This is one of those projects I affectionately call a 'LOVE' job.
The inspiring clients - live at The Plummery in Northcote, an impressively productive 280sqm urban block. They are the type of home-owners I respect as they have finished all of the "less-glamourous-but-sensible-jobs" first - adding solar panels; setting up a nectre wood heater; installing home-made double glazing (bubble wrap); and building a wonderful sun-trap conservatory out of reclaimed materials that shelters seedlings, warms the house and even grows tropical fruit! They have also spent many years developing every square inch of The Plummery permaculture garden hence creating an abundance of produce in a self-sustaining nutrient cycle. This cycle includes composting waste; nourishing soils and organic matter; and growing fruits and vegetables from which seeds are then saved for planting the following year. At certain times of each season there will be a glut of produce - with kilos of feijoas, blackberries, grapes, persimmons and plums passing through their tiny lean-to kitchen to be preserved, fermented, dried, bottled and baked.
After years of using this old dysfunctional kitchen Kat and Nik were ready to create a purpose-built kitchen to do all the busy work. In an agreement with Brave New Eco that was part barter-exchange (I've had all my seedlings hand-raised at The Plummery for the past year) we set about designing the ultimate hard-working tiny kitchen in the same six square metre space as the original kitchen but replaced it with high-quality efficient appliances, no hard-to-clean surfaces or fiddly deep cupboards, and with everything they need within arms reach.
"The kitchen is the heart of our permaculture system. We grow most of our fresh produce and make meals from scratch and so the kitchen needed to be able to handle heavy use and lots of dishes! It has a tiny footprint of only a few square metres so we needed bench space and storage solutions. Using local, recycled and sustainable materials was paramount for ethical reasons, but we also wanted a bit of a modern twist. Looking back there are certainly conflicts in our brief - recycled and rustic yet modern, tiny floor plan but with lots of space, heavy duty but with a light footprint - but Megan has somehow delivered on each one of them", says Kat.
For all of the utilitarian function desired by the owners we wanted to steer clear of a cold and minimalist outcome in a home that truly embodies "cosy". To avoid this from happening Brave New Eco merged industrial functionality with an organic, homemade charm. One side of the kitchen became the utility bench with all of the appliances required to make a small kitchen hum. An induction cooktop; a built-in oven; an efficient 450mm wide dishwasher and a tiny 1.25m sink were included under a stainless bench-top making a seamless junction between wet and hot areas that is less likely to get damaged and easy to clean. Terrazzo floor tiles give the splashback a lovely natural stone palette and minimal grout reduces the amount of cleaning needed. In collaboration with the owners we designed a reclaimed Blackbutt drying/shelving plate rack that was made by a local craftsperson, Sam Joddie. It was thoughtfully designed for plates and cups to drip over the sink area. Kat had the idea to line the shelf trays with the cut-outs of recycled plastic bread crates- this solution worked an absolute treat.
A floating shelf over the island bench houses anything fermenting, soaking, rising, drying or otherwise needing passive observation without cluttering the workbench. This shelf had to be such a height that one shorter and one very tall house-holder (read: Kat and Nik) could both reach it and see under it, so much detailed measuring ensued.
Knowing the owners had many friends on country properties I set them with the task of finding a dry fallen branch of the right proportions to use as a semi-structural vertical element for the floating shelf unit. They soon returned with a beautiful Redbox branch not too curvy, not too straight. They whittled the bark off themselves to show the beautiful surface below and Sam incorporated the branch into the shelving thus completing our marriage of utilitarian and organic elements.
"We especially love our dish draining rack which combines drying and storage to cut the chore of putting away dishes. The overhead shelf to store our ferments, cultures and produce which is out of the way but visible so we can keep an eye on what needs to be used up is also fantastic and so beautiful that it has become a real feature in our living room" observes Kat.
The walls were painted in Murobond paints and energy-efficient LED strip lighting is recessed under the open shelving. Kat hand-felted the 'wolf back' pendant light using natural wool.
"We always spent a lot of time in the kitchen but now we relish that time. Jobs like cooking, cleaning, washing up and preserving produce have become so much easier and more enjoyable. So the irony is that we now need to spend less time in the kitchen but we're wanting to spend more time in there", says Kat.
All photographs by Emma Byrnes