Skype Lets a Family Renovate Their Kitchen 3,700 Miles Away

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By Luke Hopping / Published by Dwell
An Australian family living in Singapore plans a homecoming renovation, one Skype chat at a time.

Working on a renovation remotely is tricky, but as Melbourne-area designer Dan Gayfer and his clients Carla and Paul Tucker found, having a strong personal—and wi-fi—connection helps.

Australian expats Carla and Paul Tucker tasked designer Dan Gayfer with expanding their Melbourne bungalow without adding any square footage. Local zoning rules forbade them from enlarging the home’s footprint.

After three years abroad in Singapore, where Paul took a job in IT services, the couple and their daughters, Zoe, Lexi, and Scarlett (now 6, 8, and 10) were eager to return to their hometown of Melbourne. The only thing holding them back was the jumbled California-style bungalow that awaited them.

In the kitchen, Dedo stools by Simone Simonelli for Miniforms pull underneath a poured-in-place concrete countertop.

"The kitchen layout didn’t flow, the main bath was in the laundry, and the ensuite had minimal storage," recalls Carla, an artist and yoga instructor. The family knew each area would need better circulation the moment they arrived. 

A wall of three-inch-wide cedar slats contrasts with the tile backsplash.

Planning ahead, Paul tapped designer Dan Gayfer, whom he found online, for a Skype interview to see whether they were compatible for a long-distance collaboration. Gayfer was impressed by his prospective clients’ PowerPoint brief, which included a materials wish list, and saw that communication wouldn’t be an issue. "Once each party developed trust for one another," Gayfer says, "not one minute was wasted."

Based on weekly video chats and frequent emails, Gayfer began a redesign to streamline morning and mealtime routines. Removing carelessly placed barriers in the kitchen made way for an expansive concrete countertop for homework and cooking; adding double sinks in the bathrooms eliminated competition over personal grooming time. A soft palette of wood, laminate, and tile created cohesion, impressive considering the clients didn’t see a single finish, color, or material in person prior to their homecoming. 

One of the first things the Tuckers noticed upon arriving was that the kitchen cabinets had been clad in Russian birch plywood. The decision had not been discussed beforehand due to time constraints, but the result fit their desired look. In those moments, explains Gayfer, "They were appreciative we had taken the time to develop an understanding of their style."