Kitchen of the Week: Five best Grand Designs kitchens5 min read
A sculptural island wrapped in blue steel is the centrepiece of the open-plan living area in Scott Lawrie’s “stealth bomber” house in Pakiri. The project featured in the first series of Grand Designs NZ in 2015.
There have been several stunning kitchens in homes featured on Grand Designs NZ over the past few years.
We have chosen to showcase five that are hard to beat, and they have a lot in common, namely timber and black finishes. And it’s no coincidence – so many architectural new builds over the past five years have featured this exact combination. Why? Because it works, and these kitchens don’t seem as dated as many of the other Grand Designs ones. Take a look.
‘Stealth bomber’ house at Pakiri
Scott Lawrie’s sculptural steel house at Pakiri was a highlight of the first series in 2015, and the kitchen is just as dramatic as the exterior. The centrepiece is a large island wrapped in blue steel – its angular shape echoes the form of the house, much like a little sculpture within a big sculpture.
The black steel is teamed with beautiful timber cabinetry, which in turn matches the timber-lined interior of the house. Matt black tapware and light fixtures continue the theme.
Lawrie later told Stuff he was really happy with his steel house, which he spent more than a year planning with architect Paul Clarke. “I love it. I have never been happier. There are mornings I wake up and sit in my undies outside with my coffee just watching the day unfold. Some days, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.”
Cass Bay copper house
The Cass Bay copper house designed by architect Michael O’Sullivan was another great watch on Grand Designs NZ, in 2020 – and a controversial build due to the sweeping shape of the house, and its copper-clad exterior.
Everything about the interior of the dramatic house was handcrafted, and that’s what makes it special. The architect himself crafted the brass fittings in the kitchen, which features a dramatic polished brass island. We are not sure how practical it is – O’Sullivan once told us he spent hours polishing it before photos were taken.
This house also features timber cabinetry and timber-lined walls. Grand Designs NZ presenter Chris Moller gave O’Sullivan the ultimate accolade, comparing him to legendary greats Frank Lloyd Wright and Alvar Aalto.
Owners Aaron and Christine Green have since opened their home to the public, when they participated in a one-weekend festival of exceptional architecture.
Extreme Piha beach-house build
Joseph and Suze Hardie’s Grand Designs build at Piha was another great watch. The couple specified a $70,000 kitchen featuring a black stone island top and splashback, reminiscent of the West Coast sand.
The black stone is teamed with matt black cabinetry to match the black accents elsewhere in the house.
Other strong textural elements in the open-plan living area include an organic paint finish and a roughsawn macrocarpa ceiling that wraps down a wall.
Suspended glass house with echoes of Brake House
We are all suckers for the Mid-century look, and Nicola Johnston and Harlem Irwin’s suspended glass house that bridges a gully and stream is a beauty.
This Dunedin project was one of the best Grand Designs builds we have seen – presenter Chris Moller even arranged a tour of the renowned Brake House in Titirangi for the couple.
And the kitchen simply adds to its appeal. Irwin built a stunning kitchen using timber out of an old chemistry lab from the university, which he got for a song.
“He could see something in it that I couldn’t see,” Johnston said at the time.
The warm-toned cabinets are teamed with black – even the refrigerator is black. And a table-style casual eating area at one of the island features black steel.
Moller described the build as a “most extraordinary build” and a “masterwork of alchemy”.
Post-quake build in Christchurch
Black again dominates the final kitchen we feature – a new build joining a historic rebuild in Cranmer Square, Christchurch. It is known as the Red House, due the exterior colour of the old building.
Photographers Johannes van Kan and Jo Grams built the house after their first rebuild in Lyttelton was destroyed following the earthquakes. They have since sold the house, but their kitchen remains one of our favourites.
Not only is the kitchen black, but so are the walls – this is a house reminiscent of a photo album, where items pop against the black. In the kitchen matai timber floors are the perfect foil.
Chris Moller of Grand Designs NZ has a ‘wow moment’ in the kitchen of the Red House in Cranmer Square, Christchurch.
The couple added a textural tile splashback that catches the light from LED strips beneath the “floating” shelves, so the look is not all matte. A long, low, open cabinet on the island conceals small appliances.
Moller said the use of black in the kitchen was “very bold”. “I feel like I have walked into a cave…. but it’s Johannes and Jo’s creative signature. And what it provides is contrast.”