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Guest Blog: Nerida Conway's Caesarstone Kitchen Renovation Journey

“We bought a house!” I shrieked to anyone who would listen. We had been looking at houses, going to auctions for a year and it was beginning to cave my head in. I was now obsessed with auction results, median prices, and block sizes. To make matters worse, our requirements for this life-changing purchase were not as straightforward as they normally would have been.

First and foremost, we needed a house that was solid and suitable for a family of five which meant a decent block size in inner city Melbourne. That seemed hard enough but most of all we needed a very special kitchen.

I love to cook and entertain so much that I started a foodie website: www.chefmasterclasses.com. In a nutshell, you can visit my website and food channel to watch top Aussie chefs whipping up stunning recipes in a master class format and giving out helpful tips. This means that my home kitchen had to double as a studio kitchen. It not only needed to be as functional as an industrial kitchen, but also stylish and glamorous – worthy of the great chefs who we film cooking in it.

The house we bought in the end was perfect for us! It was structurally as solid as a rock and the footprint was great. It was also maintained brilliantly – neat as a pin – but it was incredibly dated and the kitchen was tiny and very basic.

So, with a bit of thought and planning, our builder was able to open up the space by removing a wall so we were left with a blank canvas. All I knew thus far was that we had decided on bamboo flooring in an espresso colour with ‘Natural White Dulux walls. But as for the kitchen? No idea.

Then the panic set in. I now had to somehow create a kitchen that ticked all the boxes and to be honest; I had no idea of even where to start! I looked online and there was nothing to show me what the process is like, where you even start and how it all happens, and I felt very overwhelmed – to put it mildly.

A friend of mine recommended a kitchen company she had worked with in the past as a starting point. So I gave them – and a few others – a call. The owner of this particular business got back to me straight away and was genuinely excited about the idea of helping me create a kitchen that would not only be incredibly practical and functional, but would also look brilliant on camera.

I decided to film my kitchen renovation journey so others could get a better idea of how it was for me and what to expect. I have to say, I am still to this day blown away by how easy, fast and even joyful the experience was – a relief, given that I was dreading it, and had heard many nightmare stories!

The kitchen designer came over to look at the space and to get a feel for the colourings of my walls and floors. She then went away and drew up some plans of how she saw it being set out. I was blown away – and a little shocked in all honesty. I had imagined the kitchen at one end of the open plan rectangle space, and she had it appointed right, smack bang in the middle – literally the central hub of the room. I loved it! And let’s face it; it is – and always will be – the heart of our home.

Then she gave me some choices in cabinetry and benchtops. It was hard to decide, but we went with a rich dark espresso coloured ‘African Wenge’ for the cabinets.

When it came to choosing the benchtops, I realised how many features I wanted them to have. Given that the floors and cabinets were quite dark, I needed the bench-tops to be a feature unto themselves and really pop on camera. They had to look luxurious and stylish, but also be super functional – and by that I mean easy to clean – because we make incredible amounts of mess on them – durable, won’t stain easily, but also won’t show up every bread crumb.

Given my strict wish list for my benchtops I chose Caesarstone – it was an absolute no-brainer. I actually cringe a little when I hear myself rabbiting on to anyone who will listen about my benchtops – I’m a borderline Caesarstone groupie now.

We selected Ocean Foam – one of Caesarstone’s newest colours – and it is stunning. It reflects the light and brightens up the whole space, showcasing the wonderful ingredients the chefs lay out as they prepare their dishes. It is shiny and gleaming – and I have to admit – I was a little skeptical that the shine would wear off – in more ways than one – but it hasn’t! In fact, literally all I have to do is spray water onto it, then wipe it with a damp cloth and then give it a polish with a soft dry cloth and it comes up looking like new!

The other thing I love about it is that it’s lovely and cool. So it’s great for tempering chocolate (if you are ever inclined to do so) directly onto the bench top, and it’s also fantastic for things like rolling out pastry – so I now think of it as a kitchen tool and accessory.

The next decision I was struggling with was what to have as my splashback. I’d already decided I didn't want grout to contend with for cleaning, so tiles for me were out. And safety glass was an option, but I wasn't totally comfy about introducing another colour to the palate – as my kitchen needs to remain fairly neutral. So, our kitchen designer suggested we use the Caesarstone for the splashback as well.

I’d never heard of this as an option, but I was euphoric! Once I had seen how incredible the benchtops looked, it made perfect sense to seamlessly run them up the walls and create a splashback that was as stylish, classic and timeless as the rest of the kitchen!

I’m so thrilled to share these photos with you of the kitchen before we got to it, during the renovation and then after everything was finished. I hate myself for admitting this, but I feel smug when I see the look on people’s faces the first time they see our new kitchen – and even some of the internationally acclaimed chefs I work with who cook in our kitchen comment that their wives have “kitchen envy”.

The only downside is that I am now officially a ‘kitchen snob’. I find myself tutting when I open a sticky drawer at a holiday rental and frowning as I wipe up a benchtop that leaves a stain. I wonder if there is a support group for that?

I hope you enjoy your Caesarstone kitchen benchtop and splashbacks as much as we all do!