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An assorted mix of modern and natural materials, combined with vivid splashes of color, creates a kitchen that's at one with its coastal environment


Create a contemporary kitchen while maintaining the established ambience of a 1920s beach house. This was the brief the owner of this home gave to architect John Mills. He responded by using an eclectic selection of materials in an innovative way.

"As part of a complete renovation, I was asked to design something that reflected the personality and style of relaxed coastal living, while retaining the original essence of the home."

Mills says he prefers designing for individual impact, rather than following a fashion – a philosophy that won him a local design award for the project.

Walls that once separated the kitchen from the living and dining rooms were removed to create one large living space. The kitchen is now a busy thoroughfare, connecting various areas of the home. The curves of the island reflect the way people interact with the space, says Mills.

"People don't move in straight lines. So why design sharp angles? I like curves because it gives you less obstacles."


Copper on the island base reflects the grain of the local matai wood tongue-and-groove floor and will develop an interesting patina.

The floor has been sanded back and given a coat of polyurethane varnish to provide a simple, but durable surface.

Black kitchen cabinets help create an illusion of space, and seemingly vanish at night. Concealed lighting from the rangehood illuminates a hand-painted, blue tile backsplash.

"The tiles pull the whole design together and act as a visual exclamation mark. This gives the architecture punch and individuality," says Mills.

The clients like a lot of color, as shown by their choice of art, which inspired Mills' selections. Predominant colors include black, lime green and a rich purple on the plywood base of the island. This draws out the red tones of the walnut top.

"When combining wood types, it's important to select highly contrasting grains. If they are too much the same, things become discordant," says Mills.

First published date: 13 April 2006

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Credit List

Architect John Mills, John Mills Architects
Main contractor Pencarrow Construction
Joinery Millard Joinery
Backsplashes Blue tiles from Penguin
Paint Resene
Lighting Reil Lighting
Oven Smeg
Faucets Paini Cox