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Kitchen Makeovers

The kitchen has always been the heart of the home, but now it’s also one of the most stylish rooms in the house. Three kitchen design veterans tell Crave it has been transformed.

Text by Mandy Li, photos by Samantha Sin

Special thanks to The Madison Group for the location

Conventionally, kitchens are often purely practical, rather unattractive spaces that we hide from public view. That’s all changing as emerging kitchen brands improve the look and functionality of their products, turning the kitchen into a showcase for its owner’s taste and lifestyle and a more welcoming environment to spend time in.

KitchenAid’s trade marketing manager, Ricky Tse, reckons there’s been a change in the past five years. “Many property developers now install open kitchens in new residential buildings,” he says. “Not only do they require smaller spaces, but also prettier appliances. I think that’s part of the reason people are more concerned about the looks of the tools they use in the kitchen.”

Cyril Chan, general manager of The Madison Group, which represents esteemed kitchen brands such as bulthaup, Sub-Zero, Wolf and Rimadesio, also speaks of the increasing attention being paid to domestic kitchens.

“I believe it’s because of concern for our health, we now see the act of preparing food as a pleasurable hobby, even something to do with our leisure time, so the kitchen is becoming a place for our passion and love for food, to spend quality time, and a place to receive guests,” Chan says.

Edward Yip, assistant curator of Asia’s first food-themed library Taste Library at PMQ, believes magic occurs in a great kitchen.

“We have an open kitchen in our library and that is the most important part of the space. Our mission is to promote food culture and while we offer 3,000 pieces of food literature for members, we find that the best way to turn the reading experience into a 3D one is to cook the recipes, so people can really feel the culture. The kitchen also adds an easy-going, laid-back vibe to the library, which I think is crucial in building up the overall ambience,” he says.

Yip lists the most important elements of kitchen design as: space – creating a spacious feeling in 400 sq ft; lighting – making sure it’s bright; and storage – it should look tidy. However, Tse and Chan say their customers have different priorities.

“For my customers, colour has always been of utmost importance when selecting a product,” Tse says. “You just can’t believe how popular pink and ice blue are – they are the best-selling colours for our stand mixer. That’s followed by practicality and brand history.”

Chan’s customers are also concerned about the history of his group’s brands. “Our consumers are curious about the brand’s background. They are also interested in whether the products are environmentally friendly, durable, non-toxic and easy to maintain. This concern may have sprung from the same root as paying attention to the origin of foods now. Customers are very sophisticated these days.”

Chan sounds a note of caution about the craving for technology in modern kitchens.

“The digital kitchen is on the rise, but trends come in very fast and go out of date even faster. If they’re not carefully thought out, smart functions can become a burden or compromise, rather than an advantage,” Chan says.

“That said, I think simplicity is best. The latest trend for organic elements has real staying power, because it makes sense for kitchens to connect with something wholesome and natural.”

While they are all experts in grooming other people’s kitchens, when speaking of their own kitchens, they are surprisingly humble. “Mine is nondescript. It’s small and what I cook most are baked potatoes, something that requires the least effort,” Yip says, laughing.

Tse’s kitchen is also “very basic but good enough for me to cook everything with my little girl. The centrepiece would probably be the KitchenAid coffee machine, which is very handsome, brews superb espresso and is not available in Hong Kong yet.”

Chan’s kitchen is a bit more elaborate. “Mine has an L-shaped worktop and is separated from my living room with a glass panel. I have a good stereo set up in the area – when you feel relaxed while cooking, the dishes will be delicious, too. My children enjoy watching me cook, like they are watching a cooking show,” he says.

And what’s missing to complete their kitchen? All three have the same answer: an island.

“We shouldn’t be facing a wall most of the time while we cook,” Chan says. “An island counter facilitates communication and connects cooking and eating in
the same place. That would make my dream kitchen: an island table that allows us to cook, eat and socialise at the same time.”

The Nitty Gritty  

  1. Your favourite kitchen tool?

    Cyril Chan: Non-stick pan. Easy to clean,
    easy to cook with less oil.

    Ricky Tse: The stand mixer from
    KitchenAid, obviously.

    Edward Yip: Food processor.

  2. If you could have any kitchen in the world, which would you chose?

    CC: It must be the bulthaup b2 kitchen, a professional kitchen solution that is extremely flexible.

    RT: The kitchen in MasterChef Australia – who wouldn’t love that never-runs-out stock room?

    EY: A kitchen on a very fancy yacht, so I can sail and cook in any part of the ocean.

  3. Any tips for keeping the kitchen clean?

    CC: Sinks should be joined seamlessly to the work surface, without any gaps; cook tops should be welded to the worktop and the backsplash needs to be easy to clean.

    RT: I have 13 microfibre towels in different colours for cleaning different objects, such as the stove, kids’ utensils, cups etc.

    EY: Clean right after use is the best answer, but having a helper or someone to clean it for you is always a better option.

  4. Your favourite kitchen brand?

    CC: bulthaup. It’s a brand that pursues the finest precision craftsmanship. It is functional and beautiful and can harmonise the kitchen and living space to form an open, unified living space.

    RT: KitchenAid – it’s beautiful and has great durability.

    EY: Sori Yanagi’s tableware, I love the design and it is really affordable for everybody.

  5. The best dish you cook at home?

    CC: Grilled sanma, it’s easy to cook, healthy yet inexpensive.

    RT: Chinese-style roasted pork belly.

    EY: Saumon en papillote (baked salmon parcels).

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