Tak­ing a cook’s tour

How Chrissie Swan’s kitchen be­came her happy place with makeover ideas you can bor­row

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - cather­ine.nikas@news.com.au Pic­tures Chris Groen­hout

Bub­bly ra­dio and TV per­son­al­ity Chrissie Swan is a self-con­fessed foodie, but the kitchen in her Mel­bourne home was not al­low­ing her to hone her tal­ents.

The mum of three says the room was not liv­ing up to its full po­ten­tial in the space it oc­cu­pied due to its dark bland colours and awk­ward lay­out, but when she bought the prop­erty five years ago she couldn’t jus­tify rip­ping out it out to start anew.

“It was state of the art when it was put in by the pre­vi­ous own­ers in the early 2000s, but to me it was a funny de­sign from the get-go,” says Chrissie. “It looked OK un­til you started liv­ing in it and us­ing it.

“The fridge was po­si­tioned right in the mid­dle, so I couldn’t watch the kids while they were play­ing in the next room.”

Other de­sign flaws in­cluded a re­ally high bench­top, so you couldn’t pass any­thing over it — you had to walk around it in­stead.

There was also not enough stor­age, so Chrissie stored kitchen items in the laun­dry and the cut­lery drawer couldn’t hold more than a hand­ful of forks be­fore it got stuck. Worst of all, de­spite the size of the kitchen, there was only 100cm by 50cm of us­able bench space. And so, the list went on.

“Also, there was one cup­board which you had to pull out and pop open with an el­bow to get a glass out. It ir­ri­tated me for a long time, so I had a few good years to work out what I re­ally wanted in a kitchen de­sign.”

Even when ap­pli­ances were fail­ing, giv­ing her the per­fect rea­son to re­model, she didn’t.

“I was in the mid­dle of cook­ing a beef welling­ton for a din­ner party and the oven broke,” she says. “It was such a nightmare, but I re­placed it. I should have started ren­o­vat­ing at that point.”

Good bones

Although the kitchen was awk­ward in its lay­out, the car­cass was sturdy, so Chrissie didn’t have to start from scratch.

She also cut down on ma­jor costs by leav­ing the main items, such as the two ovens and the kitchen sink where they were.

“I liked where the ovens and stove­top were, and I liked the po­si­tion of the pantry, but that needed to be big­ger and we needed to get the bench height right.”

The fridge had to be re­lo­cated to the other side of the kitchen to al­low Chrissie to see out past the liv­ing room to the back­yard.

In stark con­trast to the dark brown of the old cup­boards, the new white Laminex cup­boards give the room a bright, open feel.

“The win­dows were al­ways there, but you can see them now and it’s made the whole kitchen bright,” Chrissie says. “The cup­boards are ac­tu­ally taller than be­fore and we’ve added a full bank of over­head cup­boards along the wall where the range­hood is.”

Prac­ti­cal beauty

The new kitchen was re­mod­elled by Gran­ite Trans­for­ma­tions, with a white and blue-grey soft vein non-por­ous, en­gi­neered stone a prom­i­nent fea­ture.

Chrissie says the new de­sign of­fers the best of both worlds.

“I love mar­ble, but I needed a bench­top that could with­stand red wine be­ing spilled on it,” she says. “En­gi­neered stone is ro­bust, so I can put a hot pan straight on.”

She strug­gled to find the right han­dles for the kitchen, so de­signed her own.

“I got big, round wooden han­dles made by a lo­cal ta­ble builder, Foot­print Fur­ni­ture in North Mel­bourne,” she says. “I nearly wept when I saw them be­ing put in be­cause they are ex­actly what I wanted.”

With two ovens, a steamer, tep­pa­nyaki grill and cof­fee ma­chine, Chrissie’s kitchen is now her “happy place” although there is one as­pect that still needs at­ten­tion.

Chrissie is tak­ing her time find­ing the right stools for the break­fast bar, so the fam­ily uses a big round ta­ble in an ad­join­ing room, which matches the an­tique tim­ber han­dles.

Plumb­ing has stayed in the same po­si­tion, which saved money, but the new kitchen is much more open with plenty of benchspace in en­gi­neered stone.

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