Germaine lives with her family in an 1800s-era home in Sydney, Australia. A few years ago she and her husband decided to renovate their plain, awkwardly-shaped kitchen and dining area, and open it up into a light-filled multi-purpose room for cooking, dining, relaxing, and play. We absolutely love the result! It's white, bright, and so inviting. Read on for more from Germaine on the process of renovation, and to see more photos of the kitchen as it is now. Germaine and her family have lived in their home for about six years, and for the first two years the kitchen took up half the living space — leaving a narrow dining space and half the living space. "It felt like a very odd layout," says Germaine. "With kids the lack of floor/playing space was very obvious so we always knew we wanted to change it around. After living there for two years we realized the narrow dining space would make great galley kitchen and free up the other side of the room for family living."
The kitchen and family room face south, which of course in Australia means that this is the darkest side. The kitchen itself was also very plain, with 80s-style Formica cupboards and countertops. "There was nothing characterful or interesting!" says Germaine. She loved the idea of a white modern kitchen, with the high ceilings and details of their Victorian home.
She was also inspired by her own kitchen objects: "Much of what we have in the kitchen — our plates, serving dishes, cutlery — are old, collected on travels, handed down and given to me by my sister, mother, and grandmother and I really liked the idea of those sentimental pieces sitting in a modern setting."
So Germaine tore out pictures of kitchens she loved from magazines and other inspirational sources, and she realized that they were all white — with modern, no-handle cupboards and lighting underneath the cupboards. "It was a very simple way of clarifying what I really wanted the kitchen to look like. After living through a kitchen reno I realize it's not something I'd cope with doing every few years so knowing what you want before you start is definitely most important!"
It seems that Germaine certainly captured what she was looking for. This kitchen feels light, airy, and livable, and so cozy with the separate dining and lounge spaces flowing together with the kitchen. Great job, Germaine, and thank you so much for letting us peek inside!
• Visit Germaine's blog: Some Home Truths
10 Questions for Germaine (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Given our current stage of life (three children aged seven, five and two), our kitchen is definitely inspired by family life. The cupboards and walls are decorated with their artwork and we've painted a blackboard wall; originally for shopping lists and messages but more and more it seems to be for spelling lists, doodles and hangman challenges.
As our kitchen is part of an open plan room which includes a lounge and dining area and opens to the deck and garden, my cooking is definitely inspired by simple recipes and fresh ingredients. Whether it's cooking for friends or family, everyone is in the kitchen so recipes that can be followed with a glass of wine while also chatting or while answering 2nd grade maths questions are important!
Germaine's favorite pot and Atomic coffee machine, in the background.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My red casserole pot is definitely the favourite. My husband and I bought it for each other for Christmas four years ago and we use it for soups, pasta sauces, casseroles, curries. I don't know how we lived without it.
A sentimental favourite is my father's Atomic coffee machine. When I was a teenager he would make us cappuccinos while watching a Friday night movie. After he died five years ago, my mother kindly let me have it. I think of him whenever I look at it and always have it on the stovetop.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
There have been many special meals cooked here: Christmas lunch, long summer seafood lunches with friends, even a Thanksgiving dinner - thanks to an Australian husband with an American mother - but the most memorable would probably be a dinner with friends visiting from interstate.
We made a chicken pie and as it baked in the oven there was a total blackout in the street. Always unprepared for emergencies, we finally found one - small - candle to eat by; because we could at least eat thanks to the gas oven. As the blackout lasted three hours we were relieved to be cooking with gas! And despite not being able to really see what we ate, the pie was very tasty.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Until a few months ago we didn't have the island bench so the biggest challenge was lack of bench space and always facing the wall while cooking. The island has solved those problems!
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Our kitchen was renovated in a two-stage process so I feel we now have everything we want, although I do wish we had used subway tiles as the splashback. We live in an 1800s terrace and while the front of the house is original, the classic tile pattern in a modern kitchen would have been a nice way to marry the two eras.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
The bay window and window seat, which created a dining nook, was our biggest indulgence. We found the old window in perfect condition at a restoration yard and loved its gentle curve. I doubt we'll ever tire of sitting on the window seat and looking out into the garden.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
We have done everything possible to this room: moving the kitchen from one side to the other, building in the storage shelves and cupboards, window and window seat. There isn't a wall left to touch!
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Classic, simple and homely.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
To keep cut herbs fresh, put the stalks in a glass of water, cover the herbs with a plastic bag and put them in the fridge. I used to place bought herbs in a glass of water on the benchtop and they always wilted within 24 hours. This way they stay fresh for about five days.
10. What are you cooking this week?
The hot Sydney summer is finally over and now we're enjoying cool but sunny autumn days. We've stopped using the BBQ and this week it's chicken soup, fish stew, beef n beer pie and roasted lamb racks.
• Island bench, lounge and armchairs: IKEA
• Dining table: Old wares store in country New South Wales
• Oven: La Germania
• Countertops: Caesar Stone Snow
• Kitchen cabinetry: Freedom Kitchens
• Read more about Germaine's renovation: Some Home Truths: Renovation flashbacks
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(Images: Germaine via email)