We bought our townhouse in Tighes Hill at the end of 2020. Before this, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Newcastle's CBD. It was central and cosy, but we were ready for more space.
We packed up, moved, and prepared for life with more room.
Surprisingly, we discovered our new home's kitchen was lacking, both in bench space and storage.
The U-shaped kitchen that we'd had in our previous apartment, although small, was deceptive in its space with all those deep corners and cupboards to the ceiling.
Our new open kitchen with island didn't give us enough room to keep all the gadgets, baking trays, pots, pans and other culinary tools we've picked up along the way, so we resorted to freestanding racks as an interim fix.
I love to bake. My husband loves to make fresh pasta and coffee. We were using the top of a chest freezer as a chopping board.
We needed more room.
There was no need to overhaul the space, just tweak and improve. Our wish-list was fairly straightforward: extend the island to the wall, move the microwave from under the island bench to a higher place (so it didn't nuke our nether-regions), create more cupboard space, add a bin drawer, add shelving and a wine rack.
Not a big job, not a small job, but during those deep COVID days, many had the same idea: to up the ante on their living spaces and renovate.
Finding a kitchen builder who would accept anything less than a complete redesign and rebuild, plus someone who had an open mind, attention to detail and a fresh approach, led us to Ben and Nicole Percival at Percival Kitchens.
Ben specialises in custom-made kitchen and joinery and loves working with timber - just what we needed.
After a couple of in-kitchen consultations, Ben worked up some 3D renders and got underway with building the pieces in his Thornton-based workshop to reduce the amount of time needed for installation and disruption to the use of the kitchen.
The original cupboards are grey, with light timber floorboards; so it's quasi-Scandi in feel. We needed to tie-in existing colouring while brightening the mood. The challenge was to use an additional material while making it look like it had been part of the design all along.
Early on we realised that extending the bench top with the same stone was a Herculean task involving removing the old bench, smashing it up offsite and making a new one. We decided it would be simpler (and more affordable) to extend using an alternative material.
Timber was the obvious choice. We settled on a spotted gum - a native wood to NSW - with grey undertones that would complement the palette. It was to be used for the bench top extension, the new under-bench shelving and the floating shelves on the wall. Although timber is proving to be much harder to get at present, Ben managed to source some beautiful wood from near Coffs Harbour via a supplier in Cardiff. The extension was designed to overlap and sit on top of the existing bench, adding texture and depth.
Having collected a few cookbooks over the years and stashing them here, there and everywhere, I wanted to keep them where they are used - in the kitchen. After a cull, the under bench shelving was to become their new home, alongside larger second-tier appliances such as the slow cooker, blender, food processors, a sandwich press and baking dishes.
Floating wall shelves provide further storage options for more decorative and delicate items and for items that need to be within easy reach, like ice-cream bowls (essential) and knick-knacks passed down from my grandmother.
The original pantry door was cut in half to create top and bottom cupboards either side of the new microwave space. Ben sourced more formica laminate in deep anthracite to create a drawer to fill in the old microwave hole, and to add in a convenient soft-close double bin drawer and extra cupboard under the bench extension. All drawer and cupboard handles were replaced with a curved matte option in charcoal to save on bumps provided by the previous sharp-edged ones. They are also less inclined to experience paint wear over time, keeping them looking newer for longer.
Due to the enormous double sink and drying space, it isn't particularly ideal to have bar stools along the original bench - you'd just be staring at the tap. So, an overhang was left on the extension in order to pop one chair there, conveniently located next to the new wine rack.
Overall, the new additions blend in with the old, and those few adjustments make it a space that works so much better and makes the kitchen the heart of the home again.
Anyone for a piece of cake?
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