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Kitchen Toolbox : Planning Stages

Why renovate?

Kitchen re-modelling has become a pre-occupation for many New Zealanders as changing social patterns have placed the kitchen as the ‘hub of family life’. No longer just a utility space for preparing food nor the sole domain of the matriarch, the kitchen is now where we interact with one another: dine, catch up, do homework - the kitchen is now a multipurpose space that belongs tothe whole family. 

As housing prices in New Zealand continue to grow year upon year many NZers are choosing to stay put and renovate instead, with the number of homes being renovated jumping nearly 30 percent in the past three years.

Renovating or starting a new build is an exciting and busy time. Ideas, plans, designs, budgets, architects, builders, and councils are just some of the aspects you will encounter during your kitchen makeover. But, don't be put off by it. The end result of having your kitchen transformed into what you wanted is an exhilarating experience, and the sense of achievement is brilliant. We've all heard the horror stories of home renovations taking twice as long and costing twice as much as planned. But with a little forethought, a bit of research, good planning, and some help from us, you will be well on your way to the kitchen of your dreams!

The two main reasons people renovate are:

  • 1. To add to the comfort, use and value of the home.
  • 2. To tidy it up to sell.

Renovating can be a costly and inconvenient business. Before you launch into renovations, take time to consider whether the expense and disruption is justified.

If you intend staying in the home you may want to:

  • Add extra space to accommodate an expanding family, or simply to add a sense of spaciousness.
  • Change the configuration of the house for better flow, ease of use or orientation to sun and views.
  • Update and remodel to give the house a fresher, more modern look - this could involve major changes putting in a totally new kitchen. Or it could simply be a matter the existing kitchen.
  • Add value to increase your investment.

If you are renovating to sell, it is likely that you'll want to give the house an inexpensive makeover to freshen it up and make it more attractive to buyers. For example, repainting, repapering, or changing dated or damaged fixtures, such as tired benchtops or outdated handles.

You need to consider the tastes of potential buyers, which really means keeping everything fairly neutral to appeal to a wider range of people. Not everyone warms to bright feature walls or pink splashbacks!

Renovations that will increase the appeal of your home may include painting the kitchen and bathroom.

Ask a real estate agent for ideas to increase the house's appeal, and how much you should spend without overcapitalising. As you want to avoid spending money you won't get back in sale price.

Current and future kitchen requirements

Experience has shown that most people keep a kitchen for approximately 20 years.  That’s why it pays to carefully consider your needs and wants before you venture out to buy a kitchen.  You will spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, therefore it should be looked upon as an enjoyable place and somewhere you want to be. “Convenience” and “Efficiency” are the top buzz words in contemporary kitchen design. New cordless appliances mean that you're no longer tied to electrical outlets for every task and can plan around your cooking, cleaning and lifestyle.

When planning for your dream kitchen it’s a good idea to consider:

  • Size of your household
  • Lifestyle, cooking and eating habits
  • Shopping habits
  • Kitchen function (entertainment, dining, working kitchen)
  • Body heights (to determine the optimal work heights)
  • Right handed and/or left handed people (important for the proper zone layout)
  • Types of items to be stored in the kitchen

Take some time to ponder the following questions to get your kitchen planning underway. It will help clarify your likes, dislikes and lifestyle. Your job is to get really clear about your requirements so that designers can translate this into a beautiful, functional kitchen that suits your individual needs and tastes.

Key questions to answer

  • What do you want and what do you need.  Decide what is necessary for your renovation project and what would be nice to haves so you know what can easily be cut out if the budget becomes tight during the renovation.
  • Is there a deadline for your renovations?  Do you know when you would like the renovations to begin or when you would like them completed.  Can you renovate in stages or does it need to be done all at once.
  • Decide on a budget
  • What things are a “must” and what’s a “nice” to have? 
  • What drives you NUTS about your existing kitchen?
  • What are your pet hates? 
  • What do you LOVE about your existing kitchen?
  • What do you think is MOST IMPORTANT in a kitchen?
  • What style, look or feel do you want your kitchen to create?


Some other things to consider:

Love to cook?

If you are a keen entertainer, this may mean that you’ll need a larger than standard space for a new refrigerator or stove. A professional, six burner gas cooktop, for example, requires four feet of Bench space rather than the standard three feet. Check out our appliances section for more information.


Love your body?

If you've got a bad back or creaky knees, bending in and out of low cupboards may not be the best for you. Consider choosing deep drawers, or an in-cupboard system that allow easy access to even the very back of previously tricky to reach cupboards.  Our friends at Blum have a wide range of in-drawer and in-cupboard accessories to make the most of space and make your life easier. Check out our kitchen hardware section for more information.


How about those peepers?

Yep, as we age we need to take better care of our eyes and no one likes eye strain from a dark, dingy kitchen or alternately bright lighting that makes you feel like you're under interrogation. Spend some time looking over the layout of your kitchen and choosing the lighting the fits best with each zone, not just the light fittings that look the best. Consider recessed lighting under above bench cabinetry to light up your prep space, or choose a rangehood with a built in lamp so you can always see what you're cooking. These days not only are the lights kinder to your eyes, but also to the environment and often your pocket - it's win-win!

Think about dimmers – if you have a dining space in your kitchen you may want to think about dimming switches to create a special mood for a dinner party.  Also consider where the switches are located so that they aren’t affected by any other elements.

Don't forget about the floor!

Flooring can be beautiful, but it needs to be functional too as you don't want to spend all your time in your new dream kitchen sweeping and mopping! Visit our flooring section to learn about your options.

The benefits of employing a kitchen designer

If you want to achieve a kitchen that truly meets your cooking, family, storage, budget and design needs then you need to consider working with a kitchen designer. A professional designer can help you budget wisely, avoid mistakes, make the space beautiful and functional, and open doors to new and specialised resource. They can also help you navigate the legal side of your renovation or build project - making sure any changes comply with council regulations and will be safe for you and your family. It is their job to ensure the project comes in on budget and on time, taking the stress off of your shoulders.

Many joinery companies and kitchen companies have "in-house" kitchen designers who work exclusively for that company doing design and consultation work. If you use a kitchen designer who works for a joinery or kitchen company you will probably not have to pay for your design and plan unless you want to take your plan away to have the joinery quoted by another company. Generally speaking, the plan and design remains the property of that kitchen company until you sign a contract for that company to manufacture your kitchen. This is a fair way of working as the designer will have put in many hours of work preparing your drawings so will likely not hand you a copy of the plan unless compensated or the joiner secures the manufacture of your kitchen. Kitchen designing is a skilled profession so you can't expect to get a design for free.

Another way of having your kitchen professionally planned is to work with an independent kitchen designer. This type of designer is not employed by or contracted to a particular kitchen manufacturing business, but works independently (like an architect) and charges  their client for any design work they undertake for them. The services offered can range from consultations, sketch drawings to full "working" (plans with full measurements) drawings, elevations, appliance advice, perspectives and full specification schedules (these are vital if you want to get a number of quotes as it sets a standard and criteria of product so you can compare like with like) to project management and overseeing. Fees will vary dependant on the skills, knowledge and experience of the designer, but feel free to ask for an estimate of hours and price for their work when you make the initial enquiry.

Whichever of these two options you choose feel free to ask to see examples of the designer’s work as most designers or joinery and kitchen companies should have a "portfolio" of their completed kitchens.

It's always beneficial to the designer if you are prepared with some answers when they take their "brief" (your requirements) from you. Consider:-

  1. What do I like/ not like about my existing kitchen? Take pictures with you of kitchens and layouts that appeal to you.
  2. What are my storage needs? What are your appliance "needs?
  3. How many people are likely to be working in the kitchen at any one time?  Will I need separate "work-stations" ?
  4. Will the kitchen area be used for eating in – do you need a table or a bar?
  5. What’s my overall budget - note that this may also need to cover new appliances, flooring, wall and window coverings, electrical and plumbing work.
  6. What colours do I like ? Is the house more traditional or is it very modern and do I want the kitchen to reflect that?
  7. Would I be comfortable with changing door and window locations in the house to achieve a better kitchen layout?

As you can see, there's a lot involved in getting the kitchen of your dreams but getting some professional advice and design work right from the beginning will go a long way to achieving an end result that you can truly call "My Dream Kitchen".

Where do I start?

Looking to start your dream kitchen project but don't know where to start? Turning your shabby 70's kitchenette into something magazine worthy can be a daunting project, but if you take it step by step it need not be.


1. Collect your ideas

First of all you need to be inspired. Collect information and imagery to help you express what your dream kitchen will look like:

  • Take a look through the Inspiration Gallery for inspiring images of all kinds of kitchens and save the images that you love to your pantry - you can add comments to remind yourself of what you love about each image
  • Take a read through the product section - knowing the difference between different types of benchtops, cabinetry, flooring and even appliances can help you make informed choices
  • Make a list of the features you absolutely must have, and those that are nice to haves. This will help you with the next step.

2. Think about finances

However big or small your dream kitchen project, there will be some form of cost involved. If you're doing a full renovation think of it as an investment - in your family's lifestyle and in your future. The kitchen is one of the more valuable parts of the home when it comes to selling.

  • Decide (realistically) how you are going to finance your dream kitchen project: savings, mortgage or a short term loan. Read through the Finances section for an overview of what you need to be aware of
  • Review your must haves and your nice to haves, and if you can, put the costs next to them. Some compromise may be needed, or you might be able to achieve the same results with different methods

3. Plan ahead

Embarking on a complete kitchen renovation may seem scary, but it need not be if you take some time to plan before you start. Read through all of our design tips before you commit, so you've considered everything from the beginning:

  • When is the best time to start your project? Think about work and family commitments, and how long the project might take
  • If your project involves a complete rebuild you may want to move out while it is completed - make sure you include any extra accommodation costs into your budget (or plan your project over summer and plan to prepare all meals on your BBQ!)
  • Read through our handy checklist to make sure you've got everything covered and so there are no surprises once your project kicks off


Remember - it's all about getting the kitchen you dream of so make sure you have fun!


The Building Act 2004 sets out regulations, including the Building Code, covering all building work.   

The Building Code sets standards for durability, fire safety, sanitation, moisture control, energy efficiency and access.

As part of the building code, your builder MUST provide you with a list of care & maintenance guidelines and warranty information for the products installed in your renovation / build. If you do not receive this information you should ask for it.

Many projects will require Building Consent from your local council, except for specifically exempt projects.  A Building Consent is the council’s written authority to carry out building work that complies with the Building Code.  You will need to obtain this (or have your designer, project manager or builder obtain this for you) before beginning work. 

Following the completion of your renovation the council will need to complete a Code Compliance Certificate for any work that it has issues a Building Consent for. This acts as protection for both you, and any future owners of the property.

Check with your council before signing any contracts of beginning any work to ensure you comply with all local rules and regulations.

For the latest on consumer protection measures to ensure you are covered before beginning your renovation visit

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