When Barry Dubois, master builder and co-host of Channel Ten’s The Living Room, gets a brief for a new project, his first step is to speak to the people who live in the home.
It is his communication skills, along with his building expertise, that have been key to his success.
‘There are layers to a renovation, and the first is getting to know the people,’ says Barry.
‘Once you have an understanding of who they are, you can work towards making the room reflect that picture because, whether they know it
or not, what will make them happiest is a true expression of their personalities.’
It was clear in this two-hectare rural home, on a block shared with the grandparents, that family life is front and centre.
Mum, dad and four kids have lived in the house for 15 years and have no plans to ever move.
‘When I met this lovely family I knew the kitchen would be the hub of the home for them,’ says Barry.
‘As it was, there was no room for everyone to gather together. There was a tiny two-person island bench and the kitchen was a closed-off galley style that wasn’t open to the backyard.
‘Yet the kids are outside any opportunity they get. The lack of interaction with the outdoors was the number one problem.’
The route to the back door was through an oversized laundry, which is known as a ‘transient’ space in the design trade.
Barry saw that reclaiming part of the laundry would expand the kitchen and make room for a four-seater island bench.
This would be the keystone of the kitchen and a place for the family to stop and hang out.
Illusions and inclusions
The island bench, the beautiful views and the relatively low ceilings dictated that a linear design would work best.
‘The idea here is to create an illusion of height,’ says Barry.
‘Standing in the lounge room and looking back to the kitchen, I saw the opportunity to further harmonise the rooms by keeping the cupboards low and limiting wall units.
‘Removing the cornice and running the cupboards to the ceiling draws the eye upwards and makes the receding ceiling look higher too.’
The pantry is the first cupboard to consider, particularly in a family home or for anyone who likes to entertain.
Near the fridge is always a good idea. This area will be in high use, so make it functional and avoid deep shelves that allow items at the back
to get lost and forgotten about.
Lighting is always an important element in the kitchen and Barry’s tip is to avoid the usual central placement.
‘Lighting in the centre of the room creates shadows. I recommend putting downlights in line with the edge of the benchtops so your body doesn’t cast a shadow over the working area.’
The striking pendant lights add some personality and act as feature.
As the sun goes down and the kids come inside, the lounge room is where this family gathers to watch television.
The kitchen floor tiles and the old carpet in the lounge were ripped up and replaced with bamboo flooring to link the two rooms and create a unified living space. Cabinets at the transition point provide additional storage.
A large mirror in the lounge makes the space seem bigger, while comfort and cosiness is prioritised with big sofas and scatter cushions. A blue feature wall and a graphic rug add a splash of colour.
‘Where we had three isolated areas here before, we now have outdoors, utility and intimacy in one,’ says Barry.
‘In any renovation there’s always a lot of hard work involved and problems to solve. But if you have a philosophy, a basis for everything, it all begins to flow together nicely.’
The bamboo flooring and colour scheme unifies the kitchen and living area
A large mirror creates the illusion of space in this cosy lounge room
Extending an island
A kitchen island can dominate a room. When the emphasis is on increased bench surface, the visual impact and multi-function options often get ignored.
In this family home it was the ideal central spot for an extra seating and eating space. A four-person island was installed with a modern stone surface.
But something organic was also needed. A Hickory Maple square-edged profile benchtop from the Kaboodle range at Bunnings was cut to fit the new island. Using the same strong adhesive that secured the stone to the island, the top and sides were attached to the benchtop.
‘The mum in this family is a great cook and I wanted to give her as much surface as possible,’ says Barry.
The maple extension softened the stone while tying in with timber elements elsewhere.
The maple extension softened the stone while tying in with timber elements elsewhere in the kitchen