In Conversation With: Award nominated Kitchen Designer Toni Roberts, in celebration of becoming a finalist.
Toni Roberts is an award-winning independent kitchen designer with a focus on residential properties, working directly with clients to design kitchens that not only perform, but artfully reflect their individual tastes and preferences. We caught up with Toni to learn more about what goes into her design process.
Q. What considerations need to be made when designing a kitchen to ensure seamless integration with the broader interior design scheme of the house?
A. It’s a matter of asking the right questions and investigating the ‘why’ – what is it that the owner loves about certain pieces and elements of their interior or one they wished they had. My belief is that if a kitchen is well designed it will always be timeless and appealing – it will hold the key elements of balanced form and high-performance functionality in perfect unison. This design was a unique opportunity where the clients weren’t restricted by having to appeal to an unknown future owner, so they are now living in a magical space each day that oozes personality and makes them smile.
Q. When looking to design a kitchen that integrates the client’s preferences with your own creative vision, could you share some insight into the creative journey that leads you to a final design?
A. Great question! There is a real nugget of joy that this profession holds – it’s in the intriguing discovery and unveiling of the clients’ preferences, ensuring the outcome is a reflection of their taste and unique home setting. My opinions, advice and designs only come after I have understood the problems and opportunities. After this has been established, together we can explore and massage the design to ensure the result is something they will love. For this couple, the brief was “The funkier the better” which was evident in their interior, full of quirky sculptures, inspirational paintings and international designer collections by the likes of Versace and Louis Vuitton. I had only recently seen a statement quartzite stone, an art piece in its own right, that I thought would appeal to their bold brief. She loved it and so began our palette inspiration. The quartzite features brushstrokes of rich jade green veining and shimmering golden highlights on a chalky crystalline bed. A little risky, we complemented this with another equally artistic stone. Its monochromatic and dark nature includes a similar tidal flow grain yet doesn’t outshine the jade. This wraps around the island to create a bold breakfast bar and lines the walls and other benchtops for a rich textural celebration.
Q. In the context of this project you were working with a beautiful scenic backdrop. How does the natural surroundings and environment play a role in shaping your approach?
A. We sure were! Understandably, the owners wanted to keep the sink and preparation areas located at the windows to enjoy the view – yet for the theatre of cooking, they wanted to locate the hob to face their guests, allowing them to enjoy the horizon of sparkling lights by nightfall. Our approach was to design the kitchen to embrace elements of this ever-changing harbour view while sitting quietly and elegantly as a backdrop with its dark recessed cabinetry finishing.
Q. What are some essential features that you believe every well-designed kitchen should include?
A. I believe that the first consideration should be how a kitchen works for its user, taking a human-centric approach. It’s been researched and found that owners of well-designed kitchens cook at home more often and therefore tend to eat healthier. This home’s original kitchen wasn’t particularly old, yet it had wasteful drawer proportions, awkward spatial dimensions and an illogical flow of related activities. I’ve evolved a design methodology called Activity Zoning™ that integrates relevant items for particular tasks that we design to be placed within logical reach of one another. This enables chefs and their helpers to use the space without frustration.
Of course, the aesthetics and visual aspect of design is crucial, yet how well organised, coordinated and managed a project is remains a key aspect of design success. I have found that it’s a process of constantly learning and improving, even after 30 years of ‘practising’. We are always pushing ourselves to create something unique and fresh, and that’s what makes for exciting, albeit challenging, projects.
Q. When it came to the appliance selection for this project, what specific factors did you need to keep in mind and how did the Gaggenau appliances you ultimately opted for fulfil those essential criteria?
A. It was a no-brainer for me to recommend Gaggenau for this project. To achieve the sophisticated tall wall of dining furniture, we required substantially sized, high-performing, integrated cooling appliances – a fridge and an ice-making freezer, along with a cabinet to display their collection. The owners’ adult son is a chef-in-training so the sous vide oven was essential, alongside the steam-combi and large ovens for their frequent entertaining. Bringing the hob to the island required a state-of-the-art table-top ventilation system that Gaggenau seamlessly designed. At the touch of a button, the cover opens and a glass wall rises to begin moving steam and smells out and away. This glass riser was crucial to the design, allowing an uninterrupted view for diners through to the sea view. Gaggenau’s knock-to-open dishwasher also satisfied the owner’s desire for a handle-free aesthetic while protecting her latest manicure nail art!
Gaggenau provided the seamless integrated look we wanted, along with the high performance and enduring quality I know other clients in my experience have enjoyed.
Q. What distinguishes Gaggenau appliances and sets them apart from others in the market?
A. There is something about seeing and feeling the quality of appliances. With Gaggenau you can see the beautiful detailing, smart interior layouts, sturdy hardware, stainless steel interiors and masterly engineering; all qualities we value in unison with our kitchens. Integration is no simple task and yet it is resolved with precision and style in their ranges. While nothing is perfect, they sure do deliver pretty close.