Transforming a workers cottage into a celebration of Modern design.

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The warmth and softness of lightly stained timber veneer contrasts beautifully with cooler concrete, steel and tiled elements in this most subtle and elegant inner West residence.

The Birchgrove project

With a broad ranging commission to modernise and transform this Sydney home, Nobbs Radford Architects, Artechne (builders) and Dan Kitchens worked in close collaboration to deliver a modern classic. Each floor has been carefully fitted out with fastidiously intricate yet seemingly simple joinery, creating a new modern aesthetic that will remain fresh and enjoyable for a lifetime.

Once an old weatherboard home with a lean to extension at the rear, walls were removed and replaced with a wall of glass looking out into a private green space. Working to extremely tight tolerances, lightly stained veneer panels were applied to the stairwell area, from the basement level, past the main floor and up to the bedroom level on the top floor.

Solid, oversize pivot doors into storage rooms on the basement level were veneered by Dan Kitchens so that they seamlessly blended in with the adjoining wall panelling. On the main floor, the stairwell panels wrapped around hidden structural elements and morphed into a series of pantries, a cluster of wall ovens and then past a bespoke stainless steel niche housing the cooktop area. Fully integrated fridge freezer units are concealed by further panelling that eventually leads into a laundry area located behind the kitchen.  Matching solid timber vents above and below the panels provide ventilation for the fridges and an air conditioning plant.

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BEFORE: An old addition at the rear of the workers cottage.

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DURING CONSTRUCTION: Nothing was left untouched during the renovation, including the stairs. The new concrete benchtop, plinth and steel frame of the island are shown in the centre.

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AFTER: Completely re-worked into a  modern open plan layout.

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Inside the kitchen.

Many unique features were built into this custom kitchen that required great skill in finishing. Take for instance the air conditioning vents above the integrated refrigerators. Normally such vents would be of aluminium extrusion and cut to size, here they are made entirely out of timber joinery, matching the rest of the kitchen.

Another feature is the cooktop niche encased in stainless steel from benchtop, sides, canopy and splashback. The stainless steel cooktop niche was a challenge even for the very experienced Dan Kitchens installers.  Wedged in under the staircase, the entire structure had to be lifted into place by hand, carefully avoiding the concrete island sitting in the way. Subtle 3mm thick steel panels surrounding the welded in cooktop and overhanging cylindrical rangehood  provide elegant contrast to the warm tones of the adjoining veneer. Stainless steel lined sliding joinery doors hide small appliances behind the cooktop – an area under the stairs that would have otherwise gone to waste.

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DURING CONSTRUCTION: Stainless steel cooktop area with sliding doors to splashback.

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Detail of custom timber joinery vent in matching American Oak.

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Detail under the completed concrete benchtop.

Sturdy steel legs support a solid concrete island that takes pride of place in this luxury kitchen. One end of the island is cantilevered out towards the dining room and is open underneath. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, two drawer style fridges, a sink and a dishwasher as well as multiple drawers are interspersed between the island legs, all enclosed in grey toned lacquered joinery.

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DURING CONSTRUCTION: The dining room sideboard.

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AFTER: White satin polyurethane joinery sideboard integrated within the walls of the dining area.

Split level floors created challenges of their own. Imported, smoked oak floorboards met tiles at critical points and these points marked the starting point for flush mounted joinery in the living and dining rooms.

Level with the higher floor in the kitchen space, under one side of the opening glass wall, low lying timber veneer joinery houses HI-FI components and doubles as a long credenza. On the opposite side of the room, more veneer joinery sits under a lacquered sideboard embedded into the wall behind the dining table.

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DURING CONSTRUCTION: Living room underbench joinery had to be built around structural elements.

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DURING CONSTRUCTION: The underbench joinery was designed to conceal HI-FI components. Mirrored backs to the cabinets make plugging in cables easy.

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Stairs behind the kitchen lead up to the second level.

The tall, narrow stairwell proved to be just as challenging when it came to fitting the large, heavy panelling into place. Specialised scaffolding was set up twice in this space – once to fit the panels up raw so as to check for fit and again to install the panels after they had been stained and lacquered. Tall robes, a desk and bathroom joinery to the top floor had to be squeezed past the wall panels and in an extreme case, disassembled and reassembled in-situ given the limited access – all part of a day’s work for the Dan Kitchens experienced team!

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Getting the joinery to fit perfectly in the allocated space was no easy task as there were many elements to contend with.  

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Looking into the bedroom and towards the city beyond.

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Vanity cabinets are hidden behind mirror fronts finished flush with the wall.

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The architect redesigned the home to incorporate the view towards Sydney Harbour.

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Although positioned with neighbours in close proximity, the outdoor space feels open and private.

For more photos of this project, visit the Dan Kitchens Gallery.

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