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Kitchen dreams

10 November 2023

From hand-hewn joinery and divine intervention in a restored church and the effortless accommodation of a home grill big enough for a burger joint, to an off-grid sanctuary with an industrial feel and a luxurious nod to Georgian architecture, South Island-based designers took out many of the top titles at this year’s prestigious National Kitchen and Bathroom Association (NKBA) Excellence in Design Awards.

“This designer truly understands architecture and how to work with it to create beautiful spaces,” read the judges’ notes for Designer of the Year Davinia Sutton, who was awarded the highly regarded accolade in 2023 for the second time.

Judges (including Celia Visser, Damian Hannah, Natalie Du Bois, Wim de Bruin and Gavin Hepper) said Davinia, owner of luxury kitchen design company Detail by Davinia Sutton in Christchurch’s Merivale, was confident in her design, and that she “knows materials, what works and what doesn’t”.

“[She] confidently mixes textures and tones and ensures they work together in harmony” and “has belief in their abilities and an incredible understanding of design,” they added.

Alongside her Designer of the Year title, Davinia and her team also won the Supreme Bathroom Design Award, Spatial Innovation Design – Residential, Visual Impact – Bathroom, DNKBA Kitchen Design – Elite, Bathroom Distinction Award – $50k+, DNKBA Bathroom Design – Elite and Spatial Innovation Design – Commercial.

Her ‘Georgian Glamour’ project, which was awarded Kitchen Design – Elite, is described as “a large, bright and open kitchen with clear sight lines to the gardens and pool beyond”.

“The brief was for a kitchen characterised by a modern aesthetic, but one that also respected the early 1900s Georgian architecture.

“The island features a preparation and wash zone with integrated appliances and is grounded using dark Pietra grey marble sleaves of stone to its surround. The combination of finishes, from the depth of the black painted flooring to the profile of the modern framed door detail, and the careful choice of appliances, gives this kitchen a sense of elegance.”

Judges called it “beautiful, a simply lovely kitchen”.

“This space has been well executed by the designer, and they have interpreted the brief to a high standard. The nod to the Georgian style is very interesting, particularly given the successful way it has been represented.

“The choice of the darker tones and materials was the right one, with a lot of light coming in, a lighter tone would have looked washed out: instead the design has grounding and depth.

“The curves of the stone and use of dark burnished timber has been done very well and shows confidence.”

Fellow Christchurch designer Maria Pomeroy of Maria Pomeroy Interiors was also a winner for the region, taking out the Kitchen Distinction Award – $30–$60k and the First Time Entrant – Kitchen Award for her ‘Industrial Gem’ kitchen, created to sit within a new, architectural off-the-grid 100m2 house.

The client wishlist was to have a robust, easy to maintain kitchen with ample storage, keeping within a budget but still allowing for bespoke fittings.

Being off-grid, longevity of materials was key, as was using products that could withstand the sun. A gas hob to allow for exceptional weather conditions was critical, as was a large pantry for food storage in case of being snowed in.

The homeowner preferred an industrial feel, but also wanted the space to be a sanctuary to escape from the busy world.

“What’s not to love about this cabin kitchen?” the judges said of Maria’s entry.

“It’s stunning and it just works beautifully within the rocky South Island location. It’s tailored perfectly for its environment. All the different materials are very balanced and very well considered. The colour scheme is all within the same lovely tone and the materials fit just right with the cabin vibe. The light adds wow-factor.

“From a budget point of view, the location would have created issues in terms of transport and the designer is to be commended for overcoming this within budget constraints,” they added.

Further south, and on the eve of retirement, noted Invercargill kitchen designer, Margaret Young of Margaret Young Designs will leave the industry on a high, winning multiple awards including for Visual Impact – Kitchen, Southern Chapter Recognition – Kitchen for a church conversion project called ‘Divine Intervention’ and Kitchen Distinction Award – $60–$90k and DNKBA Kitchen Design – Gold for a country kitchen titled ‘Commercial in the Country’.

Margaret entered the awards for the final time in 2023, saying it was her swansong to the industry she loves.

“All of my entries into the awards are kitchens I’ve completed over the last seven years, and they are projects that I’m particularly proud of,” she says.

“They’re each unique and involve personalities with a bit of an interesting backstory, including a church renovation and a farmhouse with a twist.”

On the striking church conversion project, Margaret worked closely with the owner, who aimed to build the kitchen himself by attending joinery night classes, and was well supported by the tutor, previously the foreman of a high-end joinery firm.

Now completed, the former church restoration has multiple purposes, including being a new home for the clients, bed-and-breakfast accommodation and a function space for hire.

Margaret’s kitchen brief included a modern, minimal look with an island positioned near the altar, and tall units to be placed where the organ once played.

Judges said the kitchen was “impactful and inviting”.

“This kitchen is the perfect complement to its church setting. It provides a balance of form and scale within a romantic and dramatic space. An outstanding, symmetrical design with clever use of sliding doors to hide pipework. The black benchtops work wonderfully with the steel.”

For something quite different but still exuding her signature aesthetic, Margaret’s award-winning commercial country kitchen design was created for a homeowner she describes as a combination of Nigella Lawson and Mary Berry.

“She wanted a generous-sized kitchen with enough capacity to nourish her busy household,” Margaret explains.

“The extension of her farmhouse involved demolishing its entire eastern half and doubling the original area. The wish list included a very specific and detailed scullery layout, four distinct areas for specific tasks, a large island workspace and a blue and white colour scheme with a country look.

Part-way through the design process, the client also opted for a commercial-sized hot plate, which meant she then needed a commercial rangehood to match.

“Embracing this change, more elements of stainless steel were added to some of the benchtops and the same steel was specified for the fridge fronts,” says Margaret.

Judges described this winning entry as “an amazing kitchen with an incredible pantry – you just want to go here and immerse yourself with a glass of wine”.

“The commercial elements and appliances within a residential setting have been integrated intelligently. The designer has more than met the brief. This space tells a story.”

Click here to read this story in our digital issue of 03.

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