Alisha Stewart left New Zealand for a year-long adventure to go and live in Melbourne. That was 12 years ago.
Now a designer at one of the city’s most prestigious kitchen design firms, Kitchens U Build, she has considered Australia home for years.
Alisha credits her precise designs to a unique combination of her education and practical experience that she has drawn from many fields. “I studied art all through high school but in my last year, I did drafting. I liked mixing the structural side of drafting with the creative side of printmaking and painting,” she says.
This combination is evident in the way Alisha treats space. She says she does a lot of renovations, which usually means she has to work to size restrictions. When designing for a client, one of the first things she thinks of is maximising storage. “Storage is key! The way the space works and feels is so important. Cooking and entertaining are usually family affairs, so I try to create different work zones so at least a couple of people can be in the space,” she says. Then there is the question of the look and feel of the kitchen. Mostly, she says, it needs to complement the overall appearance of the house.
Alisha grew up in Christchurch, NZ, and went on to study interior design at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT). As a student she took on a part-time job at Mitre 10 to work in their kitchen and bathroom departments. This experience led to a full-time job with a joinery company in Christchurch. But she wanted to experience what it was like working in a different country. And that’s how Melbourne happened.
Over the years, there are projects that stand out in her mind, those that have been challenging but ones she’s equally proud of. “There is a project that does stand out for me and we are on our last room with joinery manufacturing now. The project is beautiful and classic and made me think outside the square in terms of material and manufacturing limitations, but the end result is amazing.”
Long-term projects, she says, are really fulfilling because she develops great working relationships with the clients. It is greatly satisfying to her when she works closely with the builder and client to achieve a high-end custom look that suits the family’s lifestyle.
Among other things that make Alisha happy are magazine spreads showcasing her work (like those in Luxury Kitchens and Bathrooms). “It was pretty cool seeing one of the kitchens I worked on featured in a two-page spread in a magazine last year. It’s so nice seeing the finished product. A lot of the time I only see the kitchen or joinery in its CAD form,” she says.
Her expert advice to a homeowner looking to renovate their kitchen? “Live in the house for a while before you undertake the renovation. It takes time; it does not happen overnight. I always tell my clients that renovating is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
For more information, visit Kitchens U Build