Six best kitchens in 2020; they're not all high-end

There are kitchens that win awards, and then there are the others.

An award-winning kitchen is usually high-end (think expensive materials and extra-large island), and not something most of us can even dare to dream about, although it’s fun to look. We can often take ideas from these kitchens, even if it’s just a detail we particularly admire.

In compiling this list of six top kitchens for 2020 we have included both high-end award winners and finalists, but we have also included a colourful DIY kitchen that didn’t cost a bomb, but looks a million dollars.

And we have included a kitchen squeezed into an apartment that was once a barrister’s chambers. Because it shows sheer innovation and a real, literal “point” of difference. The kitchens below are in no particular order after the first, which we think shines the brightest.


We love everything about this kitchen designed by architect Paul Clarke of Studio 2 Architecture. It takes centre stage in a contemporary Mount Maunganui house he designed for several generations of the same family.

The Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) judges loved it too, awarding it the TIDA-New Zealand Architect-designed Kitchen of the Year Award 2020.

"The kitchen quite literally is the heart of the home," says Clarke. "Positioned centrally within the upper level, it is an oasis where family and friends gather."

The 4m-long island features a waterfall-edge benchtop in Caesarstone Snow. This cantilevers over the American oak base extending towards the outdoor deck like a bar. White cabinetry was specified to create a soft contrast with the vaulted cedar-clad interiors.

"Appliances by Miele and bespoke hardware by Tim Webber Design such as the door pulls and light fittings provide the finishing touch to the space."

The cooking facilities extend past sliding glass walls to an outdoor kitchen, with a built-in barbecue and timber cabinetry that continues the line of timber on the interior walls.


We can’t go by this astonishing kitchen by Auckland designer Morgan Cronin – the NKBA Supreme Designer of the Year.

Cronin says this kitchen needed to look like a piece of art, rather than a kitchen. Which explains the highly sculptural concrete island centrepiece.

A prototype of the entire island was built in the Cronin Kitchen workshop from MDF for the client’s approval. Concrete fabricators then built formwork around this prototype to copy its exact dimensions, before casting it in glass-reinforced concrete.

The judging panel said the unique, sculptural kitchen transformed a standard villa renovation.

“There has been so much thought into this incredible space, for a client whose joy is in entertaining, rather than cooking. The result is a lifestyle kitchen, not the most practical, but one that pushes boundaries and celebrates an out-there concept with its completely customised, bespoke island.”


Auckland kitchen designer Nicola Manning of Nicola Manning Design says the space for this kitchen was the client’s inner-city barrister chambers for 20 years. But all that was to change.

“As he was approaching retirement, he and his wife decided to convert the ‘office space’ into an apartment that would have a New York loft feel. – with a slight industrial edge.”

The kitchen Manning designed won the Outstanding Kitchen Renovation award in the national NKBA awards, with the judges calling it “an inspired transformation”.

Not surprisingly, there were several challenges with the conversion, including the fact that the kitchen space is triangular with tight corners. And services to the floors above ran through the main “back wall” of the kitchen, which limited the depth of the cabinetry that could be placed there.

Six best kitchens in 2020; they're not all high-end

To gain more space, a wall was removed to open up the kitchen to the central hallway through the apartment.

“The steel window joinery throughout the apartment was an inspiration for the predominantly black colour palette,” Manning says. “This contrasts beautifully with the light oak herringbone floors.

The triangular island is the central feature of the kitchen, echoing the shape of the space. “I created vertical steel fins at each end to complete the triangular lines without making the ends too solid, and to provide texture,” Manning says.


Auckland designer Mal Corboy was a finalist in the prestigious SBID International Design Awards in the UK with this kitchen in a new home in a prominent gated community in Central Otago.

It’s the second project completed by the designer for the client, who wanted a “world-class” kitchen suitable for corporate entertaining and day-to-day living.

“Four years from design to completion, everything was made from the ground up,” says Corboy. “Electric doors open up to a large back end, where a complete scullery can be found.”

Corboy says the owners have told him visitors have been “blown away” with the final result, not having seen anything like it. “After several successful corporate events, the kitchen functions as requested.”


You are not likely to see this kitchen entered into an award, but we love the transformation Auckland designer Evie Kemp has undertaken – for a mere $1200.

Kemp is known for her flamboyant style, and her own home has always exemplified her personality.

She loves to ring the changes, and now, she has completed a total revamp of her kitchen – and it has a few surprises.

“Our kitchen was here when we bought the house,” she says. “It' was in good condition and super functional, but it has just never been my style. I'd had fun filling the walls with art, but it hadn't really changed in five years and I really wanted something fresh and fun.

“But replacing the entire kitchen purely for aesthetics just wasn't an option financially or ecologically.”

So Kemp decided to focus on a colour makeover. “We used the new Renovation Range product from Dulux to paint the laminate doors ourselves. It's a special product that gives a super hard-wearing finish. and it’s kind of impossible to tell they're even painted.”

The cabinets are in Dulux Big Glory Bay, with the walls in Bluff Hill.

Kemp says the tiles were another DIY solution.

“After falling in love with eyewateringly expensive italian concrete tiles I had the idea to modify a more affordable option, using the Tangram tiles from Tilespace, and adding my own coloured shapes (in Dulux Clive, Tokatoka and Cook's Beach.”

She finished off the kitchen with a new black sink and tap from Bunnings, a pair of lamps from A&C Homestore, and a couple of black handles for the pantry. “Almost everything else are items I already had – the vintage coffee machine prints I found in an op shop years ago; the rug used to be in the hallway; the Hans Christian Anderson print I bought at a church garage sale as a teenager; and the dried flower installation I bought from Davina at Vida Flores just knowing I'd eventually find the right spot for it.


This stunning kitchen inspired by a coastal setting in Tauranga took top kitchen honours in the annual National Kitchen and Bathroom Association NZ awards.

The long, galley-style kitchen, designed by Chelsey Mathieson of Vekart, won the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design Supreme Kitchen Design Award.

Mathieson said the kitchen, in a beachfront home, was designed for a “small family that have a love of entertaining, a strong passion for interior design and a vision for the overall outcome”. The coastal environment inspired the visual warmth and textural elements – the home looks out across the beach, providing a view of toi toi grasses, wood and sea.

“The clients have lived in Sydney and so a strong influence came from interiors and themes often seen in Australian homes,” said Mathieson.

The judges praised the “restricted pallet, coastal vernacular and structured elegance”.

“A clever, aesthetically beautiful and complex kitchen that has been completed to the absolute highest of standards,” the judges said.

“The marble shelf and marble detailing running through the cabinetry is both subtle and thoughtful, and a lovely addition. The project is refined simplicity at its best. The space is open and welcoming, the lighting responds beautifully to its environment.”

In total, the kitchen received five awards. In addition to the Supreme Award, it won the the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design Kitchen Distinction Award $60k - $80k Award, the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design Lighting Design Award and the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design Bay of Plenty Chapter Kitchen Recognition Award.