a massive rap across the knuckles, in my book, especially when big money is being spent. The report, thankfully, does state that 96% of people hired professional tradespeople for the work carried out, so at least we aren’t crowbarring cupboards into corners with our own bare hands.

Credit is due to Houzz for examining the lifestyle impact of such dramatic household improvements. Its data shows that three-quarters of those with a new kitchen report spending more quality time with family; nearly 60% are entertaining at home more often; and more than half are happily working from their kitchens.

However, eating habits have barely changed: only a third are eating more fruit and vegetables, while an embarrassing minority – 45% – say a new kitchen makes them cook more meals. Finally, only 37% of people say their spanking new dream kitchen has inspired them to order fewer takeaways. Houzz didn’t ask, but I suspect the other 63% are now the proud owners of a bespoke hand-painted grey “Deliveroo menu drawer”. You can lead a horse to water, and all that.