This kitchen’s calm facade belies the clever hardworking ideas that are packed into the small-but-bold space
Who lives here: Lucie Miller of Stringspace, a musician booking agency, and her husband Richie Cox, an actor, voice artist and collaborator.
The story: Water-damaged, poky and with a little bug infestation thrown in for good measure, this ageing kitchen with a cork-tiled floor needed some big thinking. It is now a modernist and minimalist kitchen boasting under-bench storage, streamlined fixtures and an-everything-in-one-spot storage cupboard solution.
Timeline: Locking in the idea was quick, but the actual design process was more organic, with Matt Fearns from Fearns Studio working out how to stick to the minimal lines so loved by Lucie and Richie. “Overall, the process took a few months,” says Lucie.
Kitchen renovations are never straightforward. Even the most simple of designs can throw up curve balls, which was exactly the case for Lucie Miller and her husband Richie. “The kitchen was embarrassingly run-down,” says Lucie. “It had some water damage, a great fridge – but it was too big for the space – and being a U-shaped space meant there were hard-to-reach areas. And there was a cockroach problem that we couldn’t get rid of.” Fed up with their depressing-to-look-at cooking zone, the pair needed a fresh perspective.
The water damage was the final straw for Lucie and Richie, but it also opened up the opportunity to make the changes they so desperately needed. “We had things moving fast, as we had a cheque ready to be written before we started the renovation and the insurance company just needed a building company to write it out to and wanted to do that quickly,” says Lucie. The couple had been thinking of going with a kitchen company “but then we spoke to our old friend, designer Matt Fearns of Fearns Studio,” says Lucie.
The initial conversation locked down the bigger-picture design elements. “Nutting out all the details took a little longer, around a couple of months,” says Matt. “There were plenty of important elements to consider – where to put appliances, what kind of white to use, the choice of light fittings and flooring, and cabinetry details.”
The plan was for a minimalist design that relied on functional cabinetry to look after the storage requirements. To counteract the U-shaped layout, designer Matt suggested a galley kitchen. There was some ongoing back and forth over the location of appliances though. “All the appliances had to be below the benchtops,” says Lucie. “In particular, I wanted two under-counter fully integrated Liebherr fridges that open outwards. Our freezer is then on the other side of the room in a corner.” The freezer is located opposite an integrated Bosch dishwasher and there’s also a pull-out bin next to the sink.
The team went back and forth with the joiner to resolve final details. “Matt recommended an excellent joiner, Mathew Watson of Winchester Interiors, and guided us through the design. It was fun,” says Lucie. Designer Matt was happy to email designs through. “I don’t mind not being there to try to control how things are received,” he says. “I use plans to convey layout in the usual way but also work a lot with digital models, and forwarded rendered images to Lucie and Richie.”
The couple stayed in their place for the entire project. “We got very familiar with a camping stove that we borrowed from a friend and used as a temporary set-up,” says Lucie. “We set up the fridge and freezer using extension cords and also used our barbecue quite a lot!”
Pivotal to the project was creating the floor-to-ceiling cupboard at one end of the space. This generous cabinet acts as a pantry, coffee-and-tea station and keeps all manner of plates and bowls neat, alongside Lucie’s beloved collection of blue-and-white Cornishware.
Being on the ground floor of an old 1930s-style apartment block of six didn’t make things easy. “We discovered that the wall was three bricks deep, so approximately 500 bricks were removed,” says Lucie. “Our builder went as high as he could go, but when bricks started dropping from above, we realised that we had reached the maximum height.” Two lintels were put in and the cupboards were made to go as deep as they possibly could. The interior wall was then sealed with a water membrane to make it extra secure.
Matt managed all the trades, from plumbing and electric to cabinetry and stone installation. The entire process was smooth, according to Lucie. “All our tradespeople turned up on time and never cancelled; they were all a bit of a dream team. We love our new kitchen!”
For more info on Matt’s work, visit fearns.com.au.