Chef Adam Liaw’s abode is a reflection of his loves and life
Warm and welcoming, understated and charming. If, as they say, a home reflects the people who live in it, there’s surely no better example than that of lawyer-turned-chef, MasterChef winner and SBS TV presenter Adam Liaw. For Adam’s family, their Sydney home, and the pieces that dwell in it, are a true reflection of their personalities and the way they love to live. In addition to their travels together, Adam cooks around the world for television series Destination Flavour, while his wife, Asami, is back and forth between here and her native Japan with the couple’s two adorable children, Christopher and Anna. Yet all this travelling – and exposure to gorgeous pieces that tap into the couple’s beautifully understated aesthetic – has created a bit of decorating negotiating. “Asami and I have a deal,” explains Adam. “Pretty much the equivalent volume of whatever I bring back is what I need to throw out. There’s lots of nice stuff that we bring back from overseas – and lots of crappy old stuff that I collected beforehand!” Asami found what would become the couple’s family home six years ago and, while Adam admits he barely saw the place before moving day, he quickly fell in love with the area – a deceptively peaceful suburban enclave within minutes of Sydney’s CBD – and the home itself, a renovated Federation with a heritage facade and front rooms, and an open-plan back area, flowing seamlessly to a spacious deck. Though the house was fully renovated, Adam and Asami wasted no time in putting their individual stamp on it, particularly in the kitchen. “I actually reduced the size of the island because I thought it was a bit wasteful,” says Adam. “Kitchens need to be efficient in their design, more than being big.” The father-of-two’s preferred way of working – neat and concise, with no wasted movements – makes for not only a wonderful kitchen for a chef, but for a family. The storage is plentiful, everything is in easy reach and even the appliances were chosen with convenience first in mind: the 90cm oven was swapped out for two 60cm ovens, one of which is for roasts and the other one a combined convection oven (used for baking) and a microwave. The decor, too, has been stamped with the family’s unique style. “It’s that Scandi-Japanese kind of thing that everyone likes these days, but it’s not just an aesthetic for us,” says Adam. In addition to the family’s trips back to Asami’s hometown in Japan, they frequently visit Scandinavia. It is, however, their strong ties to Japan that are really visible, in small ways (Japanese ceramics and the odd piece of art), but also in one big way: a custom-made tatami room for dining, where the couple entertains – when the kids haven’t turned it into a Lego construction site, that is. Which proves this welcoming abode has achieved that desired combination on so many homeowners’ wish lists: a style that works for kids and grown-ups alike.
“There are a couple of JAPANESE details that have been incorporated, but it’s still an Australian house for an Australian family” ~ Adam
A custom-made tatami room (named for the uniformly sized mats, by which all Japanese rooms are measured) was always on the wish list for Adam and Asami – albeit an Australian version of the more traditional design (opposite). “Every Japanese person can sit cross-legged for a very long time, but for most Australians, it’s a bit of a challenge – I can’t do it either,” says Adam with a laugh. “So we designed this as a ‘horigotatsu’. Instead of sitting right on the ground, the tatami is an entire raised platform around the room, with a hole under the table for your legs. It’s a lot more comfortable and the posture is just like sitting in a chair. Raising the platform gives us lots of storage, as well.” In one corner sits the sake barrel from their wedding (top right), which they often repurpose as an ice bucket. “Instead of cutting a cake, a Japanese wedding has a ceremony called ‘kagami biraki,’ which is where a barrel of sake is smashed open with a wooden mallet,” explains Adam. “The barrel itself was a gift from the sake brewery in my wife’s home state of Ishikawa, as they are friends of our family.”
The couple knocked out a false wall in the original kitchen and dining area to create a much-loved and used open-plan living space (top left), which is enjoyed by all the family, including Christopher. During the renovations, the couple also included new built-in bookshelves made from Tasmanian oak. “I’m a firm believer that every house has to have a nice bookshelf,” says Adam, adding the kids are far more likely to pick up a book with such easy access.
By shortening the kitchen island, Adam and Asami made room for a dining table at the end, where Adam and Anna get creative (right). A far more inclusive set-up, this lets the family sit and talk while Adam cooks. The table itself is a thing of beauty – a solid slab of timber with ‘live’ edges and an uneven finish that offers an organic softness to contrast with the hard surfaces of the kitchen. For a similarly unique table, try the ‘Antigua’ table from Bare Outdoors.
HEART OF THE HOME With a doubleheight ceiling, beautiful finishes and carefully selected features, the kitchen, naturally, lies at the heart of the Sydney home that lawyer turned MasterChef winner Adam Liaw (pictured) shares with wife Asami and children Anna and Christopher. “It wasn’t a bad kitchen,” he says of the space, which he had renovated. “It just wasn’t exactly the way I like it – I’m a bit particular about that kind of thing!”