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Mix innovation and imagination, and what do you get? An award-winning kitchen that stands out from the crowd. 

Kitchens are winning in the chutzpah stakes. The nation is undergoing a paradigm shift, and kitchens have broken out of the ‘dull and boring’ box to a space that’s now considered ‘sexy’.

And it’s all about smart appliances that contain the latest technology, from steam ovens to induction cooktops, eye-catching kitchen design, clever innovation in storage systems and the integration of Web-based technology. The ‘wow’ power has shifted from the laptop to the wok.

Christina and Lou Borec in Strathfield, Sydney, are proud owners of a kitchen firmly placed in the ‘wow’ category – it’s stylish, unique – and the kitchen itself is housed in a very unusual setting.

Star Trek

When the Borecs look up at their 7.5 metre ceiling in the evening, they see stars. The ceiling, stretching across the spacious living/ kitchen area, is made entirely of glass, with automated roller shutters that close when the sunlight is too bright or the hail heavy.

At night, the open plan area resembles a scene from Star Trek, with halogen lights fitted behind the kitchen’s glass-covered cupboards to create an ambient pink and blue effect. The glass also serves to reflect everything that’s in the room and further enhances the sensation of space.

The rest of the house is undergoing a transformation from an older style building to a smarthouse with Dynalite systems controlling security and lighting. Although the rest of the house was still at construction stage at the time of writing, Lou Borec – builder and self-confessed frustrated architect – is eager to have the automated technology up and running throughout the home.

“I’m going to hook up the intercom at the front gate so it phones through to my mobile, allowing me to respond to visitors waiting at the front gate, even though I’m not at home. That’s an excellent security feature. I’m also intending to remotely access control systems like the floor heating and air conditioning from my mobile phone,” says Borec. “I’d say that the home automation to be installed here will probably end up being more valuable than the bricks and mortar itself!”

Fantasy Island

The Borecs are keen entertainers; in fact, during the year 2000 Olympics, they held a huge party for the entire Ukrainian Olympic team at their home. Their kitchen reflects their ‘always welcome’ philosophy.

“The clients’ brief was difficult, actually,” says Impala Kitchens designer Darren Genner. “When I first walked into this space it was very open with not much in here at all. In my opinion, open plan living is about trying to create a kitchen that’s a ‘piece of furniture’ and integrates with the rest of the living space, and that’s what I tried to do for these clients.

“Christina and Lou said they wanted an award-winning kitchen, something that was truly unique and something that reflected their personalities – and that’s what I tried to do.”

And award-winner it is, taking the prize for the Most Innovative Use of Materials for both Bathroom and Kitchen for the year 2001- 2002. The kitchen was also the finalist in four categories and voted project of the year.

 

 

 

 

One of the stunning features in the kitchen is the large island bench unit with a surface of toughened 15mm glass attached solely by invisible glue. The glass itself rests on a multifunction column by Hettich, the first time these columns had been used in Australia, according to Genner. He used mini fluorescent tubing under the island bench itself to give direct lighting, although the area is so well illuminated, the tubing is not essential.

The island unit has been completely floated off the ground, which in itself was a difficult installation.

“With the underfloor heating, it was tricky figuring out where all the heating bars were so we knew where to mount into the floor in order to get the correct support. The reason the stainless steel legs in the island bench are so big was because we had to leave a gap up through one of the legs for the phase power, the gas piping, and all the electricity for the lighting under the island unit,” says Genner.

In this kitchen, the traditional ‘triangle’ method has been maintained. “The distance should not be any greater than 7 metres when you calculate the working triangle,” says Genner. “In this case, the triangle is perfect, with the sink right behind the Smeg cooktop and its centre fish burner.

“We also located the pot drawers and other cooking utensils right by the stove for convenience. My clients cook a variety of cuisine from the traditional ‘meat and three veg’ to gourmet Asian food. We didn’t need to install a rangehood, either, because with the sheer size of the space, steam and any cooking smells just disappear automatically. For convenience, the Liebherr bar refrigerator is situated right near the dining table, along with wine glasses, corkscrews and the like so the cook can prepare meals without being disturbed by people marching through.

Chameleon Colours

Bottichino marble was used on the sink surface to marry in with the flooring, also marble, and on the cooktop area Genner used stainless steel. There is under-floor heating throughout the living and kitchen area, controlled via the Dynalite system.

“We used a metallic polyurethane on the cupboard doors which, given the amount of glass and lighting in the home, is an extremely adaptive colour.

“In certain lights, the kitchen looks mauve, sometimes silver, transforming itself according to the time of day and the lighting,” says Genner.

 

 

 

 

With such a large, deconstructed space, the clients wanted to have the kitchen more like a living area than a kitchen. A 5.5m high, curved wall of transparent glass bricks shields the pantry, GE profile icemaker refrigerator, Panasonic Genius microwave, vegetable storage and recycling bins from sight.

“We used stainless steel pullout drawers that are capable of holding up to 40kg each. All of the dinner sets are stored there, whereas in a typical kitchen they are often kept in overhead cupboards, making access difficult. There’s also a great deal of storage underneath the island bench.”

Reflections

To Lou Berec, architecture is a living art, and despite his spirit of adventure that’s clearly reflected in his smarthouse, he feels it could be even more dramatic. “It’s hard to express what’s in your imagination, but right now I want an aluminium catwalk in the glass roof accessed by a decorative spiral staircase so we can go and sunbake up there. It’s limitless, really, what you can do.

“As far as the kitchen goes, for example, I wouldn’t have a kickboard; I’d also have halogen lights along the cabinets as I do in the island bench.

“Overall, I’m very happy with it, but I could think of other things I would do; it’s an evolving process, really.

“I’ve been a frustrated architect all my life because I did one year of architecture years ago, and I think that is what motivates me and why I love to build. One day I’ll build a pool that actually comes into the house!” .

· The Berec’s kitchen was built by Impala Kitchens (02) 9819 6915. Kitchen designed by Darren Genner for Impala Kitchens.

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