Reno Diary

This Colorful Sydney Kitchen Channels a Beachside Holiday

Bonus: It even has its own bar
“Our first and most important two decisions were the floor and cabinetry colors” notes Lara. She clad the cabinets with...
“Our first and most important two decisions were the floor and cabinetry colors,” notes Lara. She clad the cabinets with Surf and Infinity Blue laminates by Laminex to represent the family’s love of the ocean. As for the floor, she chose terrazzo to pay homage to the sisters’ Syrian heritage.

Halfway into the pandemic Jinan Budge and her husband were sure they needed to upgrade to a bigger place. “We were both working from home, our kids were doing virtual school, and everybody was under house arrest,” recalls the Sydney-based research technology professional. Still wishing to live in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs without really having the budget for it, the couple and their brood of four—including teenage daughter Mia, 11-year-old son Leo, puppy Muffin, and ginger cat Popcorn—set out to explore the next best alternative: a home on the area’s outskirts. Their house hunt wasn’t immediately successful, but it eventually paid off. “After seeing [what felt like] hundreds of houses, we knew we’d hit gold when we walked into this one,” shares Jinan.

One of the things that needed work, the couple quickly realized, was the kitchen. It was cramped, dysfunctional, and lacked storage. Plus, the monochrome palette made it feel terribly lackluster. In a bid to inject some color and bring the kitchen back to life, Jinan tapped the only person she knew she could trust with her maximalist vision: her sister, interior designer Lara Ette. The brief was simple: design a brave, bold, and functional space that would allow her to indulge in her love of cooking and entertaining, while also serving as a happy haven for the whole family.

BEFORE: The previous kitchen wasn’t ideal for family cookouts. There was no seating along the counter, and little room for movement.

The sisters were keen to honor their Syrian heritage, which they did by introducing soft pink walls, brass hardware, curvilinear forms, and citrus tones evocative of the Middle Eastern sun. “The reason I thank the universe for Lara almost daily, and especially during design projects, is because I have zero patience, eye for detail, vision, or time. Throughout this project, we had a perfect harmony in terms of expectations of my involvement. She took it all the way to the finish line!” says Jinan.

Location: Kingsford, Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Australia

The before: Prior to the renovation, the kitchen was starved of space and storage. “It only had room for one cook, and pantry items had to be stored in the laundry next door,” says Lara. What made matters worse was that the laundry room door and the fridge door overlapped, causing people and things to collide on the daily. From an aesthetic point of view, the space was a boring monochrome, and begging for a boost of color.

AFTER: Lara clad some cabinets with curved fluted panels, brightened in Taubmans’s citrusy Flower Pot shade. “We felt this citrus was the happiest of hues, and evoked the sun’s rays,” says the designer, who opted for an undulating effect to offset the surrounding rectilinear shapes.

The inspiration: “Jinan is vibrant and full of life, and her closet is full of bright colors. You could never accuse her of being boring,” explains Lara. “Because I know her so well, we never really had to talk about the aesthetic, and the selections I put forward were all perfectly in tune with her style.” Lara knocked down one bathroom to expand the kitchen footprint.

Budget: $65,000

Square footage: 190 square feet

BEFORE: In the previous version, the laundry room door and the fridge door crossed paths, causing collisions left, right, and center.

AFTER: Lara moved the fridge to the other side of the room and extended the kitchen aesthetic to the laundry area, blurring the line between the two spaces. The vase is a Dinosaur Designs find.

Main ingredients:

Floor: Lara sourced Verono terrazzo tiles in the shade Boutique from Surface Gallery, as a nod to the sisters’ birthplace, Syria. “It was a nostalgic choice and it’s such a versatile material; I actually use it in a lot of my projects,” says Lara.

Cabinet fronts: Surf and Infinity Blue laminates by Laminex. “The blue reminded us of the ocean, where Jinan and her family can often be found,” shares Lara.

Backsplash: The gray-blue Wyldefel backsplash tiles from Onsite Supply & Design take a leaf from the cabinetry, holding a mirror to the Australian coastline.

AFTER: In the laundry room next door, Lara added an Elysian mixer by ABI, in the color Solis. The vase is from Dinosaur Designs.

Fluted panels: “White and blue would have been enough for most clients, but I knew my sister better than that. Her vibrant personality and flamboyant spirit meant that I needed to add more elements,” notes Lara, who opted to use curved fluted panels, brightened in Taubmans’s citrusy Flower Pot shade, to round off some parts of the cabinetry.

Red velvet upholstery: To make the fluted panels pop, Lara upholstered Contempo & Co’s Glenmore bar stools in red velvet from James Dunlop’s Determination range.

Pink paint: “We chose pink as a hat-tip to Marrakech,” avers Lara. Her words ring true in the petite pink bar nook and rose-toned hood and wall. Lara specified a French wash technique by Porter’s Paints for both.

Pendants: When it came time to select the pendants, Lara was keen on keeping things simple. She chose SØKTAS’s floating Sora pendants to add an understated sparkle to the setting.

AFTER: Lara worked to design a space where four people could be simultaneously cooking, washing up, and setting a table, without bumping into each other. “I've never had this luxury in a kitchen before. In my previous kitchens, an open dishwasher always meant that nobody could walk past, let alone access drawers; and anyone with a chopping board had to constantly hop stations,” says Jinan.

Appliances: Jinan chose a fridge by Samsung, a semi-integrated dishwasher and oven by Smeg, a hood by Qasair, a wine fridge by Vintec, and a cooktop by Bosch.

Most insane splurge: “On reflection, the drinks cabinet could be considered a splurge, as it involved a bar fridge which probably wasn’t necessary, and two open shelves which arguably take up storage space,” Lara reflects.

Sneakiest save: “Because there was so much personality in every material we selected, we were able to choose something low-key for the counter without impacting the overall aesthetic. It was a big save,” Lara says of the engineered stone alternative from Smartstone.

Favorite part: The kitchen island. “The extra real estate is truly a blessing,” says Lara.

What we’d never do again: “I would never be relaxed about choosing a builder or kitchen cabinet maker again. The demolition of the old kitchen occurred well before the cabinet maker had committed or purchased any of the materials, and my family and I sat kitchen-less in a tiny living room, with a blocked-off laundry, living room, and backyard, for five whole months. The installation process was painful,” says Jinan.

Final bill: $75,000

AFTER: The tiny bar-slash-coffee nook is a family favorite, says Jinan. Lara specified a French wash technique by Porter’s Paints for the walls and brass highlights for the shelves. She added knobs from Passio Interiors to complement the wall color.