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A kitchen that thinks for us

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Entertaini­ng used to be an upstairs downstairs affair for Deb and Pete McDonnell. They spent 10 years running between their upstairs kitchen and downstairs living space before kicking off a renovation that has changed their lives.

Pre-reno, guests would sit at the table adjacent to their U-shaped kitchen or downstairs in the living room, making entertaini­ng awkward. “We’d be peering over the top. We couldn’t just gather around an island to chat,” says Deb.

When they were ready to renovate, their brief to Sonja Kritzler Design was quite straightfo­rward: Hamptons-inspired, light and fresh with lots of natural light and white, a feeling of openness and space and nothing that was going to date.

“We wanted to create a space that is welcoming and be the hub of the home, a space that brings the family together no matter what time of day – and functional with two boys.”

The building scope quickly grew. “We started at moving the kitchen downstairs to create more of an inside/outside flow and ended up renovating the whole house,” says Deb. “We loved Sonja’s design. We didn’t really deviate too much from her original plan.”

Stylish finishes aside, functional­ity was paramount. The key ingredient­s were the bare-topped island of their dreams, plenty of drawers and shelves for glassware, integrated fridge and integrated dishwasher for clean lines and plenty of benchspace. The fridge is near the oven and the dishwasher near the sink and the bin.

The kitchen is primarily Pete’s domain and he was set on a 900mmwide, self-cleaning oven. There is a second, steam oven – “healthier than a microwave” – and both are put to good use when there’s a crowd.

“Deb and Pete wanted their kitchen to have the wow factor, as long as materials were durable,” says Sonja. “For them it was definitely a balance between function and form.”

The bold hued island with smart brass trim detail is the natural centrepiec­e, with comfortabl­e seating for the boys to do homework and a place for guests to linger and chat.

One of the most successful elements of the design is behind the scenes

– a large walk-in pantry or butler’s kitchen. “It’s a winner – we can close the door on the mess while entertaini­ng and the kids use that area to make their brekky,” says Deb.

A Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer, commonly referred to as ‘the boys’ fridge’ contains milk and yoghurt for cereal or butter for toast. There are no doors in the pantry space so everything is easy to access and visible.

“It’s much easier for the boys (Harry, 13, and Jake, 10) to find what they are looking for. They love this area, especially with the cool drawer. It can also turn into a wine fridge or freezer,” adds Deb.

A Zip tap, delivering cold filtered water, boiling hot water and sparkling water on demand, is another much-used feature of the butler’s pantry, as is the oversized sink in the pantry.

“This was by design as most of the dirty work happens here,” says Deb. “The pull out tap in the pantry for pots and pans is also a winner.”

While Pete focused on appliances, Deb was director of storage. “We have lots of glassware, platters, and I’m a stickler for clean benchtops and things being hidden away. Sonja designed a run of long shallow drawers in the island to store cutlery, containers and platters. “Everything has a home,” says Deb.”

A big fan of natural stone, Sonja specified Elba marble for benchtops and splashback­s, a splurge that has paid off.

The McDonnells couldn’t be happier and it has become a feature throughout the home. “It looks and feels amazing. And the benchtops

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