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‘First and foremost is functionality’– Smart Design Studio’s Stefanie Taylor on the contemporary minimalist kitchen

‘First and foremost is functionality’– Smart Design Studio’s Stefanie Taylor on the contemporary minimalist kitchen


Continuing our kitchen trends series, Australian Design Review speaks to Stefanie Taylor, Smart Design Studio associate and team leader of interiors, about the elements and elegance of today’s pared-back kitchen. 

The architecture and interior design projects coming out of Smart Design Studio strike you with their pure modernism. The Sydney-based practice isn’t shy to declare this as its recognisable signature, a design philosophy that trickles down from structure to detailing, leadership team to employees.

Stefanie Taylor is one of the studio’s associates and leads the interiors team. She believes spaces that are well-proportioned and planned – minimalist in their approach and elegant in their execution – will “stand the test of time and transcend trends”.

Stefanie Taylor
Stefanie Taylor. Photo: Veronique Jenkins

“We work closely with our clients to impart this approach and help them to imagine spaces that are luxurious and unique, yet classic in their design, and which are truly tailored to their day-to-day needs,” she says.

“We provide unique design solutions for each of our clients that distil their personalities and living styles, and that respond to their own vision of their interior.”

At the centre of most living situations is a decidedly busy space: the kitchen.

“We view the kitchen as a central gathering space, the intersection between living, dining and sleeping areas where paths cross and families can enjoy spending time cooking, eating, communicating, bonding and entertaining together,” Taylor says.

modern kitchen
Inside a ‘Hall 20’ apartment by Smart Design Studio.
Stefanie Taylor’s approach to kitchen design

In true modernist style, Taylor approaches kitchen design “first and foremost” with functionality. This takes rigorous planning, ensuring key functions of the kitchen, such as the cooking, cleaning and refrigeration zones are all within easy reach of the main working area.

A successful kitchen, in her eyes, features ergonomic design and high-quality appliances. Meanwhile, aesthetic-wise, she opts for a luxurious and tactile material palette, beautiful benchtops, integrated appliances and understated clean, modern detailing.

Hall 20 minimalist kitchen

During recent work on kitchens, Taylor has observed an increase in clients selecting stainless steel for kitchen joinery elements. As well as being highly functional, Taylor says stainless steel joinery looks particularly beautiful as a contemporary counterpoint in heritage-style homes.

A Smart Design Studio project that demonstrates this is Hall 20, an apartment complex in Bondi, New South Wales.

“The brief was to create a series of contemporary and opulent apartment interiors unlike anything seen in the local market, which act as a counterpoint to the retained heritage façade of the original Bondi Post Office, and its iconic beachside location,” Taylor explains.

white kitchen

The kitchen design has a striking, monolithic quality that’s “theatrical yet unimposing”.

“Here, the kitchen space takes centre stage within the apartments, a high-end material palette of either honed Calacatta Vagli Oro or Nero Marquina marble, combined with Dekton and soft touch Fenix in matching tones, for a monolithic look,” Taylor says.

kitchen minimalism

She has also observed a preference for multi-functional, premium “design-forward” appliances to be wholly integrated into the joinery. At Hall 20, for example, hiding the appliances within joinery allows the minimalist anthracite glass finish of the visible ovens and the brushed stainless steel details of the warming drawer to reflect the rich tactility of the kitchen detailing and its luxurious material palette.

“Handle-free joinery and fully concealed services all contribute to a harmonious, confident, minimalist kitchen space,” she says.

minimalist joinery
Smart Design Studio
Minimal details

Overall, Taylor says a “handful of beautifully resolved details” complement a restrained palette of materials in the contemporary minimalist kitchen.

Sleek, architectural tapware styles in brushed stainless steel are popular at the moment. Separate bench-mounted mixers are also in demand, while brushed nickel finishes add warmth and may tie in with other metal detailing within the interior.

minimalist kitchen

Illuminating these features, Taylor has seen an increase in ambient lighting within kitchens in lieu of traditional downlights, but task lighting is still important for working areas.

Concealing within joinery appears to be key across all surfaces of today’s minimalist kitchen.

“Concealed LED lighting within joinery and the use of sleek architectural pendant lighting over the working edge of kitchen islands provide lighting for kitchen tasks, as well as general ambient lighting within the space, without the need for downlights.”

Hall 20

For Taylor, the best trend is the “one that endures”, as is achieving an outcome that successfully balances beautifully resolved design with the day-to-day needs of clients in one of the most well-used areas of the home.

Project photography by Romello Pereira.

For the month of April, ADR turns our attention to the kitchen design trends of the now and of the future. Arguably one of the most important and dynamic spaces within both residential and commercial design contexts, the kitchen is ever-evolving, reflective of the shifting ways we live and work. Read LINTEL Studio’s Emiliano Miranda take on what’s trending in small kitchens.


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