"Caesarstone is a quality product that we really just fell in love with. As soon as we saw it we knew we had to have it in our kitchen."
Kurt Fearnley, OAM
In a life lived to the max, even Kurt Fearnley was stretching his own extraordinary limits.
As he trained hard for his big swansong in the green and gold, the 37-year-old wheelchair athlete prepared with wife Sheridan for the arrival of their second child while overseeing a rebuild of the family home.
Where others fret over a challenge, Kurt sees opportunity and thrived balancing 150km-a-week training with nappy changes and effectively living on a building site.
In the now renovated home, Kurt loves the increased space, as well as a look and feel crafted by a couple who have a keen eye for design.
The exposed brick wall in the open-plan main living area was inspired by a friends apartment in Germany. The vintage posters that hang there are a result of a meeting with the paper specialist who restored them.
In the adjoining kitchen a striking tiled feature splashback overlooks Caesarstone's Rugged Concrete™ benchtops.
"Caesarstone is a quality product that we really just fell in love with," says Kurt. "As soon as we saw it we knew we had to have it in our kitchen."
Design inspiration that transforms the space
You're unlikely to find Kurt appearing on Celebrity MasterChef anytime soon, though. "I like trying in the kitchen but my wife is definitely a much better and more frequent participant than I am", he says.
But Kurt is still thrilled with a kitchen that is at the heart of a transformed century-old miners' cottage in a quiet Newcastle suburb the Fearnleys have called home since 2010.
While the front of the house retains original period features, it now opens onto a flowing and contemporary back area that provides plenty of room for the growing family.
The enhanced space throughout the house has transformed Kurt's home life. "Space is a luxury you don't notice when you've got it", he says.
"I saw Caesarstone Rugged Concrete and knew immediately that I wanted it to be my future kitchen. It is a perfect fit for our lifestyle and it just looks amazing!
Kurt Fearnley, OAM
Rugged lifestyle choices for the ultimate competitor
And that's particularly the case in the oversized u-shaped kitchen, which stands in sharp contrast to the 'nook' he used to navigate around.
"When you are in a wheelchair, it's important to make sure there is space so people can walk around you and you're not backing yourself or anyone else into a corner", says Kurt.
Other subtle features - like slightly lower benchtops and a below-benchtop microwave recess - have been incorporated into the kitchen design. The Rugged Concrete™ benchtops complement the polished concrete floor.
"One person might change things in their kitchen because they want a certain type of oven or want to cook more", says Kurt.
"Another might want lower benchtops because they are in a wheelchair."
"In each case it's the same principle. You create a kitchen that's going to suit your lifestyle. These are all just opportunities to make your kitchen yours".
"It's no more or less on any variation of life that every single one of us gets to experience."
Home is where Kurt's heart grows fonder
Kurt called time on representing Australia by winning the T54 wheelchair marathon at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It was yet another inspirational performance from an athlete who helped propel para-sports into prime-time. In a career spanning two decades, the three-time Paralympic gold medallist, seven-time World Champion and tireless disability advocate changed attitudes and inspired a nation. Collective hearts beat a little faster when Kurt crawled along the 96km Kokoda Track, though not quite as fast as the 194 beats a minute he averaged winning his final gold for Australia on the Gold Coast.
At the finish line waiting to greet him was his proud family; Sheridan, son Harry, 4, and the latest addition to the Fearnley clan, Emilia, who was born in November 2017. They're now enjoying more time together in their renovated home as Kurt plans the next chapter of a life pushed to the limits, a highly appropriate title for his 2014 autobiography.
"There was nothing better than being able to embrace Sheridan, Harry and Emilia after I crossed the line at the Commonwealth Games", says Kurt.
"Whatever the future holds, nothing will beat that feeling."