Two years ago PlaceMakers were helping Kiwis remodel kitchens to the tune of about 5000 kitchens a year. Now, estimates Liz Aitken – category manager, kitchens, wardrobes and decorative flooring for the country's leading building supplies retailer and renovations consultancy – that figure will leap up to about 7000 in 2020-2021.
Why? Because the pandemic and thwarted overseas holiday plans have combined to persuade many New Zealanders that the most sensible path is to put money into their greatest asset – their home.
"PlaceMakers has a really good market share, so we are a good mirror for what is happening around New Zealand households now," says Aitken. "We either work through builders who are doing the renovations or directly with clients who are renovating kitchens, bathrooms, laundries and wardrobes.
"We have dedicated showrooms throughout the country where customers can talk to a specialist consultant who helps them through the whole process from concept to completion, from design to installation – and some of the trends are really interesting."
PlaceMakers have noticed a significant increase in activity across the interior design categories – which include kitchens, bathrooms, wardrobes, flooring and laundries.
Kitchens are the biggest single area of activity, Aitken says, as they can greatly increase the value of a house. There are no figures available from New Zealand but in Australia one 2018 study concluded a kitchen remodel could increase a property's value by up to $64,000.
So it becomes, literally, a $64,000 question – how much to spend on a kitchen renovation and how much do you gain from doing so?
Aitken says there is no one answer to that as the variables are many and sometimes complex – but PlaceMakers' consultants can help homeowners decide by looking carefully at the house, location, the house's character and size, plus the shape and feel of the kitchen. Recommended expenditure can range from $5000 to $60,000 and anywhere in between.
"The thing is, interior spend like kitchens are classified as lifestyle expenditure," she says, "every bit as much as an overseas holiday, for example, is considered lifestyle. About one in five of us have overseas holidays so, these days, many of those one in five are adding value to their house instead.
"We saw that thinking increase after lockdown – so many people came out of lockdown thinking: 'I really don't like my kitchen' or 'I hate my bathroom'.
Just as the old saying has it that eyes are the gateway to the soul, so many people believe a kitchen says a lot about lifestyle and about a home.
"If the kitchen is a bit tired or the colour scheme is old-fashioned, it can detract from the value of a home," says Aitken.
After all, kitchens these days are more than cooking or food preparation areas – they are entertainment areas and gathering points; far from being a room on their own, used to service other rooms (like a dining area), they are now part of the natural flow of a house.
"It says 'lifestyle'," she says. "It says a lot about you. Another part of the home that does the same thing – and which we are seeing a lot of interest in – is the front door and entrance. That is all about prestige; the front door talks to people about who you are…"
Aitken says most people start renovations by doing the kitchen and laundry first and later move on to the bathroom, ensuites and walk-in wardrobes. Those features, plus sculleries add the most value after kitchens and bathrooms, Aitken says.
There are also discernible trends in colour within kitchens. The old fondness for white kitchens has been overdone in the last decade, with natural colours and a splash of other colours beginning to take precedence now. Coloured tapware, coloured sink bowls and wood grains are popular now in both kitchens and bathrooms.
"That's because New Zealanders are far more up to date with trends like those coming out of Europe and EuroCucina, the biannual show in Milan. They are going online to see how it's done."
The most value-added item in the kitchen, says Aitken, is solid surface bench tops – usually engineered stone which gives the kitchen bench a luxurious look and feel and which serves both function and form.
"We try and make it easy for people to attack these demanding projects," she says. "We look at how you live and function in your space and deliver customised solutions to best suit your needs and fulfil your desires.
"There's also a big emphasis on providing customers with a product that will stand the test of time. We have comprehensive warranties across the ranges to give peace of mind that the quality we provide will last – and people can choose from a huge range of accessories such as sink mixers, towel rails, shelving, mirrors and more.
"If homeowners want, for example, an on-trend, high quality, European-styled result, we have them covered."
For more information: placemakers.co.nz/products/kitchen/