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Two Melbourne homes, two EcoSmart fireboxes installed in their kitchen island benches. But according to architect Nicholas Murray, that’s where the design similarities end.

One a makeover of an entire home for a modern man, the other a kitchen renovation of a family residence that speaks of old-school elegance – and the element of fire was used to complement the designs of each house in a unique way.

In the home of Guy Grossi, a well-known Australian chef and media personality, the EcoSmart Fire installation is used as a divider between old and new.

“Initially I suggested a more modern kitchen design, but Guy and his wife wanted to keep true to the rest of the house, which is very vibrant and ornate, very old-fashioned,” says Nicholas, who owns Nicholas Murray Architects, the company behind the designs. “So we drew it all up, but they changed their minds and we went with a sleek, minimalist renovation, which has turned out great. I like that contrast between the two styles.”

To create the fire, Corian in a near-white was chosen for its easy moulding, which helped increase design possibilities when installing the EcoSmart firebox into the island bench.

“I chose EcoSmart Fire because we obviously couldn’t have a fireplace that needed fluing under the kitchen island,” explains Nicholas. “Also, a traditional fireplace is a little bit environmentally ‘naughty’ nowadays!”

Modern to a tee, the kitchen is filled with stainless steel elements including kickboards and bench tops, which complement the EcoSmart firebox, also made from this industrial-style metal. The element of fire amplifies this industrial look; fire being a traditional cooking method.

“It just works,” says Nicholas. “Fire is a suitable addition to the kitchen, and this installation faces out in the dining space, sending its ambience and warmth into that space also. I like using fire in this way, to define areas of the home.”

Kitchen kinship

The EcoSmart installation in the Montague St, Albert Park home also opens up into a different area of the home; on this occasion however, it’s the contemporary living space.

To increase the area the indoor fire could be seen from, a set of small steps lead up the kitchen from the living space, which places it at an elevated level. The brightness can be seen from the outdoor areas as well as from the lounge area, working to open up the originally small space.

With this project, Nicholas had a lot of creative licence. “The client literally put the entire home in my hands,” he says. “He said, ‘Just create an amazing home for me.’ So everything in the entire house, from the toaster to all the furniture was bought by us.”

The result is a stylish yet simple home with modern furnishings complemented by natural wood and stone textures.

This was only the second time Nicholas had used an EcoSmart fire in one of his projects; he is now installing an outdoor model on an inner city roof deck. However, Nicholas is by no means a stranger to using fire in home design.

“We use lots of fires in our projects because we mainly work on high-end projects where the client expects luxury additions such as a fireplace,” he explains.

“We used to work mainly with traditional fireplaces, but the flexibility of a flue-less fire place is very appealing when it comes to designing a space.”

Nicholas Murray, Owner of Nicholas Murray Architects