They say the kitchen is heart of the home. But what about the heart of an architectural practice? The heart of a bustling business place? The heart of a studio full of creative people?
It’s true, the kitchen is the heart of any people occupied building. Naturally, we enjoy relaxing, chatting, eating and drinking together, so a space that stimulates these actions is none other than the kitchen. And with effective design and a functional use of materials, the kitchen not only becomes the heart of the building, but a space to collaborate with colleagues over a warming cup of coffee.
A model space of these attributes is the Solari Architects kitchen renovation. Seven and a half years ago, James Solari founded a then, small architectural firm. Now, with 20 plus people, Solari Architects, is a well developed and refined architectural practice focussing on multi-residential sector.
Based in Wellington, James is passionate, and his team is too. ‘Apartments and townhouses is our thing, we love that space, we have got a team of people that are really passionate about creating good living environments for people and doing that at scale and density’.
e also stated, that ‘we’ve got a team that has grown, and this space here we’ve just moved in two months ago which is a result of the growth we’ve experienced.’
But what is striking about the practice is the correlation between the spaces and the personalities of James and his staff. The openly design layout of the building parallels the approachable nature of James and his team.
Also, a clever attention to detail yet with design a statement, something new and different. We sat down with James to discuss this kitchen renovation, an interesting topic considering this wasn’t a residential kitchen design, but a shared and communal kitchen for the entire practice.
The core layout & design
The layout and design have direct impacts to the feel and atmosphere of not only the kitchen but of the entire space.
The kitchen is the hub of Solari Architects practise and of course and ill-designed or poorly functioning layout would be detrimental to its purpose of ‘bringing people together’.
As James stated that the kitchen was all about ‘creating a great space for us to work in as a team’ and how this was a ‘fundamentally important thing for us’.
In this kitchen, the core design, features an open-ended benchtop. Shaped in a U-shape, this brings a range of advantages.
Not only does it partially segment the kitchen space from the rest of the room, but it also doubles as a bar for colleagues to collaborate and eat. And, an underestimated benefit of the U-layout, is the increase in cabinetry and storage space that becomes available. This storage space is somewhat hidden, allowing clients to come and go freely without the need for a rush of tidying.
With this new space, James mentioned that they have a ‘pretty open door here … clients can come in and wander around to see who we are and what we are. They don’t just get stuck in a meeting room over in the corner&rsquo
And of course, benchtop space is always a tough decision when planning the layout of the kitchen. Through the design process, all the potential benchtop use should be considered.
Will it be used for food preparation and washing up? Will there be enough space for the appliances?
Ultimately, once the benchtop shape is decided, then the fun begins with deciding the material to use. The material selected makes a definite impact on the atmosphere and style of the kitchen.
What James especially likes about the countertop selection was the thin and crisp look of the porcelain stone selected. And when a matt black colour was selected, the thin 12mm thickness, offset the dark tonal impact to the space with its light contemporary style.
Material selection for durability
With a focus on the multi-residential development market in New Zealand, Solari Architects place a high importance on the use of durable materials. This is an underlying sustainable practice as the materials or surfaces used do not need replacing as often of soon, reducing the environmental effect compared to cheaply built developments. And, when materials that boast quality, durability and longevity are used, costs of maintenance and replacements are often less expensive in the long run. James also spoke about his customers (ultimately multi-residential investors and developers) and how ‘they want something that is going to wear well, look good in 10 to 15 years and maintain the value in their investment’. As surfaces (especially your kitchen benchtop) are used every day, investing in a durable and quality surface will ensure your space looks good no matter what the age. <
Solari Architects selected a porcelain stone from Italy called Florim Stone which is renowned for its amazing heat, stain and scratch resistant properties. And James and his team tested it for themselves, ‘some of the products we were trying out for benchtops...were tested on a Friday night session and ... that was quite a fun session with the team, trying out how does a bottle scratch on top of a benchtops or not ect.’ The result of this benchtop is not only a styled contemporary looking top but also a surface that James described as ‘a great product we’ve finished up with that survived the test’. And by having this modern surface, right in the heart of their practise, on display, makes for a great looking and functioning kitchen that doubles as a visual sales pitch to James’ clients. ‘You know having a kitchen as a heart that our customers can come see, touch, feel, believe us when we talk about something that we’ve used that’s going to work well. They can see it, touch it, interact with it...it’s pretty important.’
Trending design movements in society and our spaces
Finally, as an architectural practise, it was important for James to ensure their space not only reflects their style but does display trending movements and products within the industry. And upcoming movements is the use of thin surfaces, matt black colours, open layouts that nourish open collaboration with teams and spaces with no heavily defined purpose but can double up for collaboration, cooking or dining.
Ultimately, it is all about the flexibility of a space, with products and materials to back up this flexibility required. And especially in workspaces like the Solari Architects kitchen, the need to be able to accommodate their ‘Friday night sessions’, as well as everyday work life where some colleagues have their full breakfast at work while others may barely set foot in the kitchen for cooking but use it solely for socialising. Such requirements have made trends such as combing the benchtop as a breakfast bar unit popular. This gives the end-user a seemingly new table, that is still a part of the kitchen. In home or residential use, where breakfast bars are doubled into a kitchen benchtop, their uses are wide and varied...homework desk, breakfast bar, drinks bar when entertaining or food prep during the week. And with the beautiful mitred and waterfalled edge in Solari’s kitchen, the beauty of the surface is undoubtable.
As society changes, our spaces will too. Work-life balance is a growing movement which may cause members to be working in their work environments from a wide and varied range of times. We are becoming to recognize the importance of happy healthy employees which become productive employees. And, a critical factor in employee satisfaction, is their workspace. A workspace can drastically improve the moods, the atmosphere and functionality of the practise, helping, or not helping to improve the productivity of employees.
By building this modern and spacious kitchen for his team shows James Solari, the founder, is truly grateful for his employees. It also stems back to Solari Architects own vision who define themselves as ‘experts in the multi-unit residential space.’ James stated openly that, ‘We are passionate and believe in creating great living environments for people across a variety of densities...we create great places for people to live in those environments with each other in a comfortable and cohesive manner.’ With a true passion of creating ‘great living environments for people’ is a value that is truly applaudable will ensure Solari Architects as a practise will stay sustainable for years to come. With ‘people’ at the core of the business will be a binding ethos within the practise...and now, they have a beautiful space to grow as a company in this vision.
Curated by Archant
Archant provided support and the supply of products throughout this project. Featured in the kitchen is Colour Black from our Florim Stone porcelain range to adorn the benchtop while Marble Statuario in 6mm was used for the splashback. For the benchtop, the recommended 12mm thickness was selected and both surfaces were in a matte finish. The granite sink is an Aoraki 550-10, in the Nero finish. These granite sinks are manufactured in Germany by Schock. Accompanying the sink is black Elementi Uno Goosneck with a pullout spout.