Your Home and Garden reveal why these 5 kitchens are the best

Your Home and Garden take a look at some of the very best kitchens from their archives

Your Home and Garden reveal why these 5 kitchens are the best

1. Best innovation 

Kent and Olivia Fife’s outdoor kitchen area is the kind of place where you want to plonk yourself down on a hot summer’s day and stay until sundown. It happens all the time, says Olivia. Many summer afternoons are spent in the oversized outdoor living room and kitchen, making drinks, cooking on the barbecue, watching the kids in the pool and listening to their squeals of delight. In winter the portico is still well used and the Fifes and their friends can often be found huddled around the wood-fired oven, battling it out in fierce pizza-making competitions.

Outdoor living

In order to give their three kids the idyllic childhood everyone dreams of, Olivia and Kent put a lot of thought into their outdoor area, and wanted to do what they could to encourage family time and outside play in the fresh air. There’s a pool, playhouse, tree house and basketball hoop.

Making the most of their one-hectare section was always a priority for the Fifes – in fact, the landscaping was drawn up before they even started building their house 10 years ago. “We had a full landscape plan drawn up by Kent’s mother, Lynley,” explains Olivia. “She incorporated future plans for the pool and lined it up with the house, and located the trees and hedging. We then built the pool ourselves five years later. The kids adore it and use it from October to April, plus it provides such a beautiful outlook.”

2. Best design

Anji Foster has something of the gypsy about her. “My husband, Jason, and I tend to move every two years,” she says. “Our daughter, Bella, is 15 but she’s already lived in 15 houses!” The family’s current abode, a 150-square-metre, four-bedroom villa high on Mt Victoria, is Anji’s favourite. But the house still needed a rethink. “The layout didn’t work,” she says. “The kitchen was at the shady rear of the house, while the afternoon sun and city views were in the living space at the front.”

The kitchen

The couple knew they would have to flip the spaces around for the home to work for them, so Anji drew up plans to move the kitchen to the front where it would share space with a cosy living room.

“For the kitchen, I wanted a space that looked as though it had always been there,” says Anji. “I see a lot of kitchens but wanted something a little different.” Helping to translate this idea into a design was Wellington architect Sam Martin, from Foundation Architecture, and Pete’s Joinery in Wairarapa.

Anji opted for Shaker-style cupboards which were meant to be matte black, but ended up being dark grey, to contrast with the reflective black floorboards. Cupboards on the adjacent wall help to disguise the rangehood and provide much-needed storage, as do a series of floating shelves covered by sliding glass panels. “The builders had a bit of a challenge working out how to secure the floating shelves, but we got there in the end,” Anji says.

While the couple chose hard-wearing stainless steel for the food preparation area of their kitchen, they wanted marble for the servery. After a lengthy hunt, they finally discovered a slab of Italian marble which had started life in a showroom. “We had to remove some of the fence palings to get it inside,” says Anji. “I was terrified it would be dropped or chipped so I refused to be here when they installed it!”

3. Best use of space

When we chatted to Jasmine Burt and Erin Allison-Maxwell in 2017, they told us that building a tiny house has left them with a manageable financial burden and more freedom to continue travelling the world.The couple’s gorgeous cottage, which measures 7.2 metres by 2.4 metres and sits on a bush-clad section in West Auckland, was devised while they were living overseas.

Erin and Jasmine had started thinking about their future back home and checking out houses for sale online to see what they could afford. It didn’t make for pretty viewing. The pair had heard of the ‘tiny house’ movement and, after doing some research, found its philosophy spoke to them. Erin had always dreamed of one day building his own home and “something of this scale made it achievable”.

The kitchen

One of the fundamental philosophies of the ‘tiny house’ movement is that a tiny house must be beautiful – “otherwise they can look like a Portacom,” says Jasmine. The couple chose a modern cottage aesthetic with generous windows for plenty of natural light. They knew the size of the windows would make a major impact on the final look, and the added cost of custom wooden frames was a sacrifice they were willing to make.

The striking kitchen benchtop was another quality-over-cost decision. It’s made from black maire, a little-known native which produces extremely hard, beautiful wood with swirls and knots throughout. The couple sourced the timber from Brian at St Lukes Timber, who supplied the same wood for the flooring in Michael Parekowhai’s artwork ‘The Lighthouse’ on Auckland’s Queens Wharf.

4. Best colour

We originally met interior designer Thandi Tipene back in 2016 when she gave us a tour of her stunning New Plymouth home. The original house was a small, dark cottage with limited sun but Thandi and husband Bachelor viewed it as a golden opportunity and embarked on a thoroughgoing renovation which saw the interior layout and style change dramatically.

The kitchen

Thandi made a bold colour choice in the kitchen and had their secondhand cabinetry spray-painted in a custom colour – a striking, yet soft, powdery blue – by Nickel Blast and Paint 2013. A marble splashback helps break up the rest of the all-white scheme. We especially love the white tapware and the white wire bar stools from Ico Traders. Whitewashed matai floorboards, which continue through the living spaces and hallways, warm everything up and link the spaces together.

Colour story 

Taking cues from different aspects of their lives was a starting point for the design. “Our home is inspired by the tropics and personal travel experiences in places like Bali, Hawaii and Panama, where our background in surfing has taken us,” Thandi says. “If you are unsure about bright blocks of colour, use testpots to paint boards or canvases and see how the light affects it in the intended space before committing to it – and remember, it can always be painted over!” says Thandi.

5. Best budget

Nestled in between Napier and Hastings and bordering the Ngaruroro River is Liz and Gary Spence’s country cottage. This cosy home’s kitchen transformation involved a fresh lick of paint plus new cabinets, benchtop and flooring – all for just $7000.

On a budget 

The DIY-loving duo say they enjoy creating something special on a shoestring. For example, they bought their old black stove from an op-shop in Napier many years ago and installed it where the original stove would have been. “I used to cook on it when our children were small and it kept the home very cosy in winter. We no longer use it, but it still looks lovely.”

The seagrass matting was an original feature and has been lovingly replaced. “It used to be the cheapest form of floor covering but now it’s expensive!” says Liz. “We used offcuts from a friend’s house and stitched them together with a sack needle.”


Pieces of Willow pattern, Burleigh and Royal Staffordshire china, along with Tony Sly pottery, adorn the exposed shelves and create a warm, inviting and rustic vibe. The door handles came from Heritage Hardware in Hastings and the tapware is from Foreno in Whangarei.

Liz says she loves their kitchen as it is but can’t help perusing antique and secondhand shops in case she finds something perfect. “The kitchen is always evolving. Pieces which have special meaning go in the kitchen display and I love how my constantly evolving collection tells a story,” she says.

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