The kitchen is now the home's ultimate hang-out room, a theatre stage for food preparation; a home-based bistro for entertaining. Designs promoting interaction between chef and guests with counters facing towards the living area – and a comfy couch for conversation – are all the rage.

With the kitchen more exposed, often right in the middle of a living area rather than hidden away in the back of the house, people are spending more time and money on the look of the kitchen.

Mocha madness
Having one's own coffee bar at home tops the trend-list. From state of the art, fully automatic espresso makers to classic stove-top percolators, a new breed of must-have coffee makers take the grind out of brewing the bean.

The thinking kitchen
Clever design solutions and new brainy kitchen systems on show turns chore to delight. An exciting new product launch at the show is the Active Kitchen by Franke. This new intelligent system solution is a dynamic, three dimensional working area around the sink. Franke's 'working' kitchens show-off first hand the functionality and efficiency of the brand’s new product lines.

Hobs have been developed to provide more cooking surface and are semi-flush with the work top. They are positioned in the middle of the central island with the extraction system above.

Viva Italia
The South African market tends to follow international kitchen trends, particularly Italian. Because of their mobile nature, Italian kitchens are modular and can be manipulated to fit any space; easy to install and customise. Italian kitchen manufacturers also take the lead in eco-friendly design, using materials that are recyclable, renewable and less toxic.

The effective utilisation of space has resulted in a move towards integrated appliances, streamlining the overall look of the kitchen. An example is the drawer fridge and drawer dishwasher offered by Euro Casa in the Febal kitchen range.

The new furnished room
Staying in is the new going out. With the dining room on the endangered list and the separate lounge de rigueur, the kitchen is treated as a furnished room. Combat the all stainless steel look by cherry picking ideas from different trends and mixing it up to create a personalised space.

Gas a true natural
Decorex Jhb celebrates the return to gas appliances with a special section in the Kitchens and Bathrooms Hall – devoted to this nature-friendly fuel. On display are gas water-heating systems, gas fridges, gas lighting and any hobby chef's dream – cooking over the open flame of a brightly coloured gas stove.

Colour in the Cucina
Colour is the essential ingredient in the living kitchen, whether it's spicy cinnamon, deep berry or dusty green. The kitchen being a place to be creative with different flavours, it makes sense to design a space to stimulate all your senses. Paint colour is the quickest and most affordable way to do this.

Although all-white kitchens are all the rage, this high-activity space calls for energetic colour accents. A feature wall in an engaging colour is a good way to anchor an otherwise neutral space. The desire for colour in the kitchen also extends to appliances – luscious cherry-red mixers and retro-chic fridges in bursts of happy orange. Even waffle makers now come in periwinkle, persimmon and cobalt.

Top tips

  • An industrial strength extractor fan is a must. Watch those noise levels interfering with all the chatting and chopping. Dishwashers also go hush.
    Tip: Defy's Dishmaid Super Silent is low in water consumption, energy usage and sound. Smeg's pink dishwasher adds bubblegum glam.

  • Go for natural timber to relieve the acres of all–white. Hand-painted kitchens in Devon Cream or Irish White are great. Even the butt of the hinge is painted.
    Tip: The look is about being hand-made, sometimes in an old blue – sort or railwayish or dusty red industrial steel girders, like the roof of an old Karoo farm shed.

  • The pantry is in vogue again, hiding the clutter. Open shelves sport collectables and objets d'art.
    Tip: Be smart. Opt for free standing appliances rather than built-in. It saves hassle when something goes wrong or you want to update.

  • No fluorescent or track lighting is in sight. Bring in the bling with chandeliers and vintage lighting. Everything is on a dimmer and separate switches – under counter, ceiling and task lighting.
    Tip: Lighten the feel with moody table lamps and standing lamps.

  • Glass tiles are in; ceramic tiles are out.
    Tip: Coloured glass with sand blasted patterns make great splash backs and is easy to clean.

  • Caeser stone and other scratchproof man-made surfaces – even glass – are hard-working countertops.
    Tip: Old marble butcher block surfaces in white and grey, allowed to stain with citrus juices and wine, are great in old villa style homes.

  • Must-have kitchen gadgets: No kitchen is worth its salt without a deli-style electric meat slicer to get the Parma ham paper thin. A double door fridge with ice dispenser, or separate ice machine fitting snugly under the counter is obligatory.

  • Give in to your decorating wiles. Display your favourite things like beautiful tea towels and collection of tea pots. Even something as simple as a grouping of wooden spoons in an interesting container will imbue the space with a lived-in feel.

  • Decorex Jhb show information
    Want to spice up your kitchen? Make your way to Decorex Jhb, held at Gallagher Estate, Midrand from 9-13 August, for a host of exhibitors sharing design secrets from sink to stove, gorgeous gadgets and über-chic table décor.

    Date: 9 to 13 August 2006
    Venue: Gallagher Estate, Midrand
    Time: 10 am – 6 pm
    Price: R45 per person (R35 students and pensioners)

    Hot hint: Don't miss the Talk Show workshops on 10 and 11 August. Mandy Allen, Nicci Scholtz (Aspen Flowers) and Abigail Donnelly (editor Taste and Eat Out) look at the Plascon Colour Forecast for 2007, with colourful tips for entertaining in the living kitchen. Cost per workshop: R50, including a free ticket to the exhibition. For info on the Talk Show line-up and bookings visit

    Picture credit: VISI