Heatherly Design is famous for its bedroom furnishings, so what was I thinking venturing into the world of kitchen renovation?
The kitchen had to go. The timber veneer had turned orange and the benchtops were begging to be replaced. Apart from all that, the space was completely wrong, with the position and orientation of the kitchen at odds with the rest of the house. As I tried to puzzle my way through what I wanted an architect friend, who had plans of the house from our bathroom renovations, came up with a solution. “Your kitchen is in the wrong spot,” he said—and he was right. It was so obvious but we actually needed fresh eyes to tell us!
Which is why, not long after that conversation, my husband and I found ourselves knocking down our bedroom wall to make way for our new kitchen.
Out of the bedroom, into the kitchen
Moving from the comfort of the soft furnishings industry to redesigning a kitchen and all the hard finishes that came with it was daunting. It’s a different kind of assignment because it’s a more public space, the surfaces are hard and the suppliers are different, so I started with what I’m used to: a theme—”refined country”—and a colour palette.
I chose grey because it’s a fresh, cool colour to contrast with the heat of a kitchen and added deeper tones for drama, like the charcoal tiled splashback, the black resin sink and the black rangehood and Belling oven, which we chose because it fitted the character of our country house and came in black, my new favourite colour!
At first I wanted a pattern behind the stove but a friend in the industry convinced me not to do it and I’m so glad we didn’t. I might have tired of a pattern, but what I have now is timeless. The tiles chosen have a texture to them so when light hits, there’s a mottled look that adds interest and character.
The oven and the island bench are the centrepiece of the kitchen. I dithered over whether to have marble or reconstituted stone for the benchtop but the more people I spoke to, the more I leant towards marble, which had the right texture and felt more authentic. Any marks would become part of its character in the same way that a bedhead upholstered in vintage velvet bruises—it becomes part of a tonal effect. Aside we loved the story we were told by our stonemason that this particular piece came from the same quarry as Michaelangelo’s statue! I am sure he tells that to everyone but we like the thought of it anyway!
A clean kitchen
When we worked with our architect on the layout of the kitchen, we knew we wanted a walk-in butler’s pantry. We didn’t know what we would put in it—the dishwasher? the sink?—but we knew we wanted one. We opted for its main purpose to be open storage and to hide the microwave and juicer. Deliberated whether or not to do another sink in this area, we couldn’t justify it at the time and having lived in the space for six months now, we are so pleased we didn’t!
The philosophy of hiding appliances was the reason behind designing the slide-up panels either side of the stove. If you don’t think this kitchen looks like a working kitchen, it’s because we’ve managed to hide everything! On one side we have a breakfast nook, which hides our toaster and all the breakfast condiments, and on the other we have everything needed for baking. Whoever’s baking has everything at their fingertips and doesn’t need to fumble with cupboards. However, this slide-up panel concept actually caused us the most grief. The architect found it all too difficult to implement what we wanted and kept opting for the usual solution of an ugly roller door, the cabinetmaker couldn’t make it work either. In the end, it was the ingenuity of my husband that did the trick. We now have buckets of sand in the roof helping to lever up the panels when they open. Ah, the benefits of having a practical farmer for a husband!
I knew having the island bench as the new heart of the house also meant it would potentially become a junkyard. Sure enough, that’s where the children will dump everything when they come inside, so we have three drawers in the bench that I can sweep all that stuff into to keep the bench clear. It’s handy too, because if I’m looking for a battery or a piece of string it’s bound to be in one of these drawers.
All in all, I think we succeeded in making an open plan kitchen a workable space without showing clutter.
The finishing touch
Finishing touches can sometimes make or break a look so I was careful to choose features in keeping with that ‘refined country’ theme. We chose heavy, solid handles from Handles Plus in Richmond because, in addition to being beautiful to hold, they added character and charm to the panelling we’d chosen which was Dulux Grey Pail 2 pack finish below with the sliding panels above finished in Dulux 2 pack Class Blue.
Timber highlights also prevent the kitchen from looking too ‘cold’ so I always have the wooden chopping boards on display behind the stove, for example. We have wide oak timber floors, which we laid over Baltic pine that had turned orange, and I’ve picked that up in the Globe West bar stools, which have black legs to tie back to the oven. Also, the lighting is in a shade of grey that complements the palette but has a little bit of timber too. It brings some industrial charm to a country kitchen.
I can’t tell you how much this kitchen renovation has transformed the house. What started out as ‘let’s replace these benchtops’ has really made the layout of our rambling house make sense now! We wouldn’t have dreamt of turning my bedroom into the kitchen without the input from an architect. When you come through the front door you see the island bench and you gravitate towards it. The kitchen, dining and living area form the natural heart of the house, which is the way it should be.
Now, if only I can stop my husband from cutting lemons for the G&T on the marble…