CONCEPT TO COVER: HOUSE & GARDEN TOP 50 ROOMS

It is with complete and unexpected joy that our Raglan Street project is featured on the cover of House & Garden’s Top 50 Rooms issue.

While it is always a huge honour to be recognised by the industry, this accolade is a particularly rewarding one. Not simply because House & Garden is a household name, but also because this project has taken us all on quite the tumultuous journey . . .

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Almost three years ago our lovely clients approached us with the kind of vision that makes design eyes widen and fingers tingle. The brief was to design a mid-century inspired, Palm Springs-influenced family home overlooking the ocean. Needless to say we could not wait to roll up our sleeves and dive right in!

It was a unique opportunity to build a home from – quite literally – the ground up.

Only a section of the lower ground floor of the original house remained while the rest was to be completely reconstructed to accommodate our client’s large family.  

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Within months of construction commencing, our project was struck with tragedy when the builder sadly passed away unexpectedly. Resolved to finish the project, we continued with a second builder who, just months later, resigned with little notice. By the time we reached our third builder, the construction process was well and truly lagging.

We often enjoy an ongoing “renovators remorse” joke in the studio, but this project was proving to be no laughing matter, as we were tested at every stage! But we soldiered on with our clients, and with shared determination, just over a year after construction began, the house was completed.

And so, from the dust, dismay and disarray, our cover-gracing kitchen nook was born.

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Finding a balance between style and practicality informed everything we did on this project, and the kitchen nook really encapsulates this balance. The custom banquette seat – irrefutably stylish – hides convenient storage underneath its bold form, while the curved seating embraces the family way of living, truly making this space the heart of the home.

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It’s an area that frames meal times, keeps the cook company, nurtures afternoon naps and provides for homework sessions and formal dinner parties with equal acceptance.

As our happy client puts it:

‘I start my day having a cup of tea at the nook before anyone else is up. It has the most gorgeous aspect first thing in the morning. Later my youngest child does her homework at the table and then books and pencils are cleared away for dinner. It's such a comfortable and inviting spot it’s not uncommon for someone to get horizontal and have a little kip in the sun on this lovely banquette.’

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One of the key design elements in the home is moments of bold colour, which set the tone for each space. Despite the use of a brighter blue, the nook maintains a sense of calm and elegance. Even the ‘Vertigo’ Petite Friture pendant light, which floats above the dining table, evokes the serenity of the ocean breeze.

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The result is a space that is both playful and contemplative; beautiful and accommodating. 

It is thrilling to see our hard work come to life, especially after all the stops and starts, and blossom into not only a gorgeous space for our treasured clients, but become a cover star!

Image 1 via House & Garden / Image 2 via Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 3 via House & Garden / Image 4-5 via Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 6 via Pinterest / Image 7 via Alexandra Kidd Design

DESIGN ADVICE: BUILDING CHARACTER

Australian House & Garden Magazine was recently asked by one of their readers ' How do you breathe soul into a new build? We purchased a two-bedroom apartment off the plan and I'm not sure how to make it look less like a 'white box'. I was thinking of using storage units to break up the spaces. Is this the best approach? '

House & Garden consulted a panel of Interior Designer experts, including our very own Demi Barnes, for their help. Demi shares her advice:

New builds are typically finished with white and glossy surfaces to make them feel open, but they can feel uninviting until they're infused with the owner's personality. First, you need to layer tonal colour to create a warm atmosphere.

Gorgeous blue shades are layered in this London home

Then introduce accent colours that complement your existing pieces.

The burnt orange in the artwork is the perfect accent to the indigo walls of Donna Karan’s Manhattan apartment.

The burnt orange in the artwork is the perfect accent to the indigo walls of Donna Karan’s Manhattan apartment.

Coarsely woven area rugs are effective at softening sterile spaces. Or, try adding over-sized floor cushions and other textiles in bold patterns and colours.

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Incorporating storage is a good way to break up an open-plan living space. Floating shelves or an arrangement of hooks allows you to create a gallery of sentimental items that is both practical and visually interesting.

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You could use an open shelving unit as a room divider and add linen or wicker storage baskets. 

Beaded moroccan baskets add a textural eclectic touch.

Beaded moroccan baskets add a textural eclectic touch.

Open shelving with stacked books and objet create a pretty and practical solution.

Open shelving with stacked books and objet create a pretty and practical solution.

Check out the January issue of Australian House & Garden for more expert advice.

Image 1 via Architectural Digest / Image 2 via Yatzer / Image 3 via House Of Philia / Image 4 via Bonnie and Neil / Image 5 via Muuto / Image 6 via Pinterest / Image 7 via West Elm

ALEX TALKS . . . HEATING

If you're finding that your Wooly Hobes and knitted layers aren't quite taking the winter edge off anymore, it's the perfect time to light the fire or dust off the heaters to make your home extra warm and comfortable for the season ahead. House & Garden approached Alex about her design techniques on how to warm a home for their latest July issue. 

What is the best thing about a fireplace, aside from keeping warm in winter? 
A statement fireplace can add drama, style, decoration, warmth and romance to a room. It can help to set a tone for particular style or era. A beautiful fireplace is almost like an artwork. They can be framed beautifully and symmetrically on a feature wall and become the focus of a room. 

What are some fireplace styles that you are loving this season? 
We are involved in a very diverse range of projects at the moment, so I am loving a number of classic and contemporary styles. I love the way a fireplace can add atmosphere to any room. For a more traditional look, I will always love the beautiful carved French surrounds and collars with traditional braziers.

In a classic/contemporary setting, the stone surrounds of the fireplace can be the hero, where full marble boxes take centre stage and the fireplace element is secondary to the dramatic feature. 

For a modern/contemporary look, fireplaces can become statement furniture pieces that add a sculptural element to the room, such as a stand-alone fireplace that is suspended from the ceiling. 

When we think of a fireplace, we often think of the traditional chopped firewood and naked flames. What does a modern version look like? 
Bioethanol Burners have really set the scene for modern fireplaces, allowing us for the first time to easily retro-fit fireplaces into spaces that do not require fluing. This style of fireplace is small so a whole new world has opened up allowing installation into furniture pieces, joinery and in fact almost anywhere else the imagination can take you (with a few restrictions in regards to combustible materials!). For example, we recently installed an EcoSmart Fire Burner on a kitchen bench top. Whilst the generated heat is perfect for an intimate area or room, Bioethanol Burners are more about mood and ambience rather than a source to heat a whole house. 

What is the most effective way to decorate a fireplace? 
Decorating fireplaces can easily be done. For existing fireplaces that have a chimney breast, that being a wall that protrudes, these walls can be painted in a feature colour or texture or clad in a beautiful wallpaper, tile or metal finish.

Mantel pieces offer a more traditional look and are really only required for an open flame. Mantels can be charming and allow space for photographs, artwork, vases or l’objet d’art.

A more contemporary look for a fireplace is to remove the mantels all together and hang artwork or mirrors on the wall above. In modern homes we often allow for a television to be mounted above a fireplace.

Artwork and mirrors hung over fireplaces create focal points and allow for symmetry in a room. Placing sofas on either side of the rooms creates balance and draws your eye to the fireplace feature.

I try to allow for flexible seating in the spaces I design. Obviously you will only need to use a fireplace in colder months and there are many sunny months where the room also needs to work well. Flexible seating allows for spaces that are comfortable whether you are lounging by the open flame, taking advantage of a view or simply watching television.   

How do you disguise less charming heaters? 
For less visually appealing heaters, such as wall heaters or panel heaters we would usually make them as inconspicuous as possible. Making them the same colour or similar to the wall colour means they will fade away and be less of a feature. 

Are there any other forms of heating you would recommend? 
I’m a big fan of underfloor heating. It’s a real luxury to get out of bed or walk into the bathroom and have warmth under foot. It’s also an effective way to stay warm, from your toes up!

Ducted heating is also a great option, but both ducted heating and underfloor heating require some level of building works and are not easy to retrofit. For anyone considering a renovation, I would definitely recommend looking into these options.

We are also currently designing many outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, which are perfect for Australian living and continuing our love affair with outdoor entertaining even in the cooler months.  

Image 1 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 2 via Claesson Koivisto Rune / Image 3 via Pinterest / Image 4 via Decoist / Image 5 via Lovter / Image 6 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 7 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Image 8 via © Alexandra Kidd Design