By Andy Kerr August 18, 2019 Industry news

Designers and retailers in the kitchen and bathroom arenas are responding quickly to trend-aware customers wanting more style, quality and product choice.

ABOVE: The best known kitchen in New Zealand? The Block 2018 winners Amy & Stu’s kitchen (courtesy PlaceMakers).

ABOVE: The best known kitchen in New Zealand? The Block 2018 winners Amy & Stu’s kitchen (courtesy PlaceMakers).

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine,
click the download button at the bottom of this page.

It’s generally accepted that well-designed kitchens and bathrooms sell homes and continue to command homeowner investment.

With today’s consumers having a keen eye on both quality and value for money, they are increasingly willing to research and invest in materials, appliances, storage and style that enhance functionality but the want lasting appeal as well. This is most apparent in the kitchen space as it becomes the social hub of the Kiwi home.

PlaceMakers’ Kitchen Category Manager, Liz Aitken, describes “massive expansion in the kitchen product range” in her five years at PlaceMakers, driven in part by customer perceptions of quality.

Kitchens were totally flat-packed when she first arrived, says Liz, but now that “cash & carry” (my words) style kitchen business accounts for only about 20%.

“We have tailored our offer to what our customer wants, assembled, delivered & installed, supplied in quality products and finishes,” she says.

“Customers would rather have an assembled kitchen installed at their site and we’ve facilitated this over the last few years.

“It is slightly more expensive but the convenience of the completed kitchen is well worth it for the type of customers we’re selling to.

“And by moving in this direction we’ve been able to introduce quality German Hettich Atira hardware that runs right through our range and our customers love it.”

Liz Aitken explains how PlaceMakers needed to create a marketplace differential: “Our competition became the local joiner rather than the other large merchants.

“We needed a range of products and services that mirrored what the local joiner could achieve and would provide the market coverage we were looking for and still be competitive.”

The focus has been on a specific target demographic: age 25-55 with two incomes and two children, and a household in which “Mrs Smith” has a leaning towards premium products and is doing the bulk of product and design research online.

And with this demographic in mind, Ms Aitken makes a deliberate point of not having white kitchens on display.

“There are some lovely dark shades and people express how much they love what they see but then request it in white,” she says, so there’s still some conservatism in our market.

“They really love the look but might only go for black in tapware and kitchen handles, or they might specify feature cupboards in black, but 55% of kitchens sold in NZ are still white.”

However Liz Aitken also notes more texture blending these days, such as wood grains over cupboards which introduce texture and colour into a standard white kitchen.

Indeed, acrylic doors and panels in matt and high-gloss finishes have proven stand-out additions to the product range in the past year and Liz Aitken says her team is currently researching stone textures for panels and doors with a view to introducing them soon.

In terms of layout, the most common kitchen style is island with oven and hob sited directly behind, although small, separate sculleries, included in PlaceMakers’ range two years ago, are now trending upwards.

“They took a while to take off but are moving very nicely now. People tend to put a lower-specification benchtop into their scullery along with open shelves and a tap if there’s space, and if the plumbing is possible.

“This is all separate from the main, prestige kitchen area that is the shared social space. If a scullery has a sink and a tap, it means you’re doubling up on certain products being sold to the customer.”


BELOW: Mitre 10 kitchens are indicative of a “movement from good to better” (courtesy Mitre 10).


Chris Fisher, Mitre 10 Acting GM (Source to Shelf), comes armed with plenty of insight around the level of change in the kitchen space in particular, and confirms a market shift driven by heightened customer expectations.

“If you were to take a ‘good, better, best’ structure as a typical range architecture, I would say that there’s movement from good to better.”

Whereas customers in the past may have been more flat-pack focused and price-conscious, Chris says that consumers nowadays are focusing on a higher quality product because they understand the investment is for 10 years or more.

His numbers suggest the money is still out there for people wanting to renovate or put in a brand-new kitchen but customers have become smarter around what is available in the market and exhibit a broader outlook.

“If we move away from a generic kitchen solution, at one end you’ve people who have the space and are wanting to either upgrade that space or plan a new space, and are seeing the kitchen as far more than just a place to prepare food.

“It’s much more of a social room than it has been in the past. You want an environment in which you feel comfortable, so the lighting needs to be right, the colours need to be right, the quality needs to be right.”

Another trend Chris Fisher identifies is the extension of this thinking into the laundry space.

“The laundry is no longer purely just a utilitarian space but more of an extension of the kitchen and is deserving of a higher-quality solution, perhaps not with granite worktops and so on, but certainly much more than just a bog-standard sink.”

As the number of houses being built and the population density of our major cities increase, Chris Fisher says the focus is less on maximising style and instead coming up with efficient solutions for storage.

Style-wise, feedback from Mitre 10 buyers suggests natural colours are trending and getting back to nature is a theme that’s coming back.

Having said this, Chris confirms that black-effect kitchens are “doing very well for us” and that “there’s always going to be demand for white…”

In terms of specific, stand-out technology in the kitchen, Chris Fisher highlights a trend towards using the tap for more than just hot and cold water.

“Filtration has always been there, and there’s the waste disposal side of things, but we’re at the stage now where you can have your boiling water coming through for your tea rather than you requiring a kettle, and there’s even the opportunity to have your sparkly water coming straight from the tap.

“These technologies are not yet at a volume level but, as with most things, they have a lifecycle and it’s only a matter of time before they become more and more standard.”


BELOW: Damian Hannah: “Customers still need inspiration from their designers” (courtesy German Kitchens, Poggenpohl).


Stepping way outside the style- but also value-orientated realms of the DIY retailers and merchants now, what’s apparent at the upper end of the market is an emphasis on the highest quality with clean, efficient, timeless designs that will stand the test of time.

“When I work with a client and design a kitchen, it should be for 25 years and therefore the style must transcend decades,” insists Damian Hannah of German Kitchens in Wellington. “There are far too many over-designed kitchens on the market.”

With kitchens now firmly part of our living spaces, integration is now becoming more and more standard, he says.

“Dishwashers, rangehoods and fridges are certainties for integration behind door fronts, but now we are also seeing the ovens and cooktops being hidden from view, with bi-folding pocket doors and sliding benchtops now featuring heavily.”

In terms of colour, adds Damian is another to reconfirm that white is “still incredibly popular, no matter what trends emerge, or what so-called ‘interior design specialists’ proclaim and forecast.

“When we design kitchens in New Zealand we are faced with many different external elements due to our natural surroundings. Our homes are already filled with texture and depth and the greenery and sea views from our kitchens make adding colour and texture difficult. Subtle use of colour and texture done well can really work but white is classic and timeless and appeals to a wider market.”

While he concedes that material choices and textures generally come down to the suppliers and what is available, Damian Hannah highlights some new materials that are really making an impact on local design.

“Fenix is the new ‘nano technology’ laminate that can be used on door fronts and benchtops and the super matt finish is superb in its tactile nature. And Neolith – a sintered stone – and the ceramic Laminam are starting to make inroads on door fronts and matching benchtops, and real 12mm solid stone door fronts are now very popular with the bespoke luxury suppliers.”


BELOW: Say what you will, white is still a Kiwi kitchen mainstay (courtesy Innovative Kitchens). 


Meanwhile, up in suburban Auckland, John van Doormaal has a foot in two camps, overseeing businesses that cater for either end of the kitchen market.

While Kitchens2Go sells a modular range, Innovative Kitchens offers higher-end, bespoke designs, like the one on page 30, which is effectively a kitchen and a half.

“This design is bespoke in lots of ways because the client’s family does a lot of entertaining. At the back, a separate scullery features a second oven and cooktop while the main kitchen cooker is 1200mm wide with an induction hob next to it. The large benchtop is a super-white, veiny marble type that’s on-trend in different variations of stone and granite.

“Kitchen islands have been trending for a while and are unlikely to disappear because kitchens are becoming more and more the hub of the house and companies like My Food Bag are encouraging people to do more in the kitchen space.

“The island is the ideal situation because everyone can be involved, even if they’re just onlookers enjoying a glass of wine.” The walk-in scullery, he adds, helps keep the main kitchen space uncluttered.

Taking ‘engineered from stone’ benchtops as an example, John van Doormaal says there’s so much variation in product range and costs that it “does people’s heads in a bit”. Twenty years ago, with laminate, the price didn’t differ too much if you picked a different colour. Now, with stone, there are many variables, and in some cases the benchtop can be as much as a third of the kitchen price.

“White is still the predominant colour with some opting to go dark. Appliances are still often stainless but are heading towards black to a degree. Many people still think they need a big oven although I’m not totally convinced why. Depending on how much space they have available, some things they dream about including can be out of proportion when they look to settle on the design.”


BELOW: Very on-trend: standalone baths, floating vanities (courtesy Mico).


Colour and texture choices are key to bathroom aesthetics as these rooms evolve into more alluring spaces and deliver a more calming and sophisticated user experience.

Range expansion at both ends of the quality spectrum has seen the arrival of products to beautify, create a perception of additional space, or elevate the sense of luxury with spa-like technology.

It’s worth noting the outlook of bathroomware manufacturer Kohler, which says natural materials (stone, timber, vegetation, and even floral design elements) are on-trend for their calming look and feel.

The company points to trends in the form of terrazzo or concrete floors, lush foliage and “precious metals” tapware, with statement basins also popular as high-end inclusions, while wall-mounted toilets and vanities help boost the perception of space, often combining vitreous china and hardwood detailing to good effect.

Mico Bathroom Category Manager, Louise Cook, has been working across the bathroom space for about seven years, assuming her current role a year ago.

Louise reports a huge amount happening in the category, one of the more significant being a reduction in the lifecycle of a bathroom design.

“It’s not unusual for people to change up every 10-15 years,” she says. “We’re also seeing the move up to two or two and a half bathrooms in the home. As ensuites tend to be quite a bit smaller, we offer products designed to fit those smaller spaces as well.

 “We’ve seen the tapware finish trend continue, the emergence of rimless toilets, availability of whatever basin you desire, and different materials being used across sanitaryware in general.”

Louise Cook says tapware and finishes have evolved very quickly and had a big impact in terms of people’s decision-making.

“The original look and feel of chrome still dominates but black has grown significantly in popularity. Although black has been available for over five years, it has really taken hold in the last couple.”

However looking at this year and into the next, brushed nickel and gun metal are growing very quickly, while golds seem to represent “a slower-moving trend”.

Looking ahead, Louise Cook sees tapware finishes continuing to track strongly but with more emphasis on the texture of tapware in the decision-making or purchasing process, “and this might mean playing around with colours, handles, or the body of the tap”.

“People are also experimenting more with basins to make a statement. Concrete is very much on-trend at the moment, and people might go for a different look or texture for their basin specifically, making it a focal point as you walk into the bathroom.”

It’s not just new-builds and renovations driving category growth, Mico’s Louise Cook explains, as consumers look for opportunities to change up hardware throughout the home.

“It might be something as simple as a tap, an accessory piece, or door hardware, and involve changing from standard chrome or stainless steel to black or another contemporary finish that completely changes the look and feel, is easy to do, and doesn’t cost an arm or a leg. Plus, an experienced DIYer can make these changes themselves.”

On the other hand, she adds: “People are spending more overall to achieve the look they desire” and are more conscious of achieving a cohesive look.

“Greater awareness of our ageing population is also evident in product selection, with specific products and accessories for clean, uncluttered spaces that are easy to navigate and designed to keep people in their homes for longer.”

In this respect, Mico has new finishes and more stylish grab rails and toilet suites that now look like standard suites. “We’re definitely jumping on board with this in New Zealand,” says Louise Cook.

For more on bathroom trends, see also a short summary from this year’s ISH trade fair, courtesy of Clearlite-Athena, further down this page. 

BELOW: Drawers, floating vanity, dark colours (courtesy Mitre 10).


Trade fair signals bathroom design future

Clearlite-Athena has made us privy to some detailed take-outs from water and energy management trade fair ISH 2019 in Frankfurt.

Athena and Clearlite Bathrooms National Sales & Marketing Manager, Katy Merrett, noted offset detached cabinets, slim open-shelf cabinets, and wall-hung bowl and vanity combinations trending, along with push-to-open and soft-close drawer mechanics and more modular designs.

In terms of finishes, warm and natural is where it’s heading with walnut, wood grains and earthy colours dominant. Looking ahead, expect to see an emphasis on neutral underlying tones – mud, clay or terracotta; bronze or rust; olive, pine or cedarwood.

ISH also showcased the latest vanity design features: 45° handles, rounded corners, integrated lighting, free-standing vessels and aluminium and steel as feature materials, solid or glass surface tops with thin profiles and straight-edged benchtops are also trending.

For showers, expect future Clearlite-Athena products to incorporate more minimalist glass surrounds and recessed entry levels.

Shower base options might include more acrylic-type materials with white and earthy neutral colour options (possibly even dark colours), while wall linings (a neat tile alternative) will see the greater use of real stone and more textured and printed tile patterns.

As for wall cabinets and mirrors, these will increasingly feature warm or cool strip lighting that is dimmable, integrated plug points and Bluetooth functionality!


Industry training scales new heights

Quality assurance always comes to the fore as a sector matures, hence reports of growing demand for further education around kitchen and bathroom design.

NKBA has been working closely with BCITO to introduce the New Zealand Diploma in Design (Kitchen Design) Level 5 and a new version of the bathroom qualification will follow soon.

“These new qualifications will gradually see us phase out all previous qualifications, confirms NKBA Executive Officer, Suzie Rees, as she details what she regards as a positive move for the industry and the kitchen and bathroom design profession.

The Level 5 Diploma involves two years of training and is solely for those working in the sector. It commenced in January in Auckland and Wellington and there are plans for a roll-out in other areas during August and October.

Year one focuses on mechanics, while year two takes designers through the ins and outs of aesthetics, with offsite training courses delivered by Mark Bruce and Milvia Hannah.

BCITO contributes significant on-job support with 14 dedicated kitchen design training advisors nationwide visiting learners at their workplace, giving rise to new reporting opportunities and onsite assessment.


You saw that where?

Retailers and designers acknowledge that their customer bases are fuelled with more and more sources of inspiration for their kitchen and bathroom designs. But does endless inspiration and exploding product ranges lengthen the decision-making process or speed things up?

Damian Hannah of German Kitchens finds his customers are “a lot more clued up and now come armed with their preferred look and style.

“Where once I was getting earmarked pages of magazines, now I am sent invites to my clients’ Pinterest or Houzz pages. This makes the design process so much easier and more streamlined as we can start to design in their style from the start.”

Of course, a good designer must evolve as well, Damian insists: “Customers still need inspiration from their designers, and there’s no substitute for regular travel to international shows, exhibitions and trade shows to keep one step ahead of the trends.”

However clued up clients may be, John van Doormaal of Innovative Kitchens has found that, even at the lower end of the market, some clients have high expectations and can be unrealistic about how long things will take.

He says the inspiration from TV programs can hinder as much as it helps because customers only see the end result in a very compressed timeframe when the reality, he suggests, is that there are often aspects to rework or fix.

Mico Bathroom Category Manager, Louise Cook, also accepts more people are finding their own inspiration online and that their inspiration “can come from anywhere”.

And Chris Fisher, Mitre 10’s Acting GM (Source to Shelf) says greater sources of inspiration mean retailers have to be much more focused on having the right ranges and understanding current trends.

“We all understand how in the past it was driven by physical magazines but now we’ve got all sorts of different methods that are impacting on people … and it literally leads you on a journey that you would never have known yourself,” he says.

“You start out looking, for example, at a granite worktop and, before you know it, you’re understanding how you can get a recycling bin in there. Those things prompt more thinking from the consumer with regards to what they are trying to achieve.”


Aquatica ramps up its offering

Aquatica celebrated turning 20 years by moving into a broader range of bathroom fixtures including baths, toilets, showers and vanities

It has also added a range of on-trend colours for its Kuchena goosenecks and Magnetic pull-out sprays range, aiming to enable consumers to update their kitchen fixtures with mains pressure on-trend tapware suitable at an economical cost.

Also en-route to New Zealand from Aquatica is a range of stainless steel bathroom and kitchen tapware range (Selina Gooseneck tap shown above).

What’s more, September will see a new, sophisticated tapware range designed in partnership with European designers. Hix bathroom tapware will come in elegant electroplated black with copper detailing (above right), while the Elegrance range will come in matt black with detailing and will be accompanied by matching bathroom accessories.

Also about to be launched is Aquatica’s updated laundry tub with the usual strengthened shell, with doors or drawer options and a new low profile top.


Dark drawers, soft closing

Blum has a trio of new products to talk about. First, its new LEGRABOX soft-close drawer system is available in two dark finishes – Orion Grey and Terra Black matt – to complement veneers and opulent cabinetry tones.

Soft-close LEGRABOX is also now available in a Space Tower pantry with a simple kitset specification, while LEGRABOX drawers are now also available with EXPANDO T fixing for thin front materials 8-14mm.


Create your own shower

Newline says its Create system is a first for the local industry. The web-based system allows consumers to design and price a shower, including custom features.

The customer can see “their” shower in 3D or as an exploded component view, which can then be submitted for an automated quote.

They choose from 2-Sided, 3-Sided or Neo Angle and then pick size, colour, waste options and perhaps a ProFinish shelf.

Once complete, Newline emails the customer a PDF with drawings, itemised pricing and the specification selected. For designers and architects, DWG files are available for download.


Athena’s on fire with the vanities

New from Athena is the Contro back to wall bath (above left). Measuring 1800 x 850, Contro’s slim perimeter provides a generous bathing space.

Also new is the Athena Motio Shower with a new 1200 x 900 door set size. Previously only available in 1000 width choices, the new Motio has a 2000mm high semi-frameless, glass sliding, soft close, left or right opening door for alcove showers, uses 8mm toughened safety glass, features bright joinery with chrome accents, a dual sided stainless steel handle and minimalist slimline top track.

Also new is the Nera Syrtari wall hung vanity in 815, 1015 and 1215 sizes and featuring a slim profile vitreous china top with a generous, deep bowl, soft close drawers and single and double drawers.

Then there’s the new Sirocco Syrtari wall hung vanity in 750, 800, 900, 1000, 1200, 1500 1500 that pairs the natural beauty of stone with a stunning bench top basin, soft close drawers and single and double drawers.

On top of all this, Athena has five new on-trend vanity finishes in the Standard, Durachique and Exochique ranges.


Far from standard…

American Standard’s “ultimate showering experience”, the flexible, modular EasySET shower system remembers your preferred water source, temperature and volume and, with the push of a button, enables a cascading shower head or hand shower with body jets, all the while maintaining control of the water volume with an easy turn of the thermostatic mixer dial or the one-push PreSet control which can be located outside the bathroom.

Also new from Robertson is the Monroe vessel basin by Bagnodesign of London. Available in two distinctive bronze finishes, Satin Zanzibar and Satin Nickel, for easy incorporation into any setting, Monroe makes a bold statement.

The final American Standard newcomer is the award winning Genie pressure booster hand shower. Designed to cope with low water pressure systems, Genie is made from polycarbonate for durability and, with a back cover that can be easily detached for cleaning, is available in aquamarine, petal pink, and steel grey.


Effortlessly handle-less

With integrated handleless furniture very much on-trend, check out Hettich’s Push to Open Silent 2.0 set for InnoTech Atira drawers. The set comes with left and right mechanisms, activators and adapters for mounting the synchronisation bar which makes the entire front panel a touch surface.

Intuitive and secure with pull or push opening, the drawer can still be guided closed with the energy storage system assisting a slow closing cycle. With its unique backstop system there is no spring-back with low closing speeds, and it also protects against unintended opening.

The new system can also be retrofitted into existing InnoTech Atira drawers by upgrading to Quadro runners with Push to Open Silent compatibility and adding the Push to Open Silent 2.0 mechanism.

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