A renovation of an existing British Colonial bayside residence, Biscayne will showcase what Kate has christened a ‘Caribbean Colonial’ style home, a beautiful blend of formality and relaxed conviviality.
The original house before the renovation. Photo @katewalker_design
After working in the tile industry for over 15 years, Kate founded KWD in 2013 before going on to create KWD & Co, an online hard finishes portal suitable for all budgets. During her busy career, Kate has honed her expertise in specifying hard finishes and fittings for interiors.
Biscayne is being captured on film for the duration of the project and is a collaboration of supply partners including The English Tapware Company. Join us as we follow Kate on this exciting journey, whilst sharing her invaluable insight on successfully specifying hard finishes with luxury tapware.
RENOVATING VS NEW BUILD
Construction underway on site at Biscayne. Photo @katewalker_design
New pool design and installation by @laguna_pools. Photo @katewalker_design
“Renovating rather than building new means you have to be more creative,” says Kate when asked about the design limitations to undertaking major renovations for Biscayne.
“I personally love renovating and I am so drawn to projects that involve problem - solving with boundaries and constraints. The result of ‘before’ and ‘after’ is what really drives me. My passion lies in being solution centric and in really making a huge impact. I believe the innate skill I have of being able to visualise a project before it starts, stands me in good stead for designing well executed and innovative renovations.
“When I first viewed Biscayne, I knew it had good bones and it was built really well, which is why I decided to buy it as a project for my new home. I loved the architectural elements like the large double-deck veranda which is very reminiscent of homes in Key West. This style dictated the Floridian, Island vibe I wanted to achieve for the property.
“A house needs to have good bones, and the design aesthetic is very much dictated by the architecture of the home – not by what I love. We look at the process systematically and unemotionally, so space planning is followed by the joinery design which is followed by the finishes. The emotions come into play with the selection of the furniture, the artwork and the decorator items.”
THE DESIGN PROCESS
A coastal flatlay by KWD. Photo @katewalker_design
Renovation success so often will come down to the spatial planning of the property, with most older homes needing adjustments to outdated room layouts. Kate explains: “Space planning is all about the layout of the home, the number of rooms, the sizes, where walls sit and where the rooms face.
“If more attention was spent on space planning, more homes would be built more soundly, be so much more functional, look so much more beautiful and be more valuable.
“Importantly though, it’s about sight lines. When I look at a property I sit in each space and I work out what you can view from every angle. I have a unique ability to see a finished property before it the renovation begins, and sight lines are the key to taking a space to a whole new level. It costs the same amount to build a poorly designed home as it does to build an exceptionally designed home, so getting the space planning right will ensure a successful result.”
“Before we design it. We need to know how the space will be used, what fittings and finishes are important, and then we build the design based on the brief. For example, there is no point in designing a bathroom with bench-mounted taps if the client wants wall-mounted ones.”
When designing a home, the most important room is the kitchen, followed by the master ensuite.
“The kitchen is where the whole family gathers and operates from so it has the highest usage of any space. If you had a heat map on a home the kitchen would definitely be red. Whereas a sanctuary-like master suite that works really well and gives you a beautiful start to the day and end to the day, is the key to a feel-good factor.
“I always design knowing that I want to use natural materials, but I choose the specific materials based on the design as each finish must reflect the overall aesthetic.”
KITCHEN & BATHROOM FINISHES AND FITTINGS
Kate agrees it is important to always invest in quality hard finishes, fixtures and fittings they are the foundation of any home and are the visual elements that you see, touch and feel every day.
“I love natural materials - anything that is going to patina and age over time. Natural stone, oak flooring, sisal and wool carpets, and tapware that has a live finish (not PVD) that will age and weather beautifully.
“If you do make a mistake, the hard finishes are the most expensive elements to replace. You only get one chance to install flooring, wall tiles, kitchen bench tops and splashbacks - and tapware which is one of the most frequently used fittings in a home. So focus your budget on investing in quality hard finishes, fixtures and fittings – because you can always build up the furniture, decorator items and artwork at a later stage when funds allow.”
Kate suggests always having an idea of which fittings you want to use in a space before designing a kitchen or bathroom.
First however, it’s so important to consider who is using the bathroom and kitchen and how they will be using the space. “Think about how often the room will used and cleaned, how much light there is in the space and what the budget is. The benchtop surfaces and the tiles need to be specified not only in terms of aesthetics - practicality, functionality and longevity is so important.”
KITCHEN AND BATHROOM MUST-HAVES
“In the bathroom, I really like face height joinery so that when you are doing your makeup you don’t have to bend down to use cupboards or drawers. And I always love to include a bath positioned in front of a window so there is an outlook. Bringing the outside in creates a real sanctuary. If possible, I incorporate this in all of my designs.
“In the kitchen a deep island bench is a must-have. People often think they need a long island bench but it’s the depth that’s important so you can create two zones, one on either side. And whereas a lot of people believe that a butler’s pantry is a must have, I actually subscribe to a very different thought process. If a kitchen is well designed, we don’t need to find room for a butler’s pantry. The concept is quite antiquated and conjures up the idea of hired help. It separates you from your family completely. To have the woman or the man of the kitchen hidden in a cupboard whilst preparing and cooking is isolating. I much prefer to design kitchen joinery with a concealed appliance cupboard, a concealed breakfast cupboard and a built-in bar.
Good quality tapware in both the bathroom and kitchen is always a must-have. If you counted how many times a day you use a kitchen tap you would want to make sure you have one that works beautifully and that you love. If your budget doesn’t allow you to have Perrin & Rowe taps throughout your home, just stretch to install one in the kitchen only.”
SUPPLIERS AND TRADESPEOPLE
“I work exceptionally closely with my supply partners and trades – I couldn’t do what I do without having great relationships with them. I may specify a tile that is used by other designers but by spending time with my tiler and explaining what my expectations are, we come up with a fabulous result – be it a new grout line or lay pattern or even just the incredible quality of their installation.
“Working closely with our joiners and discussing every aspect at every stage means that the design is workable and is manufactured to the highest standard. If you don’t have that relationship with supply partners and trades, that’s when design intent can go awry, and execution can falter.”
WORKING WITH THE ENGLISH TAPWARE COMPANY
“The English Tapware Company has an exemplary offering in both their product range and their customer service. Their products suit every one of our projects because their range encompasses both contemporary and classic, and the finishes are sublime.
“I love that they are a family company, and I can talk directly to the owner. They treat their customers with the same respect as I treat mine and they are solution centric. I have never had an issue that hasn’t been resolved and TETC’s back of house service is first class.”
THE FINAL RESULT
Kate Walker captured by @armellehabib photography