It's been a long time between kitchen posts on this blog. Having finished my own kitchen back during the renovations a couple of years ago, I haven't felt the need to blog about them again. But something has been very much on my mind of late, and that is kitchen size.

 via Ivory Lane blog - double island benches, and a separate butler's pantry

This is because kitchens have in Australia, over the past 20 years, grown and grown and grown in size. Conversely, people cook less. If you look at the average commercial kitchen attached to a restaurant that seats 60 people, it's generally far smaller than the average home kitchen now. So it would seem that the size of the kitchen has no bearing on what is being produced in it.

Commercial kitchen - Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck with 4-5 chefs working in it. Image via

I see a lot of inspiration pictures in both my work, and that pinned by other Australians on Pinterest or Instagram featuring very, very large American-style kitchens. Traditionally Australian kitchens were modelled on European/ English kitchens in terms of size, and these are usually smaller due to apartment living.

Kitchens that often feature multiple sink stations and items like pot fillers (which are used in commercial kitchens locally, but were never considered a standard item to put in a domestic one until fairly recently) are now the aspiration. Kitchens with not one, but two enormous island benches to fill the space up between benches that would otherwise be acres apart. And don't forget the adjacent Butler's pantry with its own sink, fridge (or cool room if you really want to up the ante) and cooking equipment.

This can all lead to an interesting discussion about kitchens as the new status symbol of a house, but frankly, after past blog posts on luxury/ status symbols and the psychology behind it all, I just don't really feel like pointing this post in that direction and derailing the actual thrust I was trying to get across. That might make up a separate post involving kitchens/ dressing rooms/ outdoor kitchens/ home gyms and bars, all of which have seen a rise in popularity in Australian homes recently.

The point of this post is more to point out the following:

1. Large kitchens are difficult to work in

Ideally you should be able to walk a couple of steps between zones in the kitchen when cooking so as not to expend energy racing up and down meters of kitchen to grab something from the fridge or pantry or a pot. This is why commercial kitchens are actually fairly compact. Professional Chefs do not want to spend 8 hours on service running (literally) around a kitchen. Their job is exhausting enough as it is. This is something to bear in mind if you are working with a large kitchen area, and the fact that I have a small physical area is something I love about my own kitchen. I rarely have to move far to get what I need done.

Modern large residential kitchen design is overcoming this by including multiples of everything - multiple sink points (as you don't want to carry a saucepan full of pasta 5 metres to the sink to drain it, but rather dump the water in an area adjacent to your cooktop), multiple taps, multiple fridges. If you are currently designing your kitchen, and you are going the large kitchen route, then this is something you need to factor in and budget for. Otherwise your kitchen will give you no joy.

2. You do not need acres of cupboards to store all your stuff

If you're starting from scratch, or have an existing small/ normal kitchen that you're refitting, then consider looking to European kitchen design for inspiration on cupboard fittings. It's no surprise that the largest and best quality manufacturer of kitchen cupboard fittings and hinges are all German - Blum, Hettich and Hafele. They make all the clever pull out things that go into kitchen cupboards that help to maximise space and functionality. Ikea do a pretty good range too. But rather than just using these systems (which can add up if you start going really crazy on the kitchen organising) consider just using your existing basic cupboards more efficiently.

When I was designing my kitchen, I spent some time with my Aunt M, who is brilliant with design, going through my kitchen plans. M is not professionally trained, but is better than most designers I've ever come across with kitchens as she is an excellent cook, and very thoughtful regarding matters of design. Running through my layout and debating various different options was very beneficial for me as I had a tight space to work with and a lot to pack into it. After we'd caught up, M sent through some photos of her cupboards to show me what she'd meant with some of our discussion. I thought I'd i include some of her most helpful advice and images below.

Tip 1 - get lots more cupboard shelves cut up by a kitchen joinery company than you'd usually have and stack them as close to each other as possible. Then rather than creating Leaning Towers of Pisa with your platters or salad bowls or whatever, you can stack them neatly one to a shelf and maximise your space while making them easy to grab and get down when you need them.

Tip 2 - for deep cupboards, have the shelves cut with an arc on them so that you can access the back of the shelves easily and see what you have stored. An example can be seen at the top of M's cupboard in the image below.

Tip 3 - M also used pull out drawers in some of the cupboards, even up higher than below bench top level as is normal (above), to give good access to the back of shelf areas where things traditionally get lost due to inaccessibility. 

Tip 4 - following on from tip 3, drawers (deep for saucepans or shallow for cups) are far better in a kitchen than a traditional cupboards with shelves. One job I'm working on at the moment is just refitting an existing kitchen that my client finds frustrating to cook in. This is mostly because the lower level cupboards are standard shelved 600mm deep cupboards and she looses things up the back and can never get organised. As she doesn't want to replace the entire kitchen we are refitting the cupboards with internal drawers, similar to M's above in the photo to make access to items up the back easier. 

via Heather Bullard design

Tip 5 - work out exactly what you do have and create specific spaces for them. This is the interior of M's Thermomix storage drawer below.

thermomix drawer

Tray dividers via

Tip 6- point of use organisation. I wrote a blog post about it here

And for my own final tip - really consider what you actually use in your kitchen - equipment, crockery and cutlery wise and whittle it down. Most people do not need 8 saucepans. Perhaps you have partial dinner sets that you started off , didn't finish, and never use as a result because you are missing key pieces (wedding registry are good at creating this conundrum). The juicer you bought on a health kick that is gathering dust in a corner could go.

Now, naturally, if you're someone like Stephen Andrew Jones (who writes the best blog on my sidebar) and who collects multiple Le Creuset pots... but actually uses them all...  then this is not advice you should take to heart. It's more a message to all the people with good intentions that they will become a gourmet chef, or who want a perfectly matched set of saucepans that are never actually used. In my case, in order to get enough storage, I got rid of the microwave. We only used it to reheat food a couple of times a week if that, not to cook, and it's easy enough to reheat food on a stove top, in the oven or in the thermomix, and I haven't missed it at all. Keeping things compact means your back and legs will thank you when you are spending hours cooking in the kitchen, and if you are designing or building a large kitchen, then consider the point of use organisation very carefully and allow multiple zones for different activities so that you're not run of your feet and exhausted from the experience.

Previous kitchen posts:

My kitchen - finished
Kitchen cupboard finishes

side garden

As it's now officially Winter (with the temperatures suddenly switched to match - we've had night time temperatures of 2C which is very cold for Adelaide this week), I thought I was overdue to do a wrap up of Autumn.

 Back garden

Other side garden

This year Autumn was particularly spectacular in Adelaide. I think because we had such an unusually wet Summer the leaf change was dramatic, and for a 2-3 week period I just loved looking out over my back garden with the changing colours from rich deep reds, to umbers and bright golds. Of course this also means that I've had the leaf blower out a fair bit, and will do so for another few weeks yet, as some trees are still going.

A lot of my work the past few months has been drafting and design of new projects, so nothing particularly interesting to show on the blog, completed project wise. I did do about 85% of the beach house project install that I was working on a few months ago. It was a pure decorating job (furniture only, no Architecture or Interior components to it) and I took a few snaps before I rushed off. Still waiting on a few key pieces to be made and delivered, so I'll post some further pictures once it's all done. I'm really pleased with how it's all come together. The wall colour was the existing, nothing has been repainted.

Octopus over the master bed, which some Instagram followers found a little spooky to potentially sleep under. Fabrics are William Yeoward and Ralph Lauren. I chose relaxed, washed out navy tones

Work has also nearly wrapped up on one of my long term projects. We're still waiting on a few pieces, but I thought I'd share these in progress shots of the concealed TV I designed to hide in wall panelling in the casual living area. It has a push catch on the panels that fold back to see the TV. I've done a lot of paneling in this house, so this pared back modern approach worked well in the new extension. Cushions (and garden plants outside!) are still to come

I did do a cushion delivery of some for other rooms though, and this is the window seat reading nook in the Tweenager's bedroom that has been completed. I looove this room so much.

In our own house, the large bronze pot, final focal point for the front garden, was placed on its plinth. This was delivered last November, however the pre Christmas rush, and the post Christmas holidays meant my landscaper was unable to build the plinth it sat on until a month or so ago. It's had a box ball put in it, and is underplanted with a trailing succulent. I need to plant something around the base to get it to blend in a little (aside from dead leaves), but the front garden is looking so good now. Everything has grown enormously in just a year and a half, and I think it really suits the style of the Victorian era house.

Bigger than it looks here

Progress on the new garage has been a little slow the past few weeks. With colder temperatures the render is not setting overnight, and it's been slow going. Hopefully this week it will be completed and the scaffolding will come down - in the meantime the builder wrapped it in tarpaulins to try to keep it all dry to allow the renderer to work. The painting inside started over the past week, and the gyprocking (plastering) has almost been completed upstairs. New garage doors were installed too, so it's finally inching closer. I think probably in 3-4 weeks time it will be complete.

inspiring view from the back garden

A few readers have emailed or commented to tell me to get to the David Roche Foundation museum in North Adelaide, and I'm ashamed to say I have only just been, a year after it opened. This is despite the fact that I've attended no less than two dinner talks given by both Martyn Cook (the Foundation head, and a very well known antique dealer originally from Sydney), and Robert Reason, head curator. Both gave fascinating talks and I was desperately wanting to go.... but things have been busy and a year flicked by.

Elephant inkwell on malachite base was a gift to Tsar Nicholas II

De Gournay wallpaper clad spare bedroom. In the corner is an embroidered waistcoat that had belonged to Louis XVI

Finally I made it with a friend, and I have to say it's one of the best Private house museums I've been to in the world. Worth a trip to Adelaide for this alone. David Roche put together one of the best collections of Russian, French and English antiquities around his particular interests, and the collection has been conservatively valued at $85 Million. Many of the items would no longer have been allowed to leave their country of origin now - there are chairs that Catherine the Great commissioned and sat on, items owned by Napoleon, Regency English furniture, paintings, silver, Faberge boxes, Chinese export porcelain, and all displayed in his house, a typical Adelaide sandstone villa which he decorated in a flamboyant manner (De Gournay wallpaper, leopard print, elaborate passementerie on the curtains etc). Nothing is behind ropes, and you can wander at will with the tour guides. After the tour finished, we walked down Melbourne street to The Lion for lunch in the restaurant. It was a very pleasant break from the hum drum day to day of family life and work.


It was the Royal Flying Doctor's "Wings for Life" ball a few weeks ago, and as usual I frocked up and went with some friends. This year's theme was "Beach Ball", and they had sand inside and a band playing classic beach themed music from the 60's onwards. It was great fun, as always, and we sat with some very funny friends on our table who kept us all entertained. I wore a Collette Dinnigan dress that long term readers would remember me purchasing a few years ago, and DIY'd my own hair this year into a messy updo which I stuck a brooch into for interest. I did not go barefoot however, as I'm short enough without removing my heels. Here are some terrible iphone selfies to show you my efforts:

dress - a great underarm shot if I do say so.

blurry DIY hair photo

Just before Easter I was lucky enough to attend a lunch at which Janelle McCulloch was the guest speaker, launching her long awaited book "Beyond the Rock". The book has been a labour of love for Janelle who has painstakingly researched the life of Joan Lindsay, author of the seminal Australian novel "Picnic at Hanging Rock". Janelle's book is a biography of Joan Lindsay, and in particular her writing of a mysterious novel that has captured the public's imagination in a way that no other book has done since in Australia. Janelle gave a fascinating talk about the influences in Joan's life, and what had lead her to write the book. It's a beautifully compiled biography, more like a coffee table book in the production values, and while it doesn't answer "the secret" (no one can, as Joan carried it to the grave with her), it certainly made me draw my own conclusions as to what compelled her to write the book, and if it had a factual basis to the mysterious story of the disappearance of four school girls and their teacher on St Valentine's Day 1901.  Janelle has long written a wonderful blog centring around Travel, Gardens and Design, The Library of Design, which is on my sidebar if you haven't already discovered it.

Another thing that I have been reading are old magazines - very old. I bought a set of "Flair" magazines, circa 1950-51, which have had an enduring influence on graphic designers, publishers, and other related design fields ever since their very brief print run (It closed after a year due to high cost of production). It's clearly been an influence on modern publications such as Cabana magazine, and reading such a high quality magazine of its era was fascinating. I loved the ads, the suggestions on lifestyle matters (table linens, newleywed gifts, furniture), beautifully tailored fashion from its era in New York and the high quality articles from leading literary luminaries at the time such as Hemingway. If you don't want to try to hunt these down yourself, but are interested in their contents, a compendium was put together by Rizzoli in coffee table book format called "The Best of Flair".

I can't imagine how uncomfortable it would be to sleep in this to sweat off the weight...


I have been making a recipe I discovered on Tenina's blog quite a bit. It tastes a lot like a Vietnamese Clay Pot curry in that it is light and fresh tasting, and as it makes a very large quantity is great for freezing. I serve mine with Rice noodles and steamed beans.

Spicy Vietnamese Ginger and lemongrass Curry
Here are the instructions and recipe if you have a thermomix


4 trimmed lemongrass stalks
8 Cloves Garlic
8 Kaffir Lime Leaves
5cm piece of ginger (peeled)
1 small red thai chilli (recipe calls for 2, but my children prefer mild tastes)
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3KG diced beef (chuck)
2 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1 TBSP fish sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup water
3-4 eschallots peeled
500grams Carrots diced

In a mortar and pestle, or food processor process lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilli until a fine paste forms. Add olive oil and fry off in a saucepan for a few minutes until fragrant. Add water, fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, Star Anise and Cinnamon stick to mixture and simmer for 5 minutes.

In a slow cooker (or large casserole pot), add beef and pour over the liquid. If cooking in the casserole pot, set the oven at 150C and cook for 4 hours. Add eschallots and carrots for the last hour of cooking. Serve with Rice Stick noodles.

It takes about 10 minutes of basic prep and then you have enough to feed a family for several meals. A great meal for the time poor.

These are (possibly) my last roses, which I picked a couple of hours ago. Somehow they've survived the cold overnight temperatures. Every time I think I've picked the last, I get a couple more on the bushes, so who knows! I've put them in an empty Cire Trudon candle vessel. They make a great vase.

Lastly, I thought I'd comment on the terror everyone has about the profiling that goes on in the Social Media world. If you're on Facebook or Instagram there are targeted ads, all mining information on you based on your likes, who you follow, words or terms you use, and places you've tagged or been tagged as visiting. I know people get very worked up about the information possibly being used against them. But I am here to tell you all to fear not! Based on my Instagram targeted ads, I think we're all safe. I follow, and generally like other people's photos of Interiors, books, gardens, fashion... pretty much everything you see me write about on here. Based on this, Instagram has been targeting me with these ads:

Eyelash extensions for Asian women

Some stone thing to attach to your hijab that will make you look "classy as hell"

A special Easter celebration at a Gay bar in Singapore called "Are you a friend of Dorothy's"

And just for good measure, a breastmilk keepsake pendant. 

I think Instagram has got a little confused. We all have nothing to fear people.

Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Summer dressing can be tricky. You want to be cool, so this means nothing clingy, but equally you don't always want to look like you're about to go poolside - you want to dress appropriately for city life as well... so what to wear?

 via Camilla

Well, judging by the runaway sales of Camilla worldwide, one of her floaty, silk, multi-patterned and embellished Caftans are the way to go. These have become something of a staple amongst the mothers at any Summer school function in Australia, and you'll see them at weddings, Black Tie balls, poolside at a resort or beachside in January on Aussie beaches, and given they're one size fits all, you could say that they're the most versatile piece of clothing out there.

via Camilla

Sadly, I do not own a Camilla caftan, as on the few occasions I've tried them on they have a tendency to overwhelm me. I'm not fond of busy prints on myself (love them on others), and being rather short they drape on the ground. The salesgirl helpfully informed me as I stood in puddles of multicoloured silk that I should just tuck it up into my knickers on either side, but I haven't done this since year 7 "Pop Bang Go" handstand competitions in the school yard, and don't feel so inclined to do that again. And if you're paying upward of $590 plus for an item of clothing, I don't want to have to tuck it up, or tie it up or whatever other tricks are required to make it fit shorty me.

via Camilla

But one reason why they work so beautifully is that the silk is light as a feather, and drapes beguilingly around the female form. Even if they're long and loose, you get a suggestion of shape underneath, which saves it from being a sad sack.

But I've noticed a recent fashion contender for the Camilla Caftan crown - Peasant wear.

Vita Kin, via Matches Fashion 

Firstly it was in the form of Ukranian style peasant dresses with their voluminous sleeves and heavy embroidery. This look can be seen all over the world in cities as diverse as Sydney, London and New York and about as far from the wheat fields of the Ukraine that they originated in.

Perhaps it was Yulia Tymoshenko, the former president of the Ukraine who entered the world stage when tensions were high with Russia in plaits and peasant garb, that managed to get the sisterhood to adopt her style of dress in worldwide solidarity?

a Vita Kin design via Matches Fashion, £1,988

But unlike Camilla, they don't translate to lounging by the pool in a resort, while doing double duty down at the local shops. So, really, you need something else simple, and peasant like, to while away the days on a beach in the Bahamas.

via Moda Operandi

And the perfect dress has been found by Pippa Holt. It's the Mexican Peasant dress. They're boxy, practically standing away from the body stiffly on their own allowing plenty of air flow to circulate under their tent like structure in the tropics.

via Moda Operandi

They're mostly cut mid calf length, therefore allowing not the slightest hint of chub to be seen - you could be any size at all in these! Unfortunately though, for anyone not 6 foot tall, I suspect that they will give the distinct impression of squat, peasant like proportions. It would also appear from all the model shots on the beach, plus the manner in which Pippa is standing, below, at her Bergdorf's opening that you have to stand at all times with your legs apart, and preferably one popped out to the side to make this look work.

Just like Angelina Jolie did that time at the Oscars.

Otherwise you just won't carry this look off. I suspect the peasants find having to do this quite exhausting when they toil in the fields.

Pippa has a team of Mexicans hand weaving these dresses, and they're available for US$850.

Which goes to show why most peasants don't own more than one dress - these things are eye-wateringly expensive! It costs a lot to live the simple peasant life, clearly.
Blowing the cobwebs off the blog to finally post about the new garage that is currently under construction in the back garden, the final part of our house renovation. In some ways I've dragged my feet about posting on this, as I wasn't sure it would make a particularly interesting post, but there are some quirky details to this, and I thought discussing the planning process might be interesting, and helpful hopefully!

American style carriage house via

Firstly, the design. One of the features of our house that we were attracted to when we bought it 7 years ago was the fact that it had three street frontages. This meant that we had flexibility with how we wanted to lay out the various elements of the house. I suppose most people would have placed the garage up against the house to give direct access into the main living area in our extension, but I didn't want to do this for a variety of reasons.

One was that it gave too much prominence to the garage, which is a curse in modern design (for more on this, read the Architect's Bible A Pattern Language), and the second was that it would create a large blank structure that blocked light to the garden and back living areas of the house. I have seen quite a few garages given prominence in houses that cut off garden space, all for the sake of saving a few metres walk. We have our outdoor dining area and pool where a garage would possibly have gone instead, which is far nicer to look out on from our living room.

rough layout of the upper level - it's evolved a little since these development approval drawings

So, it's a short walk down to the back corner of the block where there was an existing galvanised iron shed. It was very decrepit, and every time the wind blew I worried it was going to send sheets of iron crashing into cars on the street, and neighbours houses. It was also quite enormous, containing two large shed rooms (apparently the previous owner had cut gemstones in one of them), but only a single bay carport.

The bit I never photographed for Instagram - the old brown falling down galvanised iron shed complex

The garage was reorientated to face our back boundary street which allowed for a much more efficient layout, and has made an overall smaller footprint on the site. We wanted a 3 bay garage, and then to have an upper level with a large open plan space for me to work in, and a small kitchenette and ensuite bathroom. This would have an entry door from the street, and another entry from the garage. It will provide a lot of flexibility in the future - if not used to work out of, it could be used for a teenaged University student to live in, guest accomodation, a place for an au pair, a home gym etc etc.

Stable Block in East Melbourne via

So the tricky part was fitting in all the wants, and making it look right. Really, the only comparable examples I could find were in the US, where many people seem to have living areas over garages, or have separate coach houses. But plonking an American style carriage house in Australia wouldn't look right, so I decided to use the old Australian city vernacular of the stable block as inspiration, an example of which is above.
third street, non symmetrical elevation

To tie it in with our existing side wall, I decided to continue the wall at the base of the new garage and wrap it around the laneway so that it didn't look like an afterthought (it will also have creepers growing up it like the rest of the wall). The rest of the structure is rendered in the same render we used on the back extension of the house to tie it in with that (grey venetian plaster with an ashlar block imprint). By having a wall with the studio above it it breaks down the scale a little, which should also make it less imposing from the street.

This is technically a two storey building, but we had to (council regulations) fit in the studio level mostly under the roof line so that it didn't dominate the streetscape and to make it the height of a single story structure, as are all the buildings in our street are.

studio loft windows, mine won't look like this sadly...via

The gable on the main street elevation therefore had to be lower than the gable on our neighbours house across from us on the secondary street, and not be much taller than the neighbour across our streets garage (they have a similar thing with three street frontages, and their garage is approximately 1m shorter than ours). So to get enough head height in and fit in windows, I decided to do a sort of New York/ Parisian Studio feel by wrapping the windows from the walls up and onto the roof using sky windows (Velux).

more sky windows via

I also spent some time working out with the Engineer a method of making the floor space between the garage level on the ground floor and the studio level as thin as possible to maximise head height in the upper level, and keep the number of stairs required to a minimum (as the stairs were becoming difficult to fit in with the head height issue at the top).

Fitting in all the "wants" on this design was tricky, and one of the first things that had to go was a perfect, symmetrical garage facade with matching garage doors.

Symmetrical garage facade by Howard Design Studio via

Due to having the stairs running against the second street side, the garage door was going to have to be offset to allow for the width of the staircase. Doing three garage doors symmetrically like all the photos I liked just didn't work. I also tend to err on the side of practicality, and doing one very large door, and one smaller was going to be much more practical than three small doors that we'd have to squeeze into at any rate.

So, with the lack of symmetry this threw up came the problem of how to place the windows on the upper level.  In the end after fiddling around with different placements, I decided to bank them into a 3 bay window and centre it over the largest garage door.

Current window situation in progress 

 current exterior corner view with partial street closure and scaffolding

The only other design point to note is the entry point between the garage and our back garden. We do not have any access into the property now through side fences. If for some reason we needed to get a digger in (say, a major plumbing problem), then it wouldn't be possible. The solution to this was to have a Jack and Jill door, which means we have a single large garage door which will be kept shut most of the time, and a standard width door which will give pedestrian access for us in and out of the garage.

Studio upstairs in frame stage

So, enough of the boring practical design talk. The interior is going to be fitted out fairly simply. I'm planning on doing a white beadboard IKEA kitchenette, which will have just a basic sink/ bar fridge set up (I've seen full kitchens done in this sort of accomodation and they never get used), and the ensuite will be tiled in a matte white large format tile, the floors a mid mottled matte grey - modern, classic and simple.

At the top of what will be the staircase

The walls will be painted and floors will be covered with fitted Sisal. I have purchased a wall light for the entry from Restoration Hardware, and have 3 pendant lights for the upper area from Early Settler/ Recollections.

The space has an additional store room on the upper level which I am SO looking forward to - at present every time I take delivery of fabric, light fittings, wallpaper or furniture for clients it's been stored in my formal sitting room... which is looking junkier and junkier. Having a dedicated space for this will be positively luxurious.

So that's about it. We're nearly finished with the exterior. The rendering commences this week, and then the garage doors will go in. Interior plastering will start in about another two weeks and the stairs will arrive then too. I think it will probably be about another 8 weeks to go until it's all done and dusted, but fortunately we've got the roof on and walls up before we hit Winter weather delays.
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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on
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