In case you missed it, I thought I would share our post on kitchen design published recently on Temple & Webster.
What was your brief for the Binnie House kitchen (above)?
The points below are taken from the clients’ actual brief, which demonstrates a well considered approach to what they wanted. It’s a perfect example of how to brief a designer as it outlines the things that are important to them, but provides enough scope for the designer to explore possibilities.
The client’s brief included the following requests for style, colour and materials: Timeless – doesn’t need to reflect current trends; Elegant, refined & sophisticated; Pared back & restrained, yet detailed; Minimising the use of colour and the palette of materials where possible; The interior should offer a reduction in visual noise as complexity as compared to the outside world; Everything should work really well & be robust; Keen to challenge traditional thinking where appropriate; Whilst the interiors will be pared back, they should not be bland & boring; Details will be valued as much as high level concept.
When it came to the kitchen, the client’s brief was fairly specific in the sense that they had to accommodate two existing Gaggenau wall ovens (which we concealed behind sliding doors), and they didn’t want an expensive stainless steel fridge, preferring it to be integrated instead. Double sinks, a decent sized pantry, ample storage, a place for the coffee machine & a family sized bin were all on the wish list. The kitchen had loosely been planned by the architect, so we set about designing the zones with in the kitchen ie breakfast & coffee making in the morning versus cooking in the day & evening. We flipped the sink to the opposite end of the island bench, which brought the related functions of dishwashing & bin access to the middle of the kitchen where it needed to be. We continued the cooking bench around the corner, rather than running it into the wall. This allowed us to create a coffee machine & microwave ‘hutch’ concealed behind a fixed panel & liberating the corner. Mirroring this corner & illuminating it with a wall light also illuminates what would otherwise be a dead space.
In terms of materials & colours, we explored the idea of how to produce an interior that is visually interesting & engaging whilst only using a very limited mix of natural materials. To achieve the clients’ desire for timeless elegance, briefed for minimal colour, we used a pared back palette relying on grand gestures of satin & sandblasted, light & dark finishes, all contrasted for drama.
How do you approach kitchen design?
Usually clients come to me with the kitchen design as one of the first things on their list. It’s the hub of the home in most houses & therefore affects they way we live. As a result I spend a great deal of time in my practice refining my ideas about kitchens. We approach it with a practical lens, asking how it would work best? Once we get the function right, we layer up the detail often to the point of determining where the pots & cutlery are going, finally selecting finishes that will relate it to the rest of the house.
You don’t have to love cooking to appreciate the importance of a kitchen, its more that you understand that most people have spent their lives living in badly laid out kitchens usually with inadequate storage & the design, detail, fitting & finish resolved poorly. As a designer to be able to correct that has a huge affect on how people enjoy everyday life.
What are your top tips when planning a kitchen space?
I always start with the fridge. Is it concealed, slide in, double door, single door? Then I work out where it should sit. This determines the whole plan & I build everything around that. Scale & distance between benches is also a big one for me. You should be able to turn & step between benches within 1m-1.1m. Two steps between & you’re travelling too far.
Don’t worry about what you think you should have. Instead, think about how you want to use your kitchen. For instance, could you get by with one sink to create more bench space? I do. Do you entertain a lot & need two dishwashers? Think about a heavy wash up sink out of the way & a rinsing sink on the island bench. Thinking of your kitchen as furniture is also a nice European concept I try & build into my work.
Are you seeing any particular trends at the moment?
In terms of appliances induction cooking is slowly starting to take off, although it has been a long time coming. Pyrolitic ovens & steam ovens are also common now. Clients are no longer plumbing in the coffee machine, preferring a benchtop model they can take with them. In terms of design, single purpose cupboards or drawers are great. I often design a crockery & glassware tall cupboard so the everyday stuff is all in one place. The kitchen as a modular concept is also something I’m playing with ie dividing it into functional zones: wet zone, cooking zone, dry store zone. I’m influenced by design trends, but the most important thing is to design for the client & the space.
What about your own personal style – what is your own kitchen like?
My own kitchen is tiny so I needed to be really smart about the design & layout. It’s a small L shape with no island bench. Instead I have a round dining table in the middle so we sit down to dinner together every night. As space is tight, I’ve used every nook & cranny. I have a slide out corner unit under bench which stores all my pots & pans, a skinny pull out pantry next to the fridge, slide out bin under the sink, Fisher & Paykel dish drawers to save on bending down and an integrated stainless steel single bowl sink. The finishes are a mix of stainless steel bench which is fabulous, a pietra grigia marble splashback, and gloss 2 pak joinery to match Laminex Chamois. To add a bit of personality I used a stained timber circle handle from Designer Doorware on the pull out pantry. You’ll have to wait for photos of that one, we’ll be shooting my apartment in the next few weeks!
I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about the client side of things for a change, specifically on how to brief a designer. Most clients engage designers once or a handful of times in their lifetime so it makes sense that they would have little experience or may feel unsure. I see it as part of my job to educate clients on how to make those decisions to the extent that I can.
So what’s the process after the initial contact has been made? From the first conversation a good designer should be asking you details about your project to determine if they have the expertise & you are the right fit for the practice both aesthetically & personally. In some cases if I get the sense a client is on the wrong track with their budget I ask them what it is & get in on these discussions early. No point spending time if what the client is after is not achievable. Then if all the early boxes get ticked we make a time to meet at the house.
It starts at the front door. We go for a tour of the house with the client listing everything that is wrong & I work up a shopping list as we talk. Along the way I make suggestions about how something might be tackled as this can expand or refine the brief. Then we sit down at the kitchen table & I discuss how the project could be tackled, any critical timelines & the budget. The aim is to leave with a clear understanding of the scope on which to base a fee.
Now this all very formulaic, & based on a lot of questions & answers. But the most interesting information is often the conversational stuff when we’re sitting down getting to know each other. Which made me think it was post worthy.
First off, there’s the functional brief. The list of things that aren’t practical & need addressing. So why not prepare a brief room by room with your list of requirements ie. you need to seat 10 at the dining table but only have room for 6, there’s nowhere for the kids to study other than the dining room table, the parents need a TV retreat when the kids take over. And let me guess, you’ve don’t have enough storage. Putting it down on paper demonstrates you’ve done some thinking about what you need & you understand there’s a process to design.
Next should come the experiential or emotional brief. Most clients don’t get this far as they’re consumed by their functional brief but it’s just as important. Admittedly this part is commonly left to the designers but the best briefs I’ve received have covered these basic principles & they become a litmus test for the design. So make sure you…
- tell us how you want the house to FEEL
- tell us how you want to live in the house & why you are renovating
- tell us the things that are important to you, what you value
- tell us what you love & the things you don’t
- tell us if you’ve renovated before, if you’ve worked with a designer & what that was like
- tell us what you’re not sure about
- tell us the things you’ve disagreed over & found hard to resolve
- show us some images of ideas or looks you like. We will tell you if you are off track.
An example of an actual brief which captures these things well is below.
The interior should have the following design principles;
- timeless and sophisticated
- reduction in visual noise
- natural materials wherever possible
- details will be valued as much as design
- happy to question conventional thinking ie why are all taps chrome?
This kind of brief is invaluable as it provides an insight into how the client thinks, early. It reduces the getting to know each other part & makes for a better relationship. Rule of thumb is: the more accurate the brief the better the design response. This also helps to build trust (which you must learn to do early) as the designer has a clear understanding of your expectations without having to glean them from other cues.
It’s worth saying, not everything can be briefed. There’s a certain leap of faith on the client’s behalf that their designer will interpret who they are & translate that into an interior that reflects that back to them. That’s why the experiential & emotional brief is so important as it provides the compass.
And one final point, be up front & let the designer know if you are meeting with anyone else to give them an opportunity to decide if they want to competitively tender on the work. Designers are busy & need to have a good chance of getting the work to justify the time spent discussing the project, meeting with you & preparing a fee. There’s a great deal of expertise that gets offered during this pre-job stage and its only fair to the designer that this is not taken for granted.
I’ll leave you with an image from Paola Navone’s apartment as an example of something that could only come from an emotional brief. Imagine saying I want 3 odd chairs all arranged awkwardly? Doesn’t quite sound right does it? But it works because it feels right.
Have a look around you, what excites you about your interior? Not much? It must be time to break out of your comfort zone.
That’s what a handful of my clients engage me to do, but not all of them. It’s interesting, I’ve found the most successful interiors have been the ones where the clients have allowed me to take the most risks. You may not always be sure you’re going to pull it off. But it’s exhilarating, the anticipation. And that’s what you have to do if you want your interior to excite & thrill you & make you happy. Here’s a few hard & fast rules you can try out on your pad. Don’t be too SERIOUS! No really, too much matchy matchy & too much good taste can come off boring. Mix up scale, shape & proportion. And you MUST use colour. Think of creating little vignettes everywhere as focal points to draw the eye. I find having a mix of imperfect or quirky things add that touch of delight that you just can’t get when everything’s a bit too new or restrained. And make sure the scale is right & by that I usually mean large. I have 4m ceilings so I needed to upsize a lot of key elements to make the smaller pieces feel right. For instance I’ve got a 1.5m high vase of branches on my mantel & a large lamp on my kitchen bench. Have fun with colour in key areas. If you do it everywhere it feels a little unedited. I’ve got French glove casts powdercoated bright yellow mounted on my wall for my jewellery & a crimson juju hat over my bed. Multi coloured ikat cushions in purples, green, pink & orange are the bridge between these two. I was never entirely sure it was all going to work as it was a look pulled together over time. But that’s the point, you should feel a bit nervous when you are getting out of your comfort zone. Only then are you creating an interior that’s exciting & full of surprises. It’s invigorating & that’s what our most treasured spaces should be. Anything less is safe & boring.
It has been an exciting few weeks at CHDC with lots of press enquiries & fun things happening. Just in case you missed this week’s post on The Design Files here it is below. Big thanks to Lucy for a great story, Anne-Claire for handling the production behind the scenes & Nik for my new portrait.
“I am often asked to recommend interior designers or interior stylists who can assist with home renovations… which is very tricky, because so many of the amazing and revered design studios we have featured here over the past few years are bigger firms who don’t necessarily take on small residential projects. I’m always thinking I should be on the look out for more ‘approachable’ interior designers, and smaller firms who can take on a great variety of projects, from ground up builds to more modest re-furbs – and excecute every project, no matter how tiny, with the same level of finesse and enthusiasm! That’s why I am super excited to feature Melbourne interior designer Chelsea Hing today!
Having cut her teeth at respected firms Nexus Designs and Bates Smart, Chelsea ‘sort of accidentally’ launched her own practice, Chelsea Hing Design Consultants in 2007. Since then she has relished the opportunity to drive her own projects, and to create a body of work she is proud of.
Chelsea’s passion is residential interiors. Amongst her recent projects, Chelsea was responsible for the renovation of Vanessa Partridge’s Kyneton home, which I know won many hearts when we featured it a few months ago! This particular project is testament to the diversity in Chelsea’s work – it’s so lovely to see a sensitive, understated renovation of a Victorian country home amongst CHDC’s portfolio of contemporary and larger scale projects, such as the award winning Binnie House.
Massive thanks to Chelsea for sharing her beautiful work with us today – one to bookmark for your future dream renovation project!”
Click here to see the full TDF story, images and Chelsea’s interview.
Nothing completes a room like a rug, it seems to bring all the furniture together & make it feel whole somehow. The rule of thumb with rugs is, the larger the better. Clients are always surprised when I suggest really large rugs when we’ve just done new floors, but that’s because the larger the rug, the larger the room will feel. You see when we clock a space we read where things stop & start, our eye very subtly picks up on perimeters. And nothing screams, I didn’t quite get this right like a rug that’s too small. Kind of like a hemline that’s just a bit too short, ruins the whole dress. Anyway, open plan living spaces call for large rugs, sit the furniture mostly on, but just off (see image above, and more of this project here) & go as large as you can.
A few Before & After shots…
It’s been a massive couple of weeks deciding to paint the apartment which involved packing up half the house, moving over the parents place whilst the painters moved in & getting on site at 7am each morning to check on their progress. The decision to ‘go dark’ had been stewing around in my head for a while before we made the leap to get it all done in record time. And so began the search for the perfect colour. And that’s the thing, when it comes to really dark colours, that we don’t work with anywhere near as much as light colours, all the ‘rules’ really do apply. Colour is so strongly affected by light, & specifically the light in your pad, you must, I repeat must paint a big section on your wall & live with it for a few days. This is not for the faint hearted. Being as confident as I normally am with these things I trusted the multiple brush outs I’d done myself & went with the first colour I thought was right. Well it looked really different on the wall. So much so I had a few nervous moments during the week, hoping I could trust myself it would all turn out alright. It was a big risk but without big risk there is no pay off. The colour changes dramatically throughout the day, goes from moody, to brooding, to contemplative. It has taken a few days to adjust but I absolutely love it. I really do. So here’s a few things to look out for;
1. Go for murky colours with a neutral lean towards grey, trust me they will appear much stronger in colour tone than you think
2. Paint a big section or do multiple brush-outs & sit with it to digest how you will feel with the colour
3. Dark coloured walls need strong pops of colour in accessories & lights otherwise it’s drab & lifeless, so you’ll need to add a few new highlights
4. You’ll need to adjust your lighting, I’ve had to add more lamps
5. Use an experienced painter who is confident with the dark colour as this kind of job needs to be in sure hands. I used Hue Painting & Decorating
In the end I went with a Taubmans colour called Sheffield Grey & Frigate in the baby’s room. We used E -Colour zero VOC paint without all the nasties in it, which we had delivered to our door. It was a little more expensive for a 10L can but covers so well you need less than from the standard paint brands. So much so I have paint left over. Anyone? The painters really loved working with it said it went on like a dream. There was a little paint smell but not that much, we moved back in the next day after it was finished & slept happily. So happy with our moody hue. Are you in a daring mood…?
Anyone who was worked on a photoshoot before knows that styling a house to be magazine ready requires a huge amount of work. So I thought this post could be an interesting behind the scenes look at what actually goes on to pull together a house ready for the camera. Apart from the obvious cleaning & tidying, we shop or loan a swag of accessories to finish off our spaces. Mostly this is because we all live in a nearly finished interior (if we are lucky). In fact many live in a not quite started yet interior but that’s a whole other topic. So on a recent shoot we gathered the troops & traipsed around some suitable haunts for old vintage looking clocks, interesting bowls, canisters, flowers, candles, objects & even some carved pigs. We organised the book shelves, colour blocking & stacking, turfing the crappy stuff so the good things could breathe, filled the place with flowers and styled every surface down to cutting oranges & arranging herbs in jars. When we finished the clients were so thrilled they thought this must be someone else’s house, theirs didn’t look this good. Tantalized that they could make it theirs they bought the lot. And this got me thinking, if we’ve got all the basics sorted why don’t we know how to finish off our most treasured private spaces to reflect who we are.
Well we lack confidence & we don’t know how. Yes styling takes skill, it’s about artful placement, grouping things that share beautiful colour or tone & choosing objects & things that resonate with you. So go on, get your house in order! Here’s some before & after shots to give you some inspiration.
Here goes before:
Recently I’ve been getting into Abigail Ahern a UK interior designer who has more than a penchant for colour. I love her irreverent use of all things quirky, she mixes scale, texture & colour in a way that is always interesting & I think somehow liberating. She’s not afraid to literally spray paint a room in one colour! & happily throws together anything in an effortlessly artful way. To use her term she constantly bangs on about using dark inky hues on interior walls & using strong pops of colour in furniture, objects & art. Just quietly I’m seduced by the idea & have been coveting the concept of going dark in my apartment. But how dark? And what shade or hue? Colour to me should be uplifting, never a downer, so this kind of thing is a real commitment & you’ve got to get it right. I want my heart to skip a beat when I walk in. I’ve always been a big fan & still am of dark colours for exteriors, i have been known to call black an environmental colour when thinking about it for a house. But in the interior? I’m thinking petrol blues & dark gasoline grey but not sure yet. I’ll be happily experimenting on myself during May so stay tuned for the results. Above images are from Abigail’s blog. So fab don’t you agree?
For those who couldn’t attend the International Industry seminars at Decoration & Design in Sydney in February, here is the transcript of my talk on “Creating Luxury in Interiors”
I am the founder of a small interior design practice based in Melbourne – Chelsea Hing Design Consultants – we work exclusively on residential projects both renovations & new houses.
When I started to prepare for this talk & I was thinking about how we create luxury in our interiors, I began by looking into what others considered luxury to be – I found definitions around the idea of something inessential, expensive, hard to obtain or unattainable even - I realised that I had a very different definition to this.
For me, luxury starts off as a concept, as designers its our job to translate that into an experience for our clients. That experience is based around good design, the elegance of objects, the clever resolution of every detail, the thoughtfulness of the planning and everything just working together beautifully so that design is no longer noticed, only the form is visible. And when I think about it that way, I realised that creating luxury is ultimately what we are trying to do, with all our projects.
I’ve started off with this quote, because I think luxury is often perceived as great style, but in my opinion, its all about design, & that’s what I’m going to talk about.
Earlier on this month, I had the amazing opportunity to be invited as guest speaker on ”Creating Luxury in Interiors”, as part of in the International Industry Seminar Series organised by Decoration & Design in Sydney.
I’ll be posting a transcript of the talk in a later blog post – look out for it.