darren james kitchen

Light and shade

This alluring kitchen achieves a balance between design and functionality, creating a focal point for this newly renovated Queensland home that is both luxurious and liveable.

Photo courtesy: Darren James Interiors


Phillip O'Brien

In recent years, interiors have moved towards the dark side, and for good reason. As our worlds are exposed to an influx of information and noise, the need to create a dark, warm haven is a perfect and well-needed counterbalance. 


Our kitchens are still very much the central hub for family activity and social junctures. So, it’s only a natural inclination to create a hearth-like ‘heart’ in any modern home.


This concept helped to form the gilded, moody aesthetic behind the Darren James Interiors Redland Bay project, the winner of the prestigious 2019 HIA Australian Kitchen of the Year award. 


The property is located in Redland Bay, 35 kilometres south-east of Brisbane. The home is set on seven hectares atop a hill with expansive views over Moreton Bay and North Stradbroke Island.
The brass detailed lighting fixture elegantly zig-zagS from the ceiling
integrated cooking
‘People are now less afraid of darker colours closing down interior spaces’
Designer Darren James created a flow from the entry through to the kitchen, and then onto the outdoor entertaining area, capturing the external views and maximising liveable space. Most importantly, it ensured that visitors and family naturally centred their activities in the kitchen.

‘The 1980s house was in good condition but very dated in its joinery, flooring and colour scheme,’ Darren says. ‘The new owners, a retired couple in their 60s, wanted a renovation with ample kitchen space to entertain friends and family.’

The design kept the kitchen in its original location in the centre of the house but Darren increased the footprint for a larger, more functional space. This however required some creative thinking to put into effect.

‘There was only one entry into the kitchen and not enough cooking appliances for a client who likes to entertain,’ he says. ‘We had to cut into the slab to create new waste and water points, as well as squaring out the archways and repositioning multiple hallways into the kitchen.’

These spatial changes opened up the kitchen to a galley-style format. Darren ensured he provided for plenty of seating around the feature island, as well as a low bench seat with a custom timber and brass table at the end of the kitchen.
‘The owners wanted ample kitchen space to entertain friends and family’
‘The dark colours can allow for more variety in material and texture of the floors, furniture and decorative details’
From functionality to the aesthetics, the dark, rich hues featured throughout add to a feeling of luxury, inviting visitors to stay and enjoy the space.

‘People are now less afraid of darker colours closing down interior spaces,’ Darren says. ‘Big open rooms can handle dark colour and can change the feel of a space, ending with a moody and sophisticated result.’ 

But he emphasises that an important benefit to a deep palette is that more than one colour can feature in a room: ‘The dark colours can allow for more variety in material and texture of the floors, furniture and decorative details. They all work cohesively together in the space.’

The choice of materials in this striking kitchen also offer a deft contrast between light and shade. 

‘We wanted to offset the dark wall running around the perimeter of the kitchen by lightening up the island bench with a cladded porcelain product from Laminam,’ Darren adds. 

Connecting the two is a timber feature on the island bench, painted with a walnut servery and shelving on the back wall, creating a contrast between the two areas. ‘Walnut is a timber with a soft, warm tone that pairs really well with the soft greys and blacks of the kitchen.’

A stand-out feature above the custom-cladded island bench is without a doubt the brass detailed lighting fixture, suspended to elegantly zig-zag from the ceiling above. With accents of gold, silver and bronze, the overall effect is powerful; further serving to balance the room’s light and dark elements.

‘There are still downlights in the ceiling above the kitchen,’ Darren explains, ‘but, when these are dimmed, the pendant light with soft LED strip lighting creates a warm, and totally different atmosphere in the space.’
‘Big open rooms can handle dark colour’
Feature walnut timber 
Originally trained as a cabinetmaker, Darren has more than 20 years’ experience in the building trade. Earlier in his career he spent time fitting out luxury boats before returning to residential building and further study, gaining a builder’s licence and accreditation as a DIA member, and certified kitchen and bathroom designer with KBDI.

He is also a keen member of HIA, enjoying the opportunities it provides to keep up-to-date with the wider housing industry, to network with other professionals and to make use of the technical and legal services offered.

Established in 2005, Darren James Interiors is committed to unique, bespoke residential projects. ‘Every space we create is custom-designed,’ Darren says. ‘We never design the same space twice. Our aim is always modern yet timeless, sophisticated but not over-designed. 

‘Sometimes, you can [add too much] – too many colours, too many shades or too many design elements. You end up losing what you wanted to achieve. I’m a big believer in the maxim of “less is more” – restrained and simple but sophisticated.’

The 2019 HIA Australian Kitchen of the Year award was especially meaningful to Darren and his team. The kitchen was described by HIA judges as ‘meticulously detailed and installed with precision’. 

‘We’ve previously been successful at state level but this is our first national award,’ he says. ‘We really cherish this one.’

With this project, the perfect balance between design and functionality went a long way in making this happen. 

‘The design aesthetic is important but if it doesn’t work in practice then there’s no point. An old principle says that “form follows function” and I think both need to work harmoniously together.’

design details

Builder/designer: Darren James Interiors
Location: Redland Bay, Queensland

  • Island bench porcelain top: Laminam in Calce Grigio 
  • Island bench server: solid walnut timber, with satin clear polyurethane finish
  • Cooktop and splashback: Laminam in Cava/Blue Stone 
  • Cabinetry (fronts): Arcadian Oak sandblasted veneer
  • Cabinetry (island drawers): Resene ‘Half Ash’ satin in 2-pak
  • Cabinetry (solid timber feature): Satin clear polyurethane finish, colour Walnut
  • Bench seating: solid walnut timber (exterior facade) with satin clear polyurethane finish; leather inlay in Pilot Tan; stainless steel metal frame to support
  • Lighting: ‘Shape Up 2’ pendant from Ladies & Gentleman studio, Knee Deep 9W LED downlight
  • Appliances: Gaggenau 
  • Flooring: Cliffstone in Teneriffe 
  • Walls: Dulux ‘Half Black White’

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