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Modernist simplicity

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This sympathetic renovation of a 1950s home emphasizes bold, simple forms and color

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In the 1950s, kitchens were typically small with narrow countertops and painted wooden cupboards. They often included dinettes or drop-down tables and pull-out chopping boards. While these early forerunners of today's fitted kitchens may have had a quaint charm, they were less than ideal for busy family lifestyles.

The 1950s home featured on these pages included just such a kitchen. As well as being small on workspace, it couldn't accommodate the size of today's standard kitchen appliances, says architect Paul Hecker.

To cater to the needs of a growing family, the former kitchen, dining room and study were combined to create one large open-plan space.

"While the owners wanted to modernize the kitchen, they also wanted to keep it sympathetic to the original style of the house," says Hecker. "We felt the new design needed to be simple and not too aggressively modern."

In keeping with these requirements, the kitchen was designed around a long countertop that provides work space at one end and a casual eating area at the other.

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"This is the central sculptural element around which everything happens," says Hecker. "The chunky size of the countertop not only suits the aesthetics, but also conceals the steel supports for the cantilevered unit."

Hecker says the orange-red color of the lacquered cabinetry adds warmth and fun to the room, and the same shade is used elsewhere in the house.

Twin banks of white cabinetry at either end of the kitchen conceal the refrigerator and pantry and provide plenty of storage.

The customized rangehood, made from raw steel, is another sculptural form. Its charcoal color is repeated in blinds that help reduce glare in the kitchen, an important consideration as the room has large sliding doors on both sides. When these are fully open, it feels as if you're cooking outside, the architect says.

First published date: 24 August 2003

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Credit List

Designer Paul Hecker and Beatrix Rowe, Hecker Phelan
Kitchen manufacturer Ashwood Design
Countertop Virgo from Stone Italiana
Faucetry Borma from Mary Noall
Oven and cooktop Miele
Hood Qasair
Dining chairs Kartell Maui from Space Furniture
Dining table Fritz Hansen from Corporate Culture
Lighting Sunnylight surface mounted fittings from Euroluce, Rastaf recessed downlights from Inlite and Wanders Wonders pendant from DeDeCe