How Do You Design Around a Yellow Smeg Oven and Hood? Add More Yellow, of Course
Inside the happy home of an Australian designer couple.
Published Mar 24, 2023 1:05 AM
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It’s rare that a wall sconce or a stationery organizer makes you smile, but if Daniel To and Emma Aiston made it, you won’t be able to hold back a grin. The couple, who met while studying industrial design at college in their hometown of Adelaide, Australia, are masters at creating objects that bring people joy, even if that item is a graphic LED sign that marks the location of a defibrillator, a cork magnet shaped like a cone, or a clothing rack covered in orange balls—just three pieces they’ve devised as the creative directors for nonprofit craft collective Jam Factory and their studio, Daniel Emma.
So it’s a fair warning that the cottage To and Aiston have called home for nearly 14 years might make your cheeks hurt. The kitchen is swathed in a sunny shade of yellow. Their dogs, Max (a schipperke) and Paul (a cairn terrier), like to post up by the giant sliding window and survey the backyard for birds and butterflies. For a peppy kick in their subway tile–clad shower: a pink curtain dotted with blue flowers.
The circa-1910 house, located in the western suburbs of Adelaide, wasn’t always this cheerful. The structure was originally built to host workers from the nearby rail yards and port; while many of the homes around it are constructed out of ritzier sand or bluestone, this two-bedroom house is built from pressed tin and corrugated iron.
When the couple bought the property in 2009 after living in London for two years, their first task was removing all the asbestos and updating the bathroom’s poor drainage. From there, incorporating storage—with a dash of whimsy, of course—was a top priority. “We love having our stuff on show, but hate having a cluttered house that requires endless dusting,” says Aiston. In the guest space, two extra-tall cabinets in a poppy red hold their extensive book collection and frame a fireplace that the couple guesses was added in the 1950s. The surround is made entirely from plaster and painted to look like stone, “which gives it a real Disneyland feel,” says To.
More recently, the designers finally got around to tackling the 30-year-old kitchen. Keeping the layout generally as is, they shifted the location of the range to make way for more counter space and went with a fresh color palette inspired by their days overseas. “Yellow is such a happy color and it’s a constant reminder of one of our great friends Thorsten van Elten’s lovely kitchen in his old flat in London, where we shared many fun times,” says Aiston.
The couple made sure the cabinets didn’t perfectly match the Smeg oven and range hood. “Having that same yellow [all over] would have been too garish, so something softer and more buttery was what we were drawn to,” notes To. A handful of lavender accents also helps break things up, although the design choice almost didn’t make the cut.
“We actually decided on this aspect very early on and had almost forgotten about it when the install came around,” recalls Aiston. Luckily paint is an easy last-minute DIY. A light purple nook now punctuates the pair’s treasured Dieter Rams Braun SK-61 record player, which they bought to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary a few years ago. Then there’s a delightful hit of pink in the form of their much-loved Moccamaster. “We use it every day to brew a big pot of tea that helps keep us perky during the morning slump,” she adds.
Once their mugs are full, To and Aiston carry them over to their studio—conveniently located in a separate structure at the back of their garden. “So there is just enough disconnect to make it feel like we are going off to work,” says To. Currently on their to-do list: preparing for the June opening of a kids-focused exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Unsurprisingly, one of the activities at the show involves getting children to create funny faces from sparkly shapes in a rainbow of colors.