Three-tone harmony

When Tracy and Rhangani Mbhalati decided to have children, they dreamed of a big home with a garden, swimming pool and a home cinema.

They wanted a house that had wide open spaces and lots of natural light. In 2019, after two years of construction and around about the same time that their youngest of three arrived, they fulfilled that dream when they moved into the house they’d built in Crescentwood County Estate, Midrand. At the centre of their new home is a magnificent open-plan kitchen designed by Antoinette Prinsloo of Ergo Designer Kitchens. We met with Tracy and Antoinette to find out about the vision behind the kitchen.

It’s a chilly winter morning when we visit the Mbhalati residence, but the kitchen is bright and airy. The surfaces are clear of clutter and anything messy or not particularly pretty (like the washing up station and the washing machine) is cleverly hidden in the scullery behind the kitchen. A large central island, complete with hob, prep bowl and a stylish extractor unit, is the focal point, along with the wood-finish cabinet and open display shelves behind it.

“We love to cook and entertain and we wanted a kitchen that would make that easy,” says Tracy. “We spoke to a lot of kitchen companies, but we chose to work with Antoinette at Ergo Designer Kitchens because she understood exactly what we wanted.”

“It was lovely to work on this kitchen because there’s so much space, and I was given free rein to come up with a design to present to Tracy and Rhangani, and we tweaked it from there,” says Antoinette.

Tracy was very clear that she wanted to use grey tones, not brown, so Antoinette says the challenge was to create a sleek, modern kitchen without it feeling overly clinical or sterile. This was achieved by using three different PG Bison board colours – Folkstone Grey™ and Storm Grey™ in Melawood™ SupaGloss and Haven™ in Melawood®.

“It was the first three-tone kitchen I’ve done and I think it works really well,” says Antoinette. “We brought in a bit of texture with MelaWood® Haven™.” The wood-look finish adds a subtle warmth and a homey feel to the room, and just a bit here or there goes a long way. “You don’t have to use browns to achieve that warmth – grey works too,” Antoinette says.

Tracy is thrilled with the end result. Her favourite part of the kitchen is the large island. The extractor unit for the hob has been built into a suspended ceiling, which also has a recessed lighting system that cycles through different colours.

To keep the sleek feel and to protect against damage, the cabinets are handle-free and the kick-plates on the floor cabinets are made from aluminium. Antoinette says this is her preferred option for kick-boards, as the metal handles moisture better and makes for easy cleaning. The handle-less cabinets are still easy to access as they use push-to-open hinges. The cabinet hardware, such as the pull-out spice rack and drawer runners, are from Fit.

Open display shelves have been incorporated in different spots in the kitchen to add visual interest and space to display beautiful kitchenware or flowers.

Tracy says that while the experience of constructing a house and having a baby at the same time has been testing for the family, they have learnt a lot from the experience and wish they could start over again.

The couple decided to take a year’s break after moving in, having managed their building project themselves, before wrapping up the final few things, including the home cinema, bar, fireplaces, garden, boma and breakfast nook. They’re now beginning to plan these last few projects.

Tracy’s advice for others looking to build a new kitchen is to find the right kitchen designer. “Ask for referrals and pick someone who understands what you’re looking for,” she says.

ADVICE FROM A PRO

Antoinette has been designing kitchens for more than 13 years and her company has been manufacturing and installing kitchens and cabinetry from 2014. She shares the following advice for kitchen renovations or builds:

  • Don’t be limited by the kitchen workflow in the architect’s plans. Architects aren’t kitchen specialists. They’re checking that you can fit everything in a space, but they won’t necessarily take your specific kitchen needs into account.
  • Get a kitchen designer involved as early as possible. That way, you don’t have to chase in new electrical or water points once walls have already been plastered. It’s these small things that require extra time and cost.
  • Choose your colours carefully. “Feature colours” tend to have about a 10-year life cycle, whereas base neutral colours will normally be fashionable for about 15 years. When you select colours, think about how long you plan to stay in the house.

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