The new kitchen rules
From internal barbecues to built-in cocktail bars, there’s a new kitchen trend – and it has architects thinking big, writes Stephen Crafti.
Forget minimalism, when it comes to custom kitchens, the order of the day is unashamed opulence – think butler’s pantries, wine-tasting rooms and bespoke built-in cocktail bars. Appliances have also been given the royal treatment, with increasing demand for restaurant-style range hoods, steam ovens and other goods previously the province of the commercial kitchen.
And how did we all wind up with internal barbecues and multiple dishwashers on our wish lists? Top architects point to lifestyle programs, such as The Block and My Kitchen Rules. While these shows are geared to a mass audience rather than architects and interior designers, initial briefs from clients are often based on what they’ve seen on TV.
What The Block hosts Scott Cam and Shelley Craft say, goes – well, in many cases. A makeover on The Block, which can draw in excess of 2.5 million viewers, has a way of permeating living areas around Australia. “We’re finding that people want more sophisticated kitchens,” says Andrew Piva, a director at B.E Architecture, which received an Australian Institute of Architects (Victorian Chapter) award for its work on a grand Victorian mansion in Albert Park, Melbourne.
“Our client loves cooking, as well as curing meat in his basement,” says Piva, whose firm created what is almost an entirely new home behind the heritage-listed façade. The work includes an impressive kitchen and a separate wine-tasting room with wall-to-wall wine bottles. The kitchen and dining areas are connected to a north-east-facing courtyard, where an established grapevine provides sculptural relief against a high brick wall. In the kitchen, extensive bespoke joinery, made with hand-finished chestnut veneer, conceals a cocktail bar lined in bronze.
The appliances are equally high-end, including induction cooktops, an internal barbecue and two ovens, including a steam oven. There’s even a commercial range hood – the sort that wouldn’t look out of place in a fine-dining restaurant. “You could say that this is almost a commercial kitchen,” says Piva. “It’s refined but not overly precious – it’s ideal for entertaining large groups.” Architect Luigi Rosselli regularly designs state-of-the-art kitchens for his clients, many of whom live in Sydney’s eastern suburbs or on the north shore.
The home’s generous terrace is perfect for guests and brims with culinary delights including a wood fireplace and pit, a pizza oven, rotisserie and kitchen sink.
“We’re currently working on two houses that have a main kitchen with a subsidiary kitchen for food preparation that’s almost as large,” he says. The Village House, named for its cluster of interconnected wings, sits on a 3000-square-metre property in the upper north shore. Built at the turn of the 20th century, it’s a heritage-listed Federation home with a contemporary addition. “The clients regularly entertain, whether it’s informally or, at the other end of the spectrum, formal dinner parties,” says Rosselli, whose renovation includes two interconnected kitchens: one inside and the other outdoors.
The home’s generous terrace is perfect for guests and brims with culinary delights, including a wood fireplace and pit, pizza oven, rotisserie and, of course, a kitchen sink. Inside, the main kitchen features a sizeable back-of-house kitchen (or butler’s pantry), which leads to a study nook where the owners can prepare their guest lists. The main kitchen includes three ovens, a range of cooktops, two deep sinks and two dishwashers. There’s also a cellar nearby. For the finishes, Rosselli selected matt battle-grey joinery, adding brass woven mesh to some of the cupboard doors for texture.
He had the island bench elevated to give the furniture a custom feel. Another firm with a reputation for designing top-end homes with sophisticated kitchens is Bayley Ward, which has offices in Sydney and Melbourne. It recently renovated a large Queen Anne-style property, where the kitchen takes centre stage. Pivotal to the work was retaining the Elsternwick home’s original red-brick chimney, which now accommodates a French-style oven that the clients owned prior to the renovation (at 1.4 metres in width, it just fits – as do the hotplates).
A commercial range hood and two inbuilt fridges complete the design. Although this kitchen appears to have been designed for gourmands, the owners don’t often cook. “When our clients entertain at home, professional caterers are brought in, often arriving with large platters that need to go straight in the fridge,” says architect Olena MacCallum, director of private homes at the practice. With this in mind, Bayley Ward requested a fridge with two doors, each one being approximately 45 centimetres in width – wide enough for those platters.
Perhaps the owners of these stunning kitchens have never sat through an entire episode of The Block or My Kitchen Rules. But, says Andrew Piva, the seed was sown. “Ideas on television seep into wish lists – even though they might morph into something entirely new.”
Integrated wine fridges
Built-in cocktail bars
Benchtops with gas hobs
Chunky appliances that can’t be concealed
Kitchen islands with waterfall edges
Industrial tapware that dominates countertops