Ingredients for creating a dream kitchen

Ingredients for creating a dream kitchen

Strive for perfection in everything you do.
Take the best that exists and make it better.
When it does not exist, design it.

~ Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of the Rolls-Royce company.

~~~O~~~

It is a cliché to say “the kitchen is the heart of a home” because kitchens of yesteryears were small rooms where glorious aromas would draw conviviality among family and friends. People would gather around the stove top just to get a taste of the wooden spoon.

Today, modern kitchens of contemporary homes are wide open spaces which have the most advanced rangehoods that not only suck away all those delicious aromas, they do it so silently you can hear a spoon drop.

The Before and After

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To be more precise then, the stove top is no longer the heart of the kitchen because open concept kitchens have ushered the island benchtop into the spotlight, making it the superstar of the entire kitchen and quite often, the entire house.

Our previous kitchen was a U-shaped design with the stove top and rangehood located at the end of the galley way. A wall and internal window separated the kitchen on one side with an unusable corridor and oversized laundry on the other side. Space on each side of the cooktop was too small with a dead corner to do any meaningful prep work and was relegated to storing sauces, a toaster and kettle.

The view when doing the dishes was the useless corridor that led to the laundry.

So in designing the concept for our new kitchen, I was absolutely determined for the island benchtop to become heart of this home and transforming the most unusable spaces into highest value use.

View from the kitchen sink

View from the new kitchen sink

Turning a chore, such as washing dirty dishes, into absolute pleasure was foremost on my mind.

Doing the dishes means we can now interact with our friends in the new dining room next to the grand piano. This living space flows out seemlessly onto the new 70 square metre outdoor entertaining deck.

Now that the old wall which enclosed the kitchen has been demolished, the entire living spaces come to life with a panoramic view of the lush and tranquil greenery in the reserve behind our home.

The new 3 metre x 1.4 metre island benchtop

The new 3 metre x 1.4 metre island benchtop

Here is a glimpse of what they might be.

In my next blogpost, I shall talk about “cool stuff” that can be left as feature items on an island benchtop.

Dream Kitchen ~ The Essential Ingredients

Hidden power socket tower

Hidden power socket tower

Since the renovations on our kitchen, living areas and outdoor deck, a couple of local real estate agents have visited our home.

I was a little surprised they did not know what a certain silver disk on our island benchtop was all about.

1. Retractable power socket tower

Retractable 4 point power socket tower with 2 USB ports

Retractable 4 point power socket tower with 2 USB ports

In this modern age of technology, I foresee the retractable power socket tower to become a standard feature in Sydney’s new apartments by 2020.

There are a multitude of models you can choose from online stores – manual or electrical retraction and even ones that change colour. I opted for a simple manual one because it is practical and cheap. I believe the ones that can change colour are those that would devalue your island benchtop instantly.

I love this power point tower because we can charge our mobile phones, iPads and use a host of kitchen appliances on the benchtop all at once.

2. Kitchen sink

Kitchen sink with matt black gooseneck mixer tap and foam soap dispenser

Kitchen sink with matt black gooseneck mixer tap and foam soap dispenser

Just like most things in life, there are kitchen sinks and there are real kitchen sinks.

As far as installation is concerned, a kitchen sink can be one of three things:

a) Top mounted – the edges of the sink sits over and on top of the benchtop
b) Flushed – the edges of the sink is flushed and level with the benchtop
c) Undermount – the edges of the sink is below the benchtop

Double stainless steel kitchen sink 840mm (W) x 400mm (D) x 200mm (H)

Double stainless steel kitchen sink 840mm (W) x 400mm (D) x 200mm (H)

The kitchen that came with this house had a top mounted sink. I dislike this type of installation mainly because food particles get stuck between the lip of the sink and the benchtop. Sinks which are flushed and level with the benchtop require superior workmanship to ensure they are so. Even then, you may experience very tiny food particles stuck between the grooves.

My preferred design is the undermount kitchen sink mainly because one can sweep food scraps directly into the sink. The size of the sink is also important and the bigger they are, the easier it is to clean those large stock pots and pans. The design of the mixer tap is also key to allow ample working space for tough cleaning jobs.

3. Undersink storage

Storage space under kitchen sink

Storage space under kitchen sink

I am particular about undersink storage because this is an utility space to store detergents, cleaning liquids, flammable liquids and plastics.

I have organized this space to house a salad spinner, smaller chopping boards and big colanders on the top shelf. The bottom shelf is used for detergents, flammable liquids and washing agents.

4. Waste disposal bins

Compartment for wet and recyclable rubbish bins

Compartment for wet and recyclable rubbish bins

Sometimes, I lay awake at night wondering how plastic food wrappers, labels and cartons get degraded in landfill.

I am no greenie but I do prefer to segregate wet rubbish from recyclable plastics to do my bit for our increasingly fragile environment. What is important is to have rubbish bins located right next to the kitchen sink for ease of waste disposal. The drawer should also be high enough to accommodate standard wine and plastic bottles for the recycling bin.

5. Dishwasher

Miele stainless steel dishwasher

Miele stainless steel dishwasher

With the amount of home entertainment that we do, Mysaucepan and I find a good dishwasher truly indispensible.

We inherited this Miele dishwasher when we bought this house and though it is due for a service, I find Miele dishwashers to be one of the best in the market (apart from Asko) as they are so silent. Most importantly, they do the job they are intended to do.

6. Dish rack

Foldable bamboo dish rack

Foldable bamboo dish rack

It is stylish to have a foldable dish rack that allows you the option to either leave it on the benchtop as a feature item or to store away for more benchtop space.

I have chosen a foldable bamboo dish rack that accommodates up to 24 dinner plates on the top. This rack acts as an occasional feature item on our island benchtop.

7. Utensils organizers

BLUM kitchen utensils organizer

BLUM kitchen utensils organizer

BLUM kitchen organizers are one of the most highly rated products in the market.

I opted for one that comes with 80mm x 255mm and 80mm x 165mm compartments to hold smaller items such as corkscrews, nutcracker, thongs, can openers, graters, peelers and spatulas.The remaining spaces are fully adjustable to accommodate larger items such as kitchen knives and cleavers.

Cutlery organizer

Cutlery organizer

Forks, tablespoons, dinner knives, teaspoons, soup spoons and chopsticks can be properly segregated.

Spatulas, wooden spoons, wisks, thongs, measuring cups and spices organizer

Spatulas, wooden spoons, wisks, thongs, measuring cups and spices organizer

It looks like we need to spice up our spice rack with more oomph.

8. Deep drawers

Side plates, dinner plates and bowls drawer

Side plates, dinner plates and bowls drawer

When it comes to crockery storage, I am a fan of drawers over cupboards because a stack of heavy dinner plates is easier on your back to lift than to slide.

Large dinner plates, platters, sauce plates and ramekins

Large dinner plates, platters, sauce plates and ramekins

Deep drawers allow stackable options and we can easily stack a dozen 300mm dinner plates and fifteen of our Thai celadon platters in a single stack.

Cups, soup bowls, tea cups, saucers and teapots drawer

Cups, soup bowls, tea cups, saucers and teapots drawer

Deep drawers also have the option of stacking cups, saucers and bowls.

Large stock pots, pans, cast iron pots, woks and saucepans drawer

Large stock pots, pans, cast iron pots, woks and saucepans drawer

Deep drawers can also accommodate the tallest of stock pots, stewing pots, pans and Asian woks.

9. Benchtop prep space

Benchtop space on each side of stove top for prep work and kitchen appliances

Benchtop space on each side of stove top for prep work and kitchen appliances

Whether you use it or not, ample benchtop space is invaluable for both food preparation or kitchen appliances such as the coffee machine, kettle, toaster or the odd Nutribullet blender.

With our new kitchen, I have allocated a 1,000mm x 600mm deep space on each side of the cooktop for prep and pre-cooking. We have found this space to be abundant for everyday benchtop items such as salt and pepper jars, black pepper mill and olive oil dispenser since we do most of the prep work on the island benchtop.

10. Cooktop

Electrolux 5-ring burner gas cooktop

Electrolux 5-ring burner gas cooktop

This is the most important piece of cooking appliance and I have chosen an Electrolux 5-ring gas burner.

The key feature that I love is the large wok burner located in the middle and this allows ample space for Asian style wok-tossing with minimal spillage. For western style cooking, I love the slow simmers and small saucepan burners on the bottom right.

The best feature of this cooktop is the control dials located to the right of the cooktop instead of the bottom. This enables easy dial adjustment during cooking and minimizes spillage over the control dials.

11. Cooking oil and cooking wine rack

Cooking oils, wines, vinegar rack and kitchen towel holder

Cooking oils, wines, vinegar rack and kitchen towel holder

This cooking oil rack comes with a rail to hang kitchen towels.

This rack is both a functional element because it is located right next to the stove top. In addition, it stores away everyday items, allowing your benchtop to look neat and tidy.

12. Overhead storage 

Soft close overhead cabinets with adjustable height stops

Soft close overhead cabinets with adjustable height stops

Good overhead kitchen storage is important for two reasons:

a) Everyday items such as water and wine glasses are easily assessible and free up drawer space
b) From an aesthetics perspective, contemporary soft close overhead cabinets are such a pleasure to use and look absolutely stunning.

13. Rangehood

900mm Schweigen undermount rangehood (Silent)

900mm Schweigen undermount rangehood (Silent)

I chose a 900mm Schweigen undermount rangehood that showcases the best of German technology.

It comes with two task lights that are as bright as you will ever need them to be. The two best features are detachable filters that can be loaded into the dishwasher to get rid of messy cooking grease. This saves a lot of time and effort in wiping down greasy rangehoods.

Best of all, the motor for this rangehood is located on our rooftop which means a whisper quiet operation that allows you to talk to your dinner guests while cooking without shouting at the top of your voice.

14. Pyrolytic oven

Samsung microwave oven and 600mm Bosch pyrolytic oven

Samsung microwave oven and 600mm Bosch pyrolytic oven

Pyrolytic cleaning is an automatic function which cleans your oven with minimal effort. It works by heating the inside of the oven up to 500°C, at which temperature any grease or food residue is simply burned off.

Best of all, this oven has a soft closing feature that prevents slamming while your hands are full carrying that piping hot Sunday roast.

Now why didn’t oven manufacturers think of this much earlier?

15. Walk-in pantry and overhead storage above ovens and refrigerator

Walk-in pantry and overhead storage above ovens and refrigerator

Walk-in pantry and overhead storage above ovens and refrigerator

For any good kitchen, I believe a walk-in pantry is a must.

Though our walk-in pantry is certainly not the biggest, the size is ample for our needs. An automatic light for this pantry is yet to be installed at time of writing though this will be done in due course.

Materia' Black porcelain floor tiles from Italy

Materia’ Black porcelain floor tiles from Italy

One of the features I fought tooth and nail with Mysaucepan during the renovation are these matt black tiles from Italy that bear earthy lines on its surface.  She disliked tiles and wanted floorboards instead.

“Tiles are cold on bare feet in winter” she laments.

To create a luxurious setting, tiles certainly beat carpet and floorboards except for decadent marble. As this is the main living areas in the house, I have also installed under-floor heating that would lend glorious heat from beneath in winter.

Just like a beautiful woman, I fell head over heels the moment I saw these 600mm x 1200mm tiles. They look dramatic when their earthy lines are highlighted by the strip lighting along the kickboard in the kitchen, just like the curves of a beautiful woman as she walks under the spotlight.

When the lighting was finally installed and the warmth of its rays reflected against the earthy grains of the floor tiles, it was proven I made the right decision, yet again.

Island benchtop, two-way bio-ethanol fireplace and steel shelving above

Island benchtop, two-way bio-ethanol fireplace and steel shelving above

Mysaucepan was also dead against the textured wood paneling on the overhead cabinets and under bench but I was adamant it would create a beautiful contrast against the white background. I felt the wood element would also complement my chosen matt black down lights, tapware, door handles and hinges.

During the design stage of this kitchen, I saw the opportunity to install a two-way bio-ethanol fireplace that would heat up to 40sqm of space between the kitchen and the front lounge area.

The best thing about these fireplaces is they do not require a chimney or flue, the burning is odourless and there is absolutely no mess to clean up afterwards.

16. Under-bench storage

Three-metre storage underneath island benchtop overhang and breakfast counter

Three-metre storage underneath island benchtop overhang and breakfast counter

I have also allocated ample space on the overhang side of the island benchtop for more storage space for kitchen appliance and large serving platters.

17. Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting along kitchen floor tiles

Ambient lighting along kitchen floor tiles

When night falls, it is important for a kitchen to look warm and inviting. After all, there is good food and wine to be had, isn’t it?

I chose strip lighting along the kickboards and three copper pendants that emit warm ambient light over the benchtop. Copper is also a great contrast against our stone benchtop, wood veneeer and white polyurethane cabinets.

Definition of a dream kitchen ~ my beloved piano next to it ...

Definition of a dream kitchen ~ my beloved piano next to it …

Last but not least, with my piano next to a glorious kitchen, what else could a man ask for?

So dear readers, what is your definition of a dream kitchen?


Top 5 Reasons to Renovate Your Home in Australia

Top 5 Reasons to Renovate Your Home in Australia

                    Irrespective of why you choose to renovate your own home,
the most important underlying factor must always be the enhancement of its capital value.

                                                             ~~~O~~~

The writer of this article is a CPA of Australia. He has worked in one of the Big-3 international Accounting firms and has developed and renovated numerous residential properties in Australia.

As I write this article, home owners and real estate investors are facing the most challenging times in the history of home ownership in Australia.

Real estate prices are trending at historic highs in Sydney and Melbourne, two cities which I consider premier and the most cosmopolitan in this country. National wage growth is practically stagnant while household debt to income ratio is riding precariously thin. And despite a string of rock-solid economic credentials – inflation of less than 2% per annum, unemployment rate averaging at a respectable 5.5% for the last four years and annual GDP growth of around 3%, interest rates are at 60-year lows of 1.5% and is forecast for at least another cut in 2017.

Notwithstanding the fact we like to change prime ministers like we change BBQ sets every couple of years, the political system is stable and robust as it should a developed nation like ours. Australia is also a $1.6 trillion economy which is inextricably linked with the dynamism of China, the new upstart that is increasingly determined to flex both her soft and hard political muscles in the Asia Pacific region.

The fallout from these factors is a generation of aspiring homeowners destined to become life-long renters in a vast, land-abundant country they call home. For this group of young people, the Australian dream of home ownership is being shut out with each failed attempt at weekend auctions dominated by cashed up investors and baby boomers.

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Life On Site – The Daily Rituals of Living in An Ongoing Renovation

Life On Site - The Daily Rituals of Living in An Ongoing Renovation

Living among the chaos of a home renovation is not for princesses. Then again, I ain’t no prince either.

                                                          ~~~O~~~

I met up with four builders who eventually gave me written quotations for our home renovation. One of the many questions I posed to each was whether we can live in this house while the renovation was ongoing.

Three out of four reckon it will be fine. And Mysaucepan thought it would be okay too, so here we are, in our fourth month since works began on 19 July 2016. The obvious advantage of living in an ongoing renovation is savings in rent for the duration of the works. For me, being able to liaise and solve problems instantaneously with my builder and tradies on site is even more valuable and important because it makes their job easier and faster. I have learnt much more about building construction on this reno that all my previous renos and new builds.

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Kitchen demolition

Kitchen Demolition

                       Today’s menu has 2 choices – Take it or Leave it!

                                                          ~~~O~~~

It has been a long time coming for I have been wanting to demolish this kitchen that came with the house.

Though functional, the wooden cabinets are dated and old. As an enthusiastic home cook, I dislike the design and layout because the microwave, fridge and rubbish disposal are located in awkward areas. The sink is not an undermount let alone one of those with a big and small section where the latter is pretty much a waste of space.

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Getting Down To Building

Getting Down To Building - 11 Trigalana Place

Project planning is an on-going and continuous process before and during the construction phase of a renovation.

I have allowed for contingencies in my budget for the unforeseen – what if we discover a huge boulder while digging into the ground or the entire roof suddenly crumbles during demolition. Depending on the nature and size of the project, I have previously provided a 10% contingency on construction costs for new builds.

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The Line Is Drawn

the-line-is-drawn-11-trigalana-place

 

It seems like ages since sale contracts were exchanged on the 4 June 2015 for this property.

A contingency clause in the sale contract is incumbent upon the seller obtaining probate from the trustee for a deceased estate before settlement can occur. After a prolonged delay, we finally settled on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 for a contract that normally takes 42 days to do so.

I went straight into project planning mode after contracts were exchanged in June 2015, engaging my building designer to formalize and submit a DA for the renovation and addition.

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Words of paradise

Bird of paradise plant on our front lawn (money plant in foreground)

Bird of paradise plant on our front lawn (flowering money plant in foreground)

“Why don’t you harvest these beautiful bird of paradise and place them in your home?” my friend Molly says as she wanders around my front lawn. Simple as these words may seem whilst rummaging through the day, I feel something is amiss.

(Music to accompany this blog post ~ click on the image above before proceeding)

You see, I just got home on my own after a short trip in Singapore because Mysaucepan is still there with her parents.

But just like any other day, the cockatoos, parakeets and minors are out in force. They are vying for karaoke rights in a street that barely hears anything else apart from the giant gum trees whispering in the wind.

Despite such tranquil surroundings on a beautiful winter day, why does it feel a little different today? Continue reading


Creating something special

Creating something special, 11 trigalana place

I am not an interior designer and don’t pretend to be one.

I am an accountant and accountants are generally known to be boring, number-crunching nerds devoid of good aesthetics and creativity, except perhaps, for creative accounting. But I do believe there exist in each of us, however large or small, a sense of appreciation for goodness and beauty that defines who we are. Aesthetically, I find darker colours like charcoal, grey and black exude its mystique when combined with natural textures such as wood and timber motifs.

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Welcome to our home

Jasmine at 11 trigalana place

As I took the steps leading down to the backyard for the very first time, I sensed a good feeling.

It is a feeling that comes when all you hear is the gentle rustling of giant gum trees and the choir of cockatoos, kookaburras, minors and crickets. And as I would later discover, the shy feral rabbits nibbling away in the garden would soon become the conduits I was so fervently seeking. For they do a better job than me in bringing a smile to her face every morning, cajouling Mysaucepan into this tranquility she finds so foreign compared to city living.

They say one needs to be “in tune” with oneself to feel alive. I know I am in tune with myself when I am surrounded by the greenery of nature … white creamy magnolias and birds of paradise blooming in the sparkling sunshine. I was born in the year of the wood dragon after all, so I am supposed to like these kind of things, aren’t I?

Perhaps it is the fragrance of white jasmine curling its way up the wall next to the red entrance door last spring. Or the backyard we enjoyed so many BBQs last summer. For the very first time, I feel the rays of the autumn sun bursting through these windows onto my back as I pen this post from my bedroom. I love cold weather anyway so perhaps there is little wonder I look forward to winter every year. But this year, the warmth of the winter sun will be radiating through our northern-eastern lounge room every morning. Perhaps it is all of these things and much more that have drawn me to this house.

Much more because I am about to embark on major renovations and additions. I foresee a stressful time, especially for Mysaucepan. It is challenging enough when we have major, and I mean Really. Major. Dog. Fights. over an issue as small as the shape and size of the bathroom tiles for our new ensuite let alone colours. And by colours, I mean different shades of white, turquoise and magenta. I have heard horror stories about home renovations breaking up marriages and why shouldn’t they when we cannot even agree on whether it’s going to be white polyurathane for her or earthy wood panelling for me, blond spotted gum floorboards for her or giant black slate tiles for me.

My dear sister-in-law once told me … “There can only be one captain on the ship and that captain is your brother. He makes all the key decisions for our family.”

For Mysaucepan and I, we could not even agree on where to live in Sydney let alone “dragging me here to the sticks”, as she would call it. How could it be, I say, when we are merely ten minutes from Chatswood? But over the last eight months, as I observe her from a distance pruning the rose bush, agapanthus and hydrangeas on Sunday mornings, I can sense that perhaps she is, albeit slowly, making the transition from seeing this place merely as a house to being our new home. But for whichever tile, colour or texture that we so violently argue and fight over, I know in my heart that I love her dearly.

This new blog will become a journal for our lives over the next few months and beyond.

But unlike our food blog ChopinandMysaucepan, 11 trigalana place will document and share our home renovation trials and tribulations, choice of building materials, our favourite tradies, interior design, gardening and the family lifestyle around the north shore and northern beaches of Sydney. There will be loads of before-and-after pics of our renovations for DIY and home renovation enthusiasts. I know we will most likely throw in the odd home recipe for good measure because Mysaucepan and I are both avid home cooks. We can hardly wait to share our escapes from our new kitchen with all of you!

However, my mission for the next few months is to ensure I get to toast a glass of champagne with you from our brand new backyard deck by Christmas 2016. It’s a tall order considering I have yet to engage a builder let alone decide on the myriad of building materials … colours, shapes, sizes and all with so many suppliers though I am firmly holding an approved Development Application (DA) in my hand.

Please join us in our home renovation journey because it is my hope that Mysaucepan will soon discover the method in my madness and eventually be fully “in tune” with this serenity I call home. Alas, I cannot consider this home unless she see it as her home too. Until such time, I have my work cut out but I know it will be all worthwhile when we finally wipe the dust off our new kitchen benchtop and call this place our home.

Best,

Chopinand