Fam­ily des­ti­na­tion

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!”

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