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KWD: Design Dreams

Kate Walker doesn’t look at homes the way the rest of us do. where others see dated dwellings, she sees spectacular aesthetics that blend classic styles into unique new creations; her transformative imagination will show you how a kitchen made for modern living slides into old-school colonial luxury.

Photographed by Armelle Habib. Styled by Julia Green.

Kate Walker founded her design studio, KWD, in 2013 and is now at the helm of a dynamic team of project managers, interior designers and design professionals. Well-known in the industry, with an ever-growing social media following, Kate is respected for her unrivalled knowledge of hard finishes and her innate sense of style.

She has the talent and ability to translate a design vision from concept into reality across any aesthetic, from modern farmhouse and Hamptons style to contemporary, mid-century and coastal. She transforms houses, and lives, and turns dated homes into multimillion-dollar properties.

Her latest work is a model of seaside luxury. Bringing it into the world meant trusting what she saw straight away in a property only she seemed to want. Here, in her own words, is the story of how Kate and her team brought Biscayne to life.

“After the much-loved renovation of my last home, Beechwood, which was a successful journey both personally and professionally, embarking on the renovation of my new home was exciting. I wanted to further showcase the power of a carefully thought-through renovation. It is extraordinary what you can achieve when you can see what a property can become with the right vision.

I found the ideal house in the most glorious location, in Mt Martha on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Like Beechwood, the property had been on the market a long time without an offer. I questioned myself again, wondering why no one had bought it. Then I realised no one else could see what I had seen as soon as I laid eyes on it.

The style that immediately came to mind was British Colonial, but being so close to the Port Phillip Bay I wanted to add more of a luxe coastal hotel feel, with a Floridian/island vibe. Biscayne showcases Caribbean Colonial, a result of our desire to elevate existing styles to a whole new level and create a beautiful formality blended with a relaxed conviviality. It’s a look that reflects my desire to be at one with nature, and to bring the outside indoors — in a fresh, new way. The house itself (previously known as Fontainebleau) had great bones and had been built really well. It had some fabulous architectural features, like 3m ceilings, an incredible staircase and a great floor plan, but it needed some major reworking in terms of space planning; for example, the kitchen was in the darkest corner of the house, which doesn’t suit the kind of lifestyle we look for today.

KWD brought together an incredible team of design professionals, who have helped make Biscayne one of Mt Martha’s finest properties. We were focused on creating a level of design that can be achieved only by specifying the very best fixtures, fittings, materials and products.

We have featured the most stunning hard finishes, soft furnishings, architectural details and joinery design throughout, with an immaculate and innovative attention to detail, showcasing how a strong vision can transform a home from Fontainebleau into Biscayne.”

Why did you fall in love with the house, what was it that spoke to you?

I fell in love with the property I would later name Biscayne for so many reasons. Its orientation, proximity to the beach, the size of the home and the land and, most importantly, the potential. I love looking at a property and envisaging it in its updated form. I could immediately see the end result I could achieve.

What changes did you make to the kitchen to reflect our modern lifestyle?

The original kitchen had an antiquated U-shape layout and it was tucked away in the darker part of the house. And whilst it was positioned in a large room with dining and living areas, the layout, complete with a corner pantry, was simply not suitable for the way we live today.

The kitchen is the heart of the home. If you put a heat map on a home, the red section would definitely be the kitchen. So as designers, we put a lot of thought into where the kitchen should be and what the space planning should look like. Kitchens are no longer just places to cook. A kitchen is where families gather at the start of the day, where children sit for home schooling or where parents sit when they work from home. And it’s where you entertain family and friends. A kitchen has to perform in so many ways. And cooking today is not just about preparing meals, it’s about interacting with loved ones and guests. A large, open kitchen is key for our modern lifestyle.

How did you approach the integration of inside and outside spaces?

Biscayne is all about indoor/outdoor living and the resort aesthetic. I was blessed that the house had so much glazing that was oriented the right way, but the key to the connectivity was the creation of the outdoor terrace. The outdoor area forms different ‘rooms’ — the pool and spa area, the tennis court and the terrace. And there are so many pockets to sit and enjoy the sunlight and moonlight all year round, including the upper and lower decks. This home was designed to draw you outside; features like the ceiling fans on the deck really anchor the Caribbean Colonial feel.

Talk us through each of the appliances in the house and how they help bring the Biscayne story to life.

Given that Biscayne was a unique project with a Colonial feel, it was important that we selected appliances that added to the special look of the kitchen. I couldn’t go past the ILVE Majestic oven. Since both the unit and the finishes are customisable by colour, we were able to create a show-stopping piece. I love the white with brass details.

Following the theme of a singular look, Fhiaba refrigeration seemed like a perfect fit. Handcrafted in Italy, Fhiaba refrigerators are the pinnacle of luxury. They can be integrated into the cabinetry or feature a stainless-steel finish. (You can even get them in champagne, gold or rose gold.) It added a masculine flavour, which was perfect for the look we wanted to create.

Customisation was another key element of this project, so we decided on a custom Qasair rangehood. They have the most efficient extraction and operate quietly. The stainless-steel grilles are easy to clean in the dishwasher, too. And they’re a lifelong investment.

We selected an integrated ILVE dishwasher, which blends seamlessly into the joinery.

We also opted for the Abey sink for the kitchen. Abey is a pioneer in leading design for sinks and taps, so it was an ideal choice for this project.

Talk to us about the idea of customisation and how you have brought this to life using appliances.

All of KWD’s joinery designs are custom across a wide range of aesthetics. When carefully considered, from the height of the kickboards to the depth of the benches. The custom ILVE Majestic oven was key for setting those dimensions; the bench size and height were based on the oven height and depth, and the oven legs determined the height of the kick plates.

The Qasair rangehood installed over the oven was an engineering feat. It was a challenge for the joiner to make the double-concave design. We knew we wanted the traditional look of a chimney and this brand was the perfect choice, not only because of the size but because it’s whisper quiet. The installer who put in the rangehood asked if we were going to be running a fish-and-chips shop because of the scale.

What elements make good laundry design and how have you applied them in this space?

I love symmetry, and the sleek and stylish Miele washer and dryer look like a pigeon pair. A side-by-side installation is important to the way I design a laundry. You want the washing on one side and the sink placed in the middle so you can sort the clean laundry before putting it into the dryer or hanging it in the drying cupboard.

Knowing I can trust my wardrobe with the Miele brand is so important. I have spent a lot of money on clothes because the way I am styled is important for my brand. Proper garment care and longevity are also important. And because I work such long hours, I engage people to help me manage the household, so I need my appliances to be reliable and easy to use.

Winning Appliances is the appliance partner for KWD projects. For more inspiration, follow Kate on Instagram: @katewalker_design

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