Renowned designer Davinia Sutton has an impressive list of accolades to her name, garnering a reputation as the ‘Queen of Kitchens’. Most recently, her company Detail by Davinia Sutton took home 13 awards at the 2021 National Kitchen and Bathroom Association (NKBA) Excellence in Design Awards, including Designer of the Year. She tells us the trick to lighting a space, how to blend functionality and aesthetics and the design trends she’s coveting.
How would you describe your design philosophy and style?
In my world, design is all about problem-solving. It’s like putting a puzzle together to resolve people’s living environments. I believe it’s critical for an interior to read as one, and it’s imperative that my work sits comfortably within its context.
I strive for a connection to the surrounding architecture, therefore, my style and approach are not limited to one form, style or genera, it adapts from a contemporary approach through to a more tailored traditional format.
What are the exciting interior design trends you’re seeing right now, and into 2022?
I am using textures and tones; a mix of materials and tonal elements of metal are still a feature in my work. Pops of colour continues to grow in popularity. An almost black hue is contemporary and adds an elegant, sophisticated touch. I see light timbers being incorporated into design, from furniture through to joinery elements, décor and walls. There has been a move away from just white kitchens to layers of timber elements and tonal natural features.
We are also seeing integrated living spaces and kitchens being considered more like furniture elements than just built-in hard spaces. Lastly, feature ceilings, whether it’s painted to match the wall colour, or the detail is highlighted with wallpaper or lighting.
How do you decide what colour palette to use and are there any palettes you’re more drawn to?
I’m led by the architectural elements within an interior. The foundation forms a palette, so I always start with the flooring selection, then there are the architectural elements to consider or highlight from timber ceilings, the roof line leading into the exterior soffit, the environment and sense of spatial qualities form a colour palette.
While white has been a trend for a long time, adding in a hint or tone of colour or being bolder with a contrast is very chic and modern. One tip to always consider, for a timeless, seamless approach, is to use a palette of hues that are cohesive, ensuring the interior reads as one.
How important is lighting when designing a space, what do you consider and what atmosphere are you trying to create?
Form and function are hand in hand with lighting. Natural lighting is such an important factor to consider, for example the use of skylights and the position within a space, can transform the use and feeling, especially when applied within a bathroom setting.
Well-considered artificial lighting can really transform how a space feels and functions. Functional task lighting is a must from a safety perspective, but also feature or ambience lighting needs to be applied with the same space, to ensure an integrated approach to an open plan environment.
What are some of the most important things to consider when designing/renovating a kitchen?
Employ a designer, and not just any designer but a good one. You want a designer that listens to your needs and requirements. Invest wisely and use one that fits with you personally. This is important as they are creating your home, your personal space for restoring and respite. A designer will often bring years of experience and a client needs to trust this within their journey. A good designer should listen and respect your needs and requirements, however sometimes they may challenge this to achieve the best results. They are professionals, so lean on this professional for the true value they bring to your home/ design.
Consider your lifestyle and form of cooking requirements and embrace technology – it’s not just a gadget! Select a steam oven to boast the best of the local produce and make use of its goodness. An auto dose dishwasher and washing machine for the best most powerful, energy efficient wash cycle – green and mean! Bluetooth technology between hob and rangehood is also a fantastic investment. Selecting refrigeration that respects your produce by keeping it crisp and helps it to last longer also provides health benefits second to none.
I always ask our clients the following questions through the design journey: What is your main form of cooking style? What is their food approach? How often do they cook? What is their style and art of entertainment? What are their shopping trends and approach to pantry requirements – cool and dry? What type of appliances best suit their needs? what has worked well in the past? what have they not explored or have a knowledge base of? What are their storage requirements? Are they a single cook or do they cook as a family? What are your suggested inclusions in the kitchen for passionate cooks? Do you want a scullery? as any good foodie needs space for storage and a pantry and a walk-in space allows for this and prep space.
Lastly, have a design formed first, prior to purchasing any product or appliances. Often the small things can become the biggest problem. With a renovation, often electrical can be the area that blows a budget, as the homes wiring requires a upgrade to run the new product or just bring it up to code.
And for a bathroom?
Similar to a kitchen, bathrooms need to consider functional elements of your lifestyle and personal requirements. Where is the bathroom positioned? Does this meet the needs from a spatial layout and access? Who is using the space and do you enjoy a good bath or double shower space to linger and restore?
How many people use the space and what is their stage of life can all impact storage elements and function of fitting and fixtures? Lastly what is the heating source for your water and water pressure can often affect the selection of fittings.
You incorporated a slight Japanese influence in your award-winning kitchen – is this a style you are influenced by?
Interesting this comment came through form the judging panel at the National Kitchen and Bathroom awards. I’m always influenced by many factors within a project and I think this twist on a slight Japanese influence with this particular kitchen design was never actually an intentional approach, but the space has a somewhat Zen-like feel, the colour palette and layers portray a slight hint of this.
The backlight stone elements could reflect the subtleties of rice paper and the stained timber ceiling and darker foundations to walls and floor could also reflect this style.
How do you incorporate modern technology and does it play a big part in design for you?
Yes and no, I believe each client leads the direction on technology use. We always explore the use of this within a design, however, the client always needs to be comfortable with these advancements within the home. It’s about creating a space that enhances your lifestyle, not hindering it.
What is one of your favourite past designs and what do you love about it?
Each project I hold dearly, as each has been a journey for my clients and this provides the reward and impact me as a designer. Each project is bespoke and unique and provides a chance to unfold our client’s dreams and aspirations for their home.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I can’t define one element that provides inspiration, I enjoy personally tailoring each and every design to its architectural context, and pushing boundaries to deliver a stunning result.