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There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet.
The scope with cramped kitchens can seem as limited as the space is tight, but some thought and a bit of design know-how can make the most of the little you have.
Take a good look at your kitchen and identify the aspects that don't work. Limited bench space and storage are the two biggest issues people tend to have in small kitchens. If a renovation is out of the question, you need to rethink how you use the available space.
Good organisation is the key to any efficient kitchen, especially when space is limited. Aim to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. Plus, a few tricks can make a space more inviting and feel more generous. Here are my tips for arranging a tight kitchen's mise-en-place.
1. Reclaim space
First up, remove clutter. Pull everything out of the cupboards and consider what you need: sort out which items you use regularly and need to be kept close at hand, and what can be stored away. Keep benchtops as clear as possible - they will feel more expansive and make for a more efficient work space.
2. Group think
Collections of items work well. Gather your kitchen accoutrements into pleasing stacks or groups on open shelves, freeing up cabinet space for more bulky items. Everyday items such as white china and glassware look great displayed en masse.
3. Vertical challenge
If your cupboards don't reach the ceiling, find a way to use the space above - this is valuable real estate in terms of kitchen storage. The trick is to use these hard-to-reach spaces for things you use less frequently. Vases, for example, can be grouped attractively on top of the cupboards, or if you prefer items concealed, store them in baskets or boxes.
4. Room to move
Review items that can be stored out of the kitchen. This is a chance to be creative: an old armoire, a glass-fronted display cabinet, even an old wardrobe, or a shelving unit can turn storage into a styling exercise, again arranging in pleasing groups. Sometimes it's possible to park a cabinet or fridge cheekily in another room. A retro Smeg refrigerator, for example, could easily take pride of place in or out of the kitchen. If you're taking on a building project, steal space from a laundry or other adjacent room and build a recess in which to park your fridge.
5. Dual purpose
Instead of being packed away, trays, baskets, bowls and platters can do double duty. A tray can sit on a coffee or dining table holding a group of vases, candles or magazines, say, yet is still available when needed for its usual task. A trolley can be a tiny kitchen's workhorse, offering extra work or storage space, or functioning as a bar, coffee station, or servery.
Hooks, racks, inserts and so on increase space inside cabinets. Expanding shelf organisers - tiered shelves with adjustable widths to fit inside cupboards - are ideal for jars, spices, glasses and cups. Plate racks and magazine racks can hold rogue saucepan lids. Even the ceiling can be used to hang pots and pans, perhaps from a suspended ladder in French country-kitchen style. Pegboard on the wall can hold utensils and pans, or place it inside cupboards to hold utensils if you prefer to conceal rather than reveal. A large lazy Susan can ease access inside corner cupboards.
7. Think big
One large piece such as a dresser or hutch can bring order, while a mixture of small elements looks busy. A large shallow cabinet, just 19cm deep (which holds two standard food cans), built floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall will yield a massive amount of storage while barely encroaching on the floor plan. This kind of clever cabinetry is wonderfully efficient while storing, for example, rows of attractive jars (again, depending on whether you like to reveal or conceal). Kitchen heaven.
8. Surface treatments
Materials and colours can provide a little visual trickery. People usually think white is the colour of choice in small spaces, but dark colours can make walls appear to recede, giving the illusion of more space. Limit colours and materials to just one or two elements. Remember, you want the eye to read high and wide. There's an opportunity to think big and bold here, too. Patterns can stretch and expand boundaries. Think classic chequerboard tiles and modern chevrons on walls and floors. Stainless steel, mirrors, and any shiny surfaces reflect light, making a space feel more generous.
9. The final flourish
Consider placing an artwork in the kitchen or a feature piece such as a beautiful pendant light to add a touch of style.
PHOTOGRAPHY MAREE HOMER/BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU
This article is from the April 2013 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
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