Chenchow House

Sydney’s terraced houses are infamous for being narrow, dark and damp. When architects Tony Chenchow and Stephanie Little renovated their Surry Hills house they focused on bringing light and volume into the traditional slim shell. Positioned in a void at the base of the four-storey home and lit by skylights, the kitchen design makes the most of these spatial plays.

Designers. Architect: Chenchow Little Architects
Kitchen Manufacturer: North Shore Custom Cabinetmaking
Materials Benchtop: Stainless steel
Cabinetry: American oak
Handles: Custom


Concept Design

The couple share a home and, across the road, an architecture practice, Chenchow Little Architects. They had bought their house ten years previously, and as their practice grew so did their ideas for how to marry the heritage shell with their own contemporary and sculptural design aesthetics. Because the design of their own home had to fit in around their day-to-day work, the development of the concept was organic and changed in scope and direction as their family – with the arrival of their son two years ago – grew too.

Designing for yourself adds opportunities as well as limitations. “You understand the potential of what something could be,” explains Tony while also acknowledging that an architect’s own tight budget may rein in some of those possibilities. The complete overhaul of their four-storey terraced home would hardly suggest that any of their ideas have been trumped by constraints. You walk down into a light-filled, double-height space below where the kitchen and dining room settle at the base of the stair alongside the lounge and a courtyard.

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The arrival of their son prompted Tony and Stephanie to design the living room in easy sight of the kitchen but the tight floorplan limited the available space for a separate dining area. Their solution was to bring the dining room into the kitchen with the cabinetry and benchtop wrapping around the table.

This informal and intimate solution suited their young family, but it also suited their casual entertaining style. Tony says, “The way we entertain, we are quite informal people, we’ll just invite a whole lot of friends over, and the dining table will be in that space and we’ll be cooking, and they’ll be eating and we can still interact with each other.”

The layout of the appliances was designed for these informal gatherings and Tony and Stephanie cooking together. “We didn’t really think about the traditional triangle, because we cook together; Stephanie might have something on the stove while I’m chopping something up. So we had to have a kitchen that can have more than one person in it,” he explains.

Their solution was to bring the dining room into the kitchen with the cabinetry and benchtop wrapping around the table.


Developed Design

This arrangement blurs the lines between dining and kitchen. The table can be used to prep meals but, equally, the kitchen has been designed to be a part of the living space. “That was the intent, it was important to design the kitchen as a piece of joinery,” Tony says of the kitchen cabinetry that poses as furniture.

This is most clearly seen in the console-like bench unit where, unlike typical kitchen cabinetry, this entire length of bench has been suspended 380mm above the floor, floating on thin steel supports. As well as the cooktop and sink, the Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer™ dishwasher was the only sort of dishwasher that would suit this arrangement. “The DishDrawer™ is ideal for this situation. We designed it around the DishDrawer™,” says Tony.

This floating bench runs along the side of the kitchen and butts into the underside of the staircase. Tony explains that, “In terraced houses, vertical circulation is often forgotten, but here the stairs are positioned alongside the void, so they become a sculptural, diagonal plane.” The benchtop meeting this plane was a complex piece of cabinetry for the joiner to perfect, refined through a number of iterations.

At a right angle to the floating bench is a floor-to-ceiling wall of cabinetry which includes integrated side-by-side fridge and freezer, a generous pantry and cupboards, as well as a built in wall oven and steam oven. Pairing the Fisher & Paykel wall oven with the companion steam oven creates a strong block of black within the joinery as well as offering the couple more cooking options.


Detail Design

The benchtop is stainless steel, chosen for its durability as well as the control over the thin edge, here bent back on itself to create a strong line. The cabinetry is American oak which gives warmth and texture. The concrete floor returns up the facing wall 760mm, where, above that datum, the rendered wall is painted white. This simple backdrop and the clarity of the stainless steel and American oak cabinetry are reminiscent of the work of Spanish architect Alvaro Siza.


Products &

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