What does Catriona’s kitchen say about her? You don’t have to over-analyse it.
Price guide*: $40K- $45K
...The style Catriona had in mind was theatrically dramatic: a monochromatic combination of marble, black and white...
One glance at this retired psychotherpist’s library and you can read her like a book: we found Donna Hay cookbooks, 101 Cocktails, books on New York City and Europe, on South American rainforests, self-help books and photo albums filled with memories of her family and all the amazing places she’s been on her many fabulous holidays. So, you don’t have to be Freud to figure out what’s important in her life. And one of those things is obviously going to be the kitchen in which she can entertain her friends and host the cocktail nights that have made her a legend in her own lunchtime.
Suffice to say Catriona has endured some very hard times over the last few years. Add to that the COVID-19 mess we’ve all shared, and a beautiful new kitchen was just the shot in the arm this lovely lady deserved. (As well as an actual shot in the arm, of course.) Indeed, when the pandemic struck in 2020, Catriona was travelling in South America and only just managed to get back to Australia before the borders were shut. Fortunately, she could quarantine at home but still ingeniously held court by sitting on her balcony with her friends gathered on deckchairs in the driveway.
The home in question is a modern, two-storey townhouse in Aldinga Beach. As Catriona had previously lived on a sprawling country farm, it took quite some getting used to the downsize. There was neither enough space to place all her artefacts nor walls for her artwork from all over the world. But it was the upstairs kitchen, in particular, that really cramped her style: it didn’t have enough bench space, was unquestionably out-dated and she really wanted to put her own stamp on it, as any of us would.
The style Catriona had in mind was theatrically dramatic: a monochromatic combination of marble, black and white, tempered by the subtle use of Tasmanian oak and brass details. (Hey, if you’re going to entertain, the kitchen is your stage, after all.) And what a nice contrast to highlight the view of the gulf through the windows.
But before we could agonise over colour swatches and collate mood boards, there were two big problems to be overcome. The space the kitchen occupies is long and narrow, making a bottleneck almost inevitable. Then, all the renovations were going to take place on the first floor, with the primary access up a narrow staircase. (And doesn’t our installation crew love that?)
Added to the dilemma, there were things we couldn’t change. The imposition of a nib wall hiding the balustrade to the staircase meant the kitchen’s footprint had to stay the same for the most part. Same with the flooring. Apart from that, though, almost everything else was headed downstairs and out the front door.
Storage and space were Catriona’s two key beefs. (Now, where have we heard that before?) She needed storage and display spaces for her artefacts, cookbooks and an array of tempting liquors, as well as all her cooking paraphernalia. And she wanted the sink undermounted in the island bench, so she didn’t have to turn her back on guests whilst preparing, and she needed drawers “wherever possible”. Fortunately, in our Nathan, she found an open ear and his kitchen-whisperer instincts kicked into overdrive.
...subtle textural element is the Black Ravenna laid in a chevron pattern on the island bench, with each of the six panels separated by a little touch of glam: a six-millimetre brass inlay...
The layout was going to be critical to the success of this new kitchen. And with a few immovable objects in his narrow path, it was never going to be Nathan’s easiest challenge, to be honest. So, how did he come to a solution? The trick is to work out where every moveable element can be placed within the fixed grid and still maintain that ergonomic triangle of the sink, fridge and stove. In this case, by moving the fridge to the far end and the cooking zone into the middle opposite the sink, Nathan created that perfect symmetry and changed the whole flow of the kitchen.
As part of that strategy, the longest wall was destined to be the backbone of the new layout. From kitchen cabinetry at one end, it would morph into a bookshelf/display unit linking to the living/dining area and out to the balcony, so Catriona can grab one of those handy books and a G&T from the cabinet below before heading out to soak up the afternoon sun.
As sophisticated and glamorous as the lady herself, the monochrome palette was always going to be a showstopper. But the black cabinetry was made thoroughly practical because of the traceless surfaces used for all door and drawer fronts, which eliminate finger marks.
Interestingly, the open display section was originally designed so that the back panels could be wallpapered to introduce some colour to the space. But as the design developed, Catriona and Nathan agreed that all the plants, glassware, cookbooks and art on show would provide plenty of life and colour, and a black background would be the perfect foil. See? Sometimes you can just try to be too tricky. Elegant simplicity always wins. Like, for example, the little black dress…
But there’s certainly no monotony to this monotone. The under-cabinet strip lighting highlights the small white textured mosaic tiles with light-grey grout and the elongated benchtops are built from crisp white Caesarstone Eternal Statuario, with muted marble banding.
And then there’s the subtle use of Tasmanian oak, one of Nathan’s favourite signatures and a warming, homely addition. Here, he’s used it as a shadowline detail and for the solid timber legs on the island, as well as for the feature open display section of the back wall, including the playful shelving that runs into the kitchen overheads.
Another subtle textural element is the Black Ravenna laid in a chevron pattern on the island bench, with each of the six panels separated by a little touch of glam: a six-millimetre brass inlay. All the pull handles are also brass half-moons.
At the end opposite the balcony and view, Nathan turned the wall into a complete, seamless module that houses an appliance nook, pantry, fridge and overhead cupboards. Extending it right to the ceiling not only meant more storage; it also makes the ceiling height seem taller. For the overheads, Nathan used Blum HK lift-up doors, which keep the items at these heights accessible.
When we went into this project, we immediately understood the challenges of an upstairs kitchen. But with careful planning, we could overcome most problems without too many compromises. For example, the smaller built-in units were all designed to be delivered up those narrow stairs and the stone benchtop was brought up and installed in just two pieces. It’s the kind of situation that could drive you mad. Fortunately, though, we did have a psychotherapist close at hand.