Singular Simplicity

Client: Cantilever
Services: Digital Content Creation

For a celebrity chef who honed his craft at Noma and Rockpool and now helms Vue de monde, one of Australia’s most inventive fine diners, Hugh Allen is unexpectedly easy going and low-key.

So much so that when Cantilever Director Travis Dean first met him in the Brunswick showroom for a laconic chat about the compact kitchen he was renovating, he had no idea Hugh was one of the country’s most exciting young chefs with a design sensibility as natural and refined as his renowned cuisine.

“Hugh was so relaxed and chilled out, nonchalant in some ways, I didn’t really take him that seriously,” Travis recalls with a laugh. “He wandered in, went straight to Tableau and said, ‘I love this kitchen. How does it work and what does it cost?’ To be honest I didn’t expect to hear from him again. Often with younger people the budget doesn’t marry up. When I saw the email address was Vue de monde and realised he’s the executive chef there I thought, ‘Okay, maybe there’s something in this and it’ll keep progressing’.

It sure did. And not a moment too soon.

Hugh was already partway through an extensive renovation of a dilapidated Art-Deco apartment in Melbourne’s South Yarra. “It was a real dump when I bought it,” he says. “But I was always excited about the renovation and design part. It’s near the Botanical Gardens and I’ve always loved the area. It’s a small space so I wanted to optimise it. The kitchen is in the centre of the flat. It’s the first room you walk into when you enter. I decided to turn a bedroom next to the kitchen into a living room, and remove the adjoining wall to connect them and create a kitchen/dining space.” By the time he visited Cantilever’s showroom, work on the compact 2.6 x 2.3-square-metre kitchen area had already begun, including a double-width wall opening into the new living space and a new double-glazed window to admit gorgeous natural light and leafy vistas.

For Cantilever the timing had its challenges. “Usually we like to be engaged a long time before the builder gets on site,” Travis explains. “When projects aren’t led by design they tend to fall short. Ideally we talk with clients early, before they even start talking to builders or buying appliances or tiles. If people come in after they’ve ripped their old kitchen out and put new flooring down, for example, it limits our ability to move services.”