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Secret ingredients

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With its pared-back take on industrial design, the Australian Kitchen of the Year exudes warmth and depth in the heart of an architect’s Adelaide home.
Manifested from within the bare bones of polished concrete flooring, an exposed sandstone wall and narrow Spanish inky brickwork, this kitchen demanded a chic look that reflected the history of the home, while delivering practicality and durability that would see the homeowners through decades of entertaining. 

Effecting depth and contrast amongst the sandstone and Tuscan Oak finishes, the matte black cabinetry throughout – in custom finish ‘Lamborghini Black’ – is something of a Jag Kitchens signature. 

And yet, this project remains a standout in the minds of those who created it. Working with a high-profile architect on what he stated would be the final update to his ‘forever’ home, Jag Kitchens designer Tania Nikolitsis says: ‘I knew when I saw the architectural plans that this project had the scope to deliver something pretty special, something minimalist, something cutting-edge’. 

Pepper black matte porcelain overlays the work surfaces, including a highly functional 4.6-metre island bench. This is paired seamlessly with the dark toned cabinetry and joinery finishes, and neatly distinguished by a precise shark nose edge profile. 
In addition to disguising a fully integrated Miele microwave and dishwasher, the long island bench also offers generous overhang at one end to allow for casual or impromptu dining and family-style breakfasts, with plenty of workspace to spare. 

There are plenty more secret ingredients to be found beyond the sleek surfaces in this surprisingly full-feature minimalist space. For example, a generous combination of integrated appliances, including a cooktop, rangehood, wall oven, steam oven and fridge, as well as the subtler touches of an integrated waste management organisation system and clever storage solutions in unexpected areas. 

But perhaps most delightful of all is the dry bar that awaits around the corner from the main entertaining and cooking area. Equipped with floating timber shelves, strip lighting, a cohesive pepper black bench top, and diagonally arranged lengths of timber, which act as much as an aesthetic feature as a practical wine storage solution, the bar is nestled behind tall bi-fold Tuscan Oak doors. 

It’s these finer details that make the kitchen what it is, an enchanting space to be in, according to HIA judges, who visited the site after the project was entered into the 2019 HIA South Australian Kitchen and Bathroom Awards. With one judge remarkably commenting ‘in nine years of judging, this is the greatest kitchen I have seen,’ it’s not surprising that the project went on to take out not only the regional title, but also the national accolade of 2020 HIA Australian Kitchen of the Year. 
But those meticulous details that saw the project take home the win weren’t without challenges, Tania recalls.

‘The junction between how the island benchtop and the joinery actually came together [was complex],’ she says. ‘There’s a certain rebating, a particular steel frame construction and timber frame construction that worked to give it that look.

‘It’s got a unique wrap-around look which is quite interesting. Wall panelling leads into both the butler’s pantry and the laundry which wrap around completely so you don’t actually see any of the internal wall.’

And like most projects, this one came with client negotiations. While the client was ‘tied to natural marble’ the Jag team recommended porcelain Marmi Statuario for the couple, knowing the enthusiastic home cooks would soon struggle to maintain naturally porous marble. Tania says they worked with a stonemason to do the look justice with a replicate, specifying the selection down to the millimetre. 

‘We went with a porcelain replicate which we had specifically mapped out on the sheet asking the stonemason where we wanted it cut, what section of that veining we wanted to see.’ 

Fortunately, the effort that went into overcoming the design and construction challenges was well worth it, and the team was ecstatic to see they had won the national title on the night.

‘We actually had a little gathering on the night with a few clients,’ Tania says. ‘We did what we could in the showroom with a few drinks and nibbles and [the online announcements] up on the big screen.’ 
Though the 2020 HIA–CSR Australian Housing Awards were presented online this year in the wake of COVID-19, rather than during a gala ceremony at the annual HIA National Conference, the Jag Kitchens team saw it as an opportunity to celebrate together and managed to find a silver lining in the changed format. 

‘It was lovely, and when it was announced… let’s just say social distancing went out the window for a split second!’ she laughs. ‘We were all very excited so, as sad as it was that I was supposed to be on the Gold Coast, there was a really great side to it because I was able to be here at home with all my colleagues which was very special.’

While Jag Kitchens is no stranger to HIA awards, having taken out a number of accolades in the South Australia region, this national awards adds to the prestige of the company having now won six national HIA awards in total. 

‘We’ve been put on the map a few times with awards but I think this time the print on the map is a little bit bolder and larger,’ Tania says. 

‘It’s definitely a big thing for the Jag profile, we certainly like to have our work recognised because of the great lengths we go to in bringing to life a product that well exceeds the clients’ expectations. We take the term “custom built” to another level and will often manufacture what others won’t tackle.’

Tania is confident this industry recognition is what continues to help Jag Kitchens secure custom and large-scale projects. ‘Clients come to us [when they see our award-winning portfolio] because they know that we have the ability to manage these sorts of intricate projects.’

Malvern Kitchen at a glance

Build and Design: JAG Kitchens

Award: 2020 HIA Australian Kitchen of the Year

Partner: Miele

Location: Malvern, South Australia


  • Cabinetry: 2pac matte Jag custom ‘Lamborghini Black’; Likewood 18mm boards in Tuscan Oak
  • Splashback: 6mm porcelain Marmi Statuario (matte)
  • Benchtops: 6mm porcelain maximum pepper (matte) on 14mm black acrylic substrate
  • Integrated appliances: Miele cooktop; rangehood; wall oven; steam/combi oven; built-in microwave; dishwasher; Fisher & Paykel integrated fridge
  • Hardware: Axus pin squareline tap mixer; Hafele undersink pull out; Hafele loox LED strip lights; Hettich architech drawer systems, bin system and cutlery inserts; Jag ‘hobbs’ tea towel rail door mounted.