UK's kitchen designer of the year makes her mark in NZ

If it hadn’t been for an aversion to being tucked away in commercial kitchens, Natalie Du Bois would have pursued her early career as a chef. “My father was Belgian,” she explains “and we were brought up with some very unusual foods. I tried this out for a while but then realised interior design was more my passion as with interiors, I got to reap the rewards of seeing my clients’ faces at the end.” It’s quite ironic how things turned out, she admits, for even though she still enjoys cooking, now she’s a kitchen designer who regularly wins awards for her creative and striking designs.

Originally from South Africa, Natalie did an interior design course in Cape Town before travelling to London in 1997. For five years, she worked for two prestigious interior & kitchen designers in Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Chiswick. In her first year there, she recalls the excitement of being tucked away in the basement of a showroom in Knightsbridge preparing plans for actor Michael Caine.

Natalie soon made her mark in London. She won an award for the Best Young Kitchen Designer in the UK and a design travelling scholarship to Europe. Just as she was starting to do really well, her ex boyfriend who was a Kiwi had to leave as his two-year working visa had expired and she decided to come with him. That was exactly 10 years ago now. “I was a bit hesitant to say the least. I had no idea what New Zealand would offer. Once I got to Auckland, I knew there was no mistake, I loved the way the Kiwis used their initiative and the craftsmanship of the manufacturers.” And now she’s officially a Kiwi herself, “I believe we push the boundaries more here and we’re more eager to create new and exciting ideas.”

Natalie did time working for two well-known design firms before branching out on her own with Du Bois Design in 2007. In her 10 years of living in New Zealand, she has won several more awards, been on the Auckland Chapter of the National Kitchens and Bathrooms Association; her designs have appeared on the cover of Kitchen Trends in New Zealand and in the US and she’s been published in England, Australia, Asia and the US.

Her current work is very much influenced by the inspirational designs she saw at Milan’s Euro Cucina show. She notes quite a juxtaposition of styles. “There were two themes, ultra futuristic and sterile versus warm, inviting and textural – poles apart really.”

She personally liked the back to earth trend. “I am a great fan of natural products myself so was thrilled to see this. Natural elements are creeping in because we feel we need them. It’s almost like craving food because your body is tell you what vitamins you need. I think ‘realness’ is creeping in. So much in the last few years has been about technology and futuristic designs that I think people now just want honest, well thought through products. Time is so valuable at the moment, it’s almost when you see something that has taken time to make, it makes us feel more balanced. We want individuality. We don’t want mass-produced products, especially here in New Zealand where we’ve managed to keep things so unspoilt.”

Natalie notes that natural textured products are coming through – like roughly hewn timber door panels that look weather-beaten and old copper panels. It’s a combination of textures and tones.

While Natalie was in Europe she travelled to seven of Blum’s Austrian factories to check out the latest in drawer technology. She was impressed by inventions such as remote controlled lift-up drawers which move with incredible lightness and ease.

The appliance she’d like to see more of in New Zealand kitchens is the steam oven. “They’re fantastic, so healthy. The flavours you get are so good. People just don’t know enough about them here but they’re becoming popular in Europe.”

In the future, Natalie is keen to see clients shed the blandness that has crept into kitchens to incorporate a lot more vibrancy and daring. Each of the kitchens she designs is distinguished by colour, texture and strong conceptual stories. One noteworthy kitchen all glass panels – even in the toe-kicks; another was a warm caramel, chocolate and vanilla space with some striking sepia toned tiles above the sink printed with an image of a flax leaf in four panels. “This produced a beautiful effect combined with an island of pebbled granite.”

Some of Natalie Du Bois’ achievements gained over the last 10 years  

  • 2000 - Winner of an award for best young kitchen designer –United Kingdom
  • 2000 - Winner of a European design travelling scholarship- United Kingdom
  • 2005- 2010 - Committee member for The Auckland Chapter of the National Kitchens and Bathrooms Association
  • 2006 - Winner of a Highly Commended Kitchen Design Award - New Zealand 
  • 2006 - Winner of a 2nd Highly Commended Kitchen Design Award- New Zealand
  • 2007 - Front cover of Kitchen Trends New Zealand
  • 2007 - Cover of South East Asia Kitchen Trends magazine
  • 2008 - Winner of a scholarship to study The Certified Bathroom Design Course - New Zealand
  • 2008 - Winner of an award for runner up best bathroom design- NKBA New Zealand
  • 2008 - Present - Contributing writer for Homestyle magazine
  • 2009 - Winner of a regional award for a kitchen in Wellington (Any Region)
  • 2009 - Winner of a highly commended kitchen design award- New Zealand
  • 2010 - Front cover of American Kitchen Trends Magazine
  • 2010 - Front cover of Kitchens and Bathroom Quarterly magazine  

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