The Expansive Kitchen is the first of a series of three spaces designed by Kennedy Nolan in collaboration with Laminex. Rachel Nolan, co-founder and principal of Kennedy Nolan, explains “Laminex is a ‘go-to’ product for us. It’s an Australian-made material that has a great range and is affordable. This progressive and established company supports Australian design; they listen and lead.” While laminate has a well-established reputation for its functional benefits as a hard-wearing, stable, easy-to-clean surface, Kennedy Nolan was also interested in the design possibilities offered by the unique material qualities of laminate. With its ability to be cut and formed with ease and the Laminex Colour Collection providing an unparalleled range of colours and tones, the design flexibility offered by Laminex laminate saw Kennedy Nolan exploring unexpected and innovative uses of the material – from bold gestures to nuanced details.
The Expansive Kitchen is the first of a series of three spaces designed by Kennedy Nolan in collaboration with Laminex.
“Typically, laminate isn’t pushed to its limits – we were interested in exploring this. We looked at how you can use laminate two-dimensionally, deploying pattern and colour, and three-dimensionally with form making,” Rachel says. “We wanted this kitchen to feel gentle, not too ‘shouty’. It is a generous kitchen that is destination, a space for entertaining and cooking – and in these times even possibly a place to work from home.” The curve as a formal motif and a muted palette inspired by the Laminex Colour Collection, which takes its cues from the Australian landscape, became the means through which the design finds its balance. A sense of quiet simplicity, capable of standing the test of time, is enlivened by a refreshing originality that is a guaranteed topic of conversation at dinner parties.
The striking curved island bench, as the central object in the kitchen around which activity coalesces and circulates, is the natural point of reference within the design. Working with the unique qualities of laminate, Kennedy Nolan sought to go beyond preconceived ideas about the typical kitchen island to design something that is closer to a piece of furniture than traditional joinery. Drawing on laminate’s sculptural potential, the island is an exercise in form-making, with its distinctive curved base that is by turns convex and concave. Then above, on the benchtop two tones (Laminex Paperbark and French Cream) are used on the same plane to create a graphic interpretation of the curves below. “It is a strong, singular design gesture,” Rachel says.
“Laminex is a ‘go-to’ product for us. It’s an Australian-made material that has a great range and is affordable. This progressive and established company supports Australian design; they listen and lead.”
But The Expansive Kitchen is not just about the big gestures, it is also filled with “little moments that are left to be discovered,” Rachel reflects. “There are quiet details we were interested in exploring.” One example is the rear benchtop and splashback, which conventionally would be a 90-degree angle. “It is a sweet detail,” she says. “The laminate curves from benchtop to splashback in a single sheet, and the curve is held by a solid timber batten.” Similarly, while at first glance the scalloped edge of the tall cupboards are the most noticeable feature of this section of joinery, closer inspection shows that the upper cupboards are set forward to allow the scalloped edge to double as a handle pull, which in turn creates a subtle curved shadow effect. Opening the cupboards reveals another surprise. Instead of the usual white melamine carcass, we used Laminex Whitewashed Oak,” says Rachel. “Where real timber veneer could be scratched or damaged, Laminex is a robust, colourfast product. These qualities allowed us to create another unexpected detail – the cupboards are considered inside and out.”
It is a testament to the considered and materials-led approach to the design that, while there is much to discover, the overwhelming sense is one of calm and balance. The Laminex Whitewashed Oak, Paperbark and French Cream bring a light yet grounded quality to the space that is complemented and enhanced by the curves that are at once organic, abstract and sculptural. By emphasising the aesthetic potential of a product that is also a practical, hardwearing and stable material, Kennedy Nolan has created a kitchen that responds to the contemporary Australian way of life, in which the kitchen is a space that is both functional and a joy to inhabit.