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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Alfresco and aquarium combo

Photography: Carmen Hansberry

Alfresco and aquarium combo

Photography: Carmen Hansberry
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Western Australia’s Carmen Hansberry is no novice when it comes to interior design. This Senior Creative Designer and business founder showcased her residential talents, winning the HIA 2023 Western Australian Residential Interior Design award.

C.J Bruce

Housing author

With more than 23 years’ experience and a keen eye for kitchen and bathroom design, Carmen Hansberry produces exceptional interiors that exceed her clients’ expectations. This project was no exception.

This Perth-based interior designer met her clients, the Walkers couple, with two young children, in 2021 and worked on their kitchen interior design and logistics until mid-2022. 

As a freelance Senior Creative Designer, Carmen was employed by the clients early in the home construction process. In fact, the first meeting occurred when the roof timbers were still being installed. Even during these early stages, the home had a ‘distinctive taste and sass’, as Carmen puts it. 

The clients own a concreting business, and this is reflected in their stylised home featuring burnished concrete floors, an exposed concrete ceiling, and a notable concrete plinth in the alfresco area. To top it off, the home is situated on a corner block on the top of a hill. This offers panoramic views of Port Coogee, located 23km from Perth.

When Carmen took on the kitchen project, the clients requested a seating plan for a minimum of four people, accessible storage, a double under-mounted sink, fully integrated dishwasher, a 900mm induction cooktop and an aquarium.

The clients’ creative and architectural design included an aquarium
‘I designed the column wider in size and then cladded it in a smoked mirror,’

During this process, the project posed myriad challenges, including:

  • Seamless flow and connectivity

Since the clients are tradespeople, they have a passion for the craft of architecture and structural design. This meant that aesthetic consideration was pivotal to the design, as well as creating a functional layout. 

‘The kitchen serves as the primary focal point visible upon entering the home,’ says Carmen. ‘Consequently, it was crucial that the interior and cabinetwork design facilitated a smooth transition and cohesive connection in terms of finishes and materials.’

  • Refinement of the initial design

When building a residential project, it’s important to streamline the deliverables to ensure an impactful result. The clients’ creative and architectural design included significant features: an aquarium, a feature glass door to the scullery, and a substantial cabinetwork feature frame for the kitchen’s main elevation. 

Carmen referred to these elements as a ‘young lady wearing all her best jewellery at one time’, so she suggested and then created a ‘less is more’ floorplan. (so that only one piece of statement jewellery was worn) This revised design included a framed flash concealed scullery door that disappears into the feature wall panelling. The kitchen appliances include a fridge and freezer and four wall oven appliances placed in a symmetrical style with items placed on either side of the cooktop area alas making the built-in aquarium main feature be the true star of the show. 

‘The kitchen serves as the primary focal point visible upon entering the home,’
the design included a framed flash concealed scullery door that disappears into the feature wall panelling.
  • Structural challenges

Structural columns are typically used in areas with large vertical loads for additional support. These columns are essential for the safety and integrity of the home. They are, however, not the ideal features of kitchen design. Carmen noticed there was an existing structural column where the island was proposed to be. However, she turned this negative into a positive by converting it into a standout feature. 

‘I designed the column wider in size and then cladded it in a smoked mirror,’ she explains. ‘This not only disguised the structural element but ensured the whole rear living space’s interior cohesion as it integrated it seamlessly into the surrounding spaces that already had the same material used.’

After completion, the Walker family fell in love with Carmen’s artistry. ‘Carmen executed it perfectly as everything is positioned as an everyday working kitchen,’ says the client. ‘We love entertaining, and this is one space we’re constantly able to enjoy.’

Carmen even managed to add functionality to the column by incorporating an island bench PowerPoint on the kitchen side to assist in charging the multitude of kitchen appliances. ‘The dual-purpose approach with the finish not only enhanced the aesthetic appeal but addresses a practical need in the kitchen.’

Carmen’s dedication and problem-solving skills won her the 2022 HIA WA Kitchen Design award finalist 2023 HIA Australian Kitchen Design and the HIA 2023 Western Australian Residential Interior Design award.’

After completion, the clients fell in love with Carmen’s artistry. ‘Carmen executed it perfectly as everything is positioned as an everyday working kitchen,’ says the client. ‘We love entertaining, and this is one space we’re constantly able to enjoy.’

Carmen Hansberry continues to thrive in business and design. She has been a proud member of HIA since 2015. ‘Now I’m a freelancer, it’s a no-brainer I continue my personal designer membership. 

It's like the golden stamp of approval that tells potential clients, "Yep, I must know my stuff!"

First published on 8 January 2024