Taking a cook’s tour
How Chrissie Swan’s kitchen became her happy place with makeover ideas you can borrow
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.”
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.”
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.