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5 stunning South African kitchens

Article by Izelle du Pisanie – www.homify.co.za 

We are always excited to bring you beautiful examples of kitchens from all around the world, but are even more enthusiastic when we can refer to local talent. Showing of the best and brightest of South African design is certainly one of our favorite activities, and today will be no different.

Here we have a list of 5 spectacular kitchens by Ergo Designer Kitchen, a firm of kitchen planners based in Johannesburg. We have no doubt that you’ll agree about the supreme aesthetic quality of these rooms, as they are all well-planned and beautifully furnished to ensure 5 kitchen spaces anyone would be more than happy to cook in.

So, take a few minutes out of your day to sit back and enjoy this idea book that depicts what is necessary to create a stunning kitchen. We are sure you will not be disappointed with what these 5 rooms have to offer. Let’s begin!

1. Glossy finishes


First up, we have this extraordinary modern kitchen that brings in rustic elements. The sleek finishes of the glossy floor tiles and the stainless steel appliances are well-balanced by the red brick feature we can see to the left of the picture.

Thematic addition


Another side of the kitchen reveals a functional bar area, complete with ultra-practical storage shelf unit for the wine collection and all necessary glasses.

2. Country charm


Next up, we have an essentially modern kitchen, which also has some rustic country touches to it, and which enlivens by the indigo walls.

Rustic details


Zooming in a little in the kitchen, we can see the finer details which reveal a more rustic element, such as seen in the use of reed baskets as decoration and the earth-toned back-splash tiles.

3. Retro chic


Number three on our list shares many features with its predecessor, and we can certainly see that these two projects have a common designer. We can see some strong retro influences here as well.

Colour block


From above this kitchen’s counter, we can see the colour-block design which had been used, given the counter top area a very defined appearance.

4. Mahogany dreams


This kitchen consists almost entirely of mahogany features, making it an extremely elegant and warm room. The white and grey features used in conjunction with this noble timber give the whole composition a country feeling.

5. Dark beauty


Our last kitchen on the list is a contemporary dream. The use of an intense, dark wood for the cabinetry gives the room a very bold look.

Frosted glass


Here we can see how the white composite counter top beautifully contrasts with the dark wood, making it a dynamic proposal. In the back, we can also see the glass cabinet doors had been frosted, lending to the room an atmosphere of sophistication.

These 5 kitchen ideas sure have us inspired, and we are certain these concepts will be easy to copy in your own kitchen.

Your comments and feedback are always welcome!


Kitchens Styles being Reproduced and Recreated – Modern vs Contemporary kitchen designs.

Are you confused between Modern and Contemporary kitchen designs? Is there a difference between the two? These questions have come up time and time again in many of our client consultations. Although both styles have overlapping characteristics and distinguishing between the two can be difficult, it is not one in the same.

To cut a long story short, Modern design (mid-century modern) refers to a period of time; it is a design style that was created in the 1920′s-1950′s. It doesn’t change, it is a defined style, and will remain such for ever.

During this period emphasis was placed on clean, un-fussy lines; functionality; minimal embellishments; extensive use of natural materials and a natural flow from indoors to outdoors. Other characteristics were sharp corners; straight, horizontal lines; classically designed lighting; little or no use of decorative accessories; an eye-catching contrast between light, calming neutrals on the walls with dark hardware and counter tops (or vice-versa). Modern kitchens were sleek, streamlined spaces with simple designs, shiny appliances and a distinct lack of clutter.

Well, contemporary by definition means “existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time.” Contemporary design is ever changing. It is of the moment. Therefore, what is popular or used right now.

Contemporary design is very much about clean lines which overlap with mid-century Modern design, but there’s an emphasis on comfort– a rejection of the stark look that sometimes characterizes Modern design. Simplistic, monochromatic finishes; less wood but other materials such as concrete or stone; brightly coloured glass or metallic back-splashes; focus points; art pieces; and open-plan living between the kitchen, dining and living areas are also key components of Contemporary design.

As you can see, the lines between what constitutes Modern and Contemporary are often blurred. Even though a kitchen that incorporates traditional elements from various eras can be Contemporary, it cannot be Modern as that refers to a specific period in time. What was previously considered mid-century Modern is now being reproduced and recreated in Contemporary kitchens.

I always welcome your comments, questions or feedback.



Going Modern? How about Laminate or Duco?

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting of the right kind of finish for our kitchen. With the endless choices of finishes on offer in the market today, how do you know which one is right for you? There are numerous factors behind this decision – functionality, quality, appearance, the budget and value being the foremost considerations.

Currently, one of the most popular choices is High-gloss Laminate (acrylic films) kitchens. Not just because they are extremely stylish and modern, but also hard wearing and easy to keep clean. A High-gloss laminate board is made up by bonding of a thick sheet of acrylic onto a double faced white melamine board / MDF board. Some of the product features of these laminates are: Excellent scratch resistance; scour resistance; no polishing required after removal of the protective film once installed; increased UV resistance and stability and excellent chemical resistance. Depending on your choice of supplier, High-gloss laminates comes in an array of pre-determined plain and metallic colour options to choose from.  Given their aesthetic appeal and easy to clean properties, acrylic finished cabinets are more expensive when compared to High-gloss Duco, and not all of our budgets allow us to make use of it.Some examples of High-gloss Laminate Kitchens (https://za.pinterest.com/ergodesigns/high-gloss-modern-kitchens/).

However, there is a more affordable product with unlimited colours to choose from – even pink… Matt, Satin or High-gloss Duco.  This is a smooth and silky painted finish on a MDF (side note) door of any profile from an ultra-modern sleek to French provincial cosy kitchens. The profile of the door dictates the feel and look of the kitchen or cupboard.  The less detail and pattern on the door, the more clean and uncluttered the look. Except of the unlimited colour and style choices, Duco finished cabinetry is smooth, an easy to clean surface; it has no exposed seams and is relatively water-resistant. Interesting colour combinations of High-gloss Duco Kitchens (https://za.pinterest.com/ergodesigns/high-gloss-modern-kitchens/).

Side note:

Medium density fibreboard, or MDF, is a composite wood product. It′s made out of wood fine particles or fibres glued together with resin, heat, and pressure. MDF is appropriate for many applications because it is smooth with no grains, uniform, warp resistant, easily machined (cut, drilled, machined and sanded without damaging the surface).It is stronger and denser than chipboard and has a mild reaction to moisture, meaning it won′t warp or swell in high-humidity applications like a kitchen or bathroom cabinet.

Off course, a good kitchens designer will be able to guide you through the entire process  of choosing the right finish for your kitchen cabinetry (keeping your budget in mind ,of course) and this is one of the many reasons why hiring a reputed design company is recommended.

A Tale of Two Materials: Melamine vs Wood Veneer

When doing a kitchen, one of the important things that need to be considered is the finish, not the colour, but the type of material. Al though there are more types of materials, two types of the most well-know and commonly used is melamine and wood veneer.

Melamine is a synthetic (man-made) board used extensively by carpenters to make products used in kitchens and other furniture items in South Africa. This is a product that results when a thin paper is pressed at a high pressure on raw board such as chipboard or MDF. Although there are a large variety of colour or wood-grain options in South Africa, ultimately the choices are dependent on what the suppliers have to offer. These finishes can be described as a picture taken of the wood grain and placed on to the melamine sheet. Thus, what you see is what you get; it cannot be stained nor painted.

Melawood Collage

A few Melamine colour and wood-grain options from PG Bison -http://pgbison.co.za/

When taking a look at wood veneer in comparison to melamine, the wood veneer is a very thin piece of wood that is shaved, layered and applied to plywood or particle board. Wood veneer can be made from the wood of various species of trees such as mahogany, walnut, cherry, oak, maple and beech, as well as rare and exotic species such as Brazilian rosewood and eucalyptus (there are hundreds of different types of wood veneer available). Unlike melamine, wood veneer can be sanded along the grain, painted, varnished, stained as well as curved  to give the cabinets the illusion that is made entirely from solid wood without breaking the bank.

Veneer Collage

Different Wood veneer samples – natural & stained

Both materials certainly have a number of respective advantages and disadvantages. Melamine is the more affordable option of the two. Wood veneer, on the other hand, is stronger and more durable and if you have your eye set on at specific colour or stain that is not available in the melamine range, one can definitely solve it by choosing a stained wood veneer. As always, the decision is up to you.

Can you see which one of these kitchens is melamine and which is wood veneer?


Let in a Little Light

The way we light our home environment, and specifically the kitchen, affects the functionality and atmosphere of the space. There is no such thing as an all-in-one light fixture when it comes to the planning of your kitchen lighting. Time and again it is the last thing considered in a kitchen design and the first thing cut from a budget. If your kitchen only has task lighting, you feel as if you have a spotlight on you at all times. On the other hand, if you only have ambient and accent lighting, you feel like you are cooking in the dark. The secret is finding the right blend by layering. For both functionality and decor, you must incorporate these four types of lighting, task-; accent-; ambient- and decorative lighting. Here is how you can combine all the types in your kitchen.

Task Lighting

Examples of Task Lighting used in kitchen designs –  pinterest.com/ergodesigns/kitchen-lighting/

Task – This lighting illuminates the work spaces – wherever you are preparing food. If you have an island that doubles-up as the main preparation area, make use of white light either with down- or pendant lights. In the case your prep work takes place where wall cupboards are present, use a continuous LED strip or individual fixtures as an easy way to create task lighting underneath your wall cupboards.

Ambient Lighting

Examples of Ambient Lighting used in kitchen designs – pinterest.com/ergodesigns/kitchen-lighting/

Ambient – The ultimate purpose of ambient lighting is to make the navigation in the kitchen second nature – general lighting for walking around and identifying objects. The easiest and most affordable way to add ambient lighting is by setting a dimmer switch on your task lighting fixtures – diffused white light is, for most people, the best choice for ambient light in the kitchen.

Accent Lighting

Examples of Accent Lighting used in kitchen designs – pinterest.com/ergodesigns/kitchen-lighting/

Accent – This adds a dramatic flair to the overall look of your kitchen by placing attention on unique features. This can be accomplished by using track- or recessed lights fixtures on tile- or decorative features on the ceiling or walls; LED strips makes for great accent lights for floating shelves or underneath your floor cupboards or counter tops; or down-lights inside wall units with glass doors.

Decorative Lighting

Examples of Decorative Lighting used in kitchen designs – pinterest.com/ergodesigns/kitchen-lighting/

Decorative – This is the one-of-a-kind or centerpiece in a kitchen and the perfect way to set the theme (can really add to the overall aesthetic in a kitchen). Add rough iron chandeliers over the island in a country or rustic kitchen; or modern stainless steel pendant lights for an industrial feel.

Make your lighting multi-functional by combining all these types in order to give your kitchen greater functionality, interest, and likelihood that you will have sufficient lighting.

Question: Does your the counter top need to match the back-splash?

To the answer the question if a back-splash needs to match the counter top, we need to understand exactly what a back-splash is. It is a piece of material, whether stone, glass, aluminium or tiles, against the wall where the counter top and the wall meet, and can be used in a kitchen or a bathroom. A technical description of a back-splash is: a back-splash is a vertical extension to the counter top. A back-splash does not have a specific height and thus can be either 50 mm high or up to the ceiling or to the bottom of wall units.  The function of a back-splash is to protect the wall against water and food splashing.

A back-splash also covers gaps against your walls. When the counter top is installed, the walls might not be straight and this will leave gaps between the counter top and the wall. This can be used to cover the gaps and also protect the walls. In some cases a back-splash can be seen as an old fashioned however with the variety of materials that can be used for a back-splash, creative focal point can be created, especially when the back-splash extends the full length of the wall. This does not mean that the counter top has to match the back-splash, however it is not recommended to use a busy counter top with a busy back-splash.

There are different types of back-splash materials:

  • Tiles
  • Glass
  • Stainless steel/aluminium
  • Quartz
  • Granite
  • Wallpaper covered with glass

For more ideas have a look at our back-splash mood board on Pinterest https://za.pinterest.com/ergodesigns/kitchen-splash-back-ideas/

Kitchen Industrialised

One of the styles, in terms of kitchens, that have really made a big impact on the market of “high-end” kitchens and mansions is the Industrial Kitchen. With its unconcealed air ducts and other building materials and features, it has purity to it as it displays the architecture.  The main focus with this style of kitchen is to select pieces that are about function as much as they are about style.

This style showcases neutral tones, practical objects, with wood and metal surfaces. This results in what can be called a “warehouse or factory” look. This however can be combined with other styles, such as earthy or polished styles.

The most common trait of the industrial kitchen style is the exposed or uncovered pipes and ducts.  As seen in the image below.

According to some designers this style was initially a necessity as people wanted this style to fit into modern homes, and because of this demand it became a well sought-after style. It became so popular that in some cases people went as far as having the whole house done in this Industrial style. With the exposed ducts and pipes other metal features in the kitchens and even other living spaces of a home can create and add to the industrial look. It is no wonder that earth tones and neutral colours are chosen for these spaces, not to say that a pop of colour would make it any less of an Industrial style kitchen. This style can also be made more modern with selective been panelling as seen in this living are below, with the wooden panelling on the ceiling.

The image of the kitchen above shows the stainless steel cabinetry, it also shows how simple yet functional the design is. We clearly see how wood and metal is combined in this living area, yet they compliment each other.

They days of covering structural elements are over they can now be used to add value to your living spaces.



Budget, budget, budget… and stick with it

Setting a budget for your kitchen remodel and staying within it sounds so obvious and simple, but it’s harder than you think. The key to not blowing your kitchen remodelling budget is careful planning. Here are some essential tips on how to stay within your budget:


  • Make a wish list and a priority list by doing your homework. Gathering ideas and information on what’s in the market. What’s most important to you?
  • Make a list of alternates for the wish list. This can be seen as either your plan-B or if the budget allows for a little extra.
  • Look at your finances and calculate how much you can afford to spend.
  • Listen to the advice from the professionals – kitchen designer & building contractor.
  • Select all your finishes (cabinetry, wall, floor, etc.) with your kitchen designer prior to start / manufacturing process and don’t make changes. By sticking to the plan, you will save time and money. And avoid extras; don’t be tempted to deviate from your budget mid-project.
  • When you’ve received all the quotations form the builder and kitchen contractor – know how the costs will break down.
  • Make sure you understand what’s included in all the documents / quotations from your kitchen and building contract. Make sure all labour, installations, and products are included in your contract.
  • Always be prepared for unexpected cost. There are all sorts of budget-busting surprises lurking behind the walls or under the floor.
  • Don’t listen to television shows about prices and timelines – don’t assume – ask your contractors, since they are the ones that will be doing the job. Keep in mind that external factors can also delay projects such as loadshedding.
  • Decide whether you’re going to stay in your home while renovations are taking place. And factor in the costs of eating-out / take-ways if you don’t have alternative methods of preparing food.

Is the kitchen island part of a solution?

The kitchen is one of the most complex spaces to design in a house, and adding a kitchen island can be confusing. Don’t just add an island just for the sake of having one. No matter how unique your island idea is – if it doesn’t serve the purpose, it can be an eye sore or just in the way. Several questions need to be answered before including an island in your kitchen.

Kitchen Island - Ergo Designer Kitchens

Kitchen Island – Ergo Designer Kitchens

Is your kitchen the right size?

If your kitchen is big enough to include an island that will add to the functionality of the space, only then can you start thinking of adding the island. Ask yourself … Will an island create a new traffic pattern in the kitchen, or will it become an obstacle? Will it make sense with the rest of your kitchen? Can it complement the work triangle of the cooking (stove/oven), storage (fridge) and sink? Make sure that your island isn’t too big that it obstructs the walk-ways and flow of the room. Typically, leave a space open of between 900mm and 1200mm all around the island.

What is the island’s function?

Decide what your island’s main function is going to be before you start adding different elements to it. What activities will you use your island for? Prepping, cooking, eating / entertaining or a combination of different activities?

Will the room allow the island to be a sufficient size to include all the elements you want to add to it? If you want appliances and prep-bowl in your island, you’ll need more space. If you decide to use the island as a cooking or preparation area; will there be enough work-surface left between the hob and prep-bowl? Also think about the electrical / gas and water points that needs to be added and if it will be possible to do so. If you’re incorporating the hob, take into account the space needed for the extractor as well. Does the seating / eating area need to be raised to increase the work surface of the island? Or can it be lowered, because there’s enough walking room around the island? Make a list of everything you want in your island, in order of priority. You may not be able to get everything in your island, but try to include at least three features.

How much storage do you need?

After deciding what elements or activities you are including in your island, you need to think about the storage that goes hand in hand with these activities. This mainly depends on your kitchen layout. Island storage may not be top priority when your kitchen has enough space for storage cabinets. But these are some of the storage solutions you might need to include in the island:

  • Hob, oven or stove – pot drawers, utensil drawers, spice fitting
  • Prep-bowl – bin cabinet, vegetable drawers, utensil drawers
  • Seating area – utensil drawers, crockery cabinets

Just ask yourself … Is the kitchen island part of a solution, or will it create more problems?