How a Kitchen Guru Can Save Your Sanity


The importance of well-designed joinery in a home cannot be understated.

At no other point of a renovation is the tensional trilemma between form, function and budget more obvious than in the kitchen.

The dizzying number of options, and thus decisions, all packed into the one space. Materials, finishes, profiles, handles, open or closed cupboards, benchtops, splashbacks, seating, tapware, appliances… just to rattle off a few!!

If that sends you into a vertigo-inducing tailspin, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

We’ve discussed ‘decision fatigue’ in our Podcast before. This week we are honing in on kitchens and joinery.

Watching ‘The Block’ kitchen reveal a few weeks ago, I was giddily reminded that our very own BuildHer Style Guru and BuildHer8’s Rathmines Interior Designer (for the South House) made a few cameo appearances on the show in 2018!

Join us this week, as Ivy (@homes_by_ivy) catches up with our very own Rachel Collard (@co_kitchensto chat all things joinery design.


IVY: Hello gorgeous! Talk to me about your process for creating a dream kitchen, or any piece of joinery for that matter? It’s driving me crazy!

RACH: That is a hard question for me…

As a creative, I am not naturally a process driven person but here are some of the common steps I always incorporate in a design. 

  • Write an interior concept statement. This is a really good way to keep you anchored and focused. If you have a clear concept from the beginning it is really easy to stay on track.
  • Write down your top 5 needs and wants. Remember – these are 2 very different things. One is functional and the other a wish list if you can include within your budget.
  • Use one of the amazing apps, such as Pinterest, to “collate” all your inspirations, visions, inclusions. It can be anything you love – don’t be too picky at this stage, just go on gut instinct.
  • Go through all your inspiration pictures and choose the top 5 pictures you love and describe why. Hone in on your vision.
  • Have a look at some resources online to check out what you may not have considered yet. Buildher Collective recently released “133 things to think about” Blog which is GOLD (take a look at the kitchen section – it’s awesome!).
  • Create a moodboard of what you love. Always using REAL samples.
  • Joinery makes or breaks a house. Always focus on attention to the detail. Make as many notations as possible when providing drawings.

“The details are not the details. They make the design.” Charles Eames

Eames® Lounge Chair & Ottoman: One of the most significant furniture designs of the 20th century – instantly recognisable and enduringly fresh. Image via


IVY: How do you go about striking the right balance between form, function and budget?

RACH: It is really easy to design something both functional and beautiful, right?! But hitting the budget is the hard part – especially for those developing for profit. It is a really a fine line.

Knowing what will make a difference to a design and reduce the budget without impacting the look is something that comes with experience and knowledge.

Becoming well versed with materials, finishes and suppliers can often save you a nice penny without having to impact the form and function. 

For instance, I will often look at laminate vs. 2pak joinery. Laminate timber veneers vs. real timber.

Natural stones which are not overly priced but because of the nature of the stone, it often will have a luxurious, high end feel compared to some of the reconstituted stones out there.

When I help clients with their kitchens these are the tough decisions that they want to talk and about and help with. The range and options out there are endless

If you can’t get designer/trade discounts, it always is a good idea to be part of a community that can provide such deals.

Did you know – you can become a Buildher Member and get access to the Little Black Book which will save you thousands!!!


IVY: What do you have in store for us at Rathmines South House? How does it contrast from the North House, designed by Alison Lewis – who we joke is pretty much the polar opposite to you as a designer?

RACH: First of all, I want to say how surreal this feels. To be collaborating with 7 other women who have such a diverse skills, experience and knowledge has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

And to top it off – I get to do the parts of the build I LOVE most – partnerships, interiors and design.

From the outset – even WE got the experts in!!! Ben Callery Architects and his team designed around the challenge given the South House sits “behind” the North house from a solar orientation point of view.

This challenge was turned into an opportunity, their team delivered a design which made use of all the natural light and both beautifully charismatic and unique.   

The curves of the external textural brickwork and the contrast of black steel windows to the façade makes the South House feel softly masculine. Open to the inside, there’s an immediate sense of moody simplicity.

Cool. Breezy. Clean Lines. Striking.

All composed with the deliberate use of materials that are textural, bold & luxurious. Complementing a high-end appearance, it also feels marvellously homely and lived in.

Clever use of materials means they are not only durable and forgiving, but beautifully timeless and classic.   

Materials board for Rathmines South House – Cool, Breezy, Clean Lines, Striking!


IVY: What hot tips do you have for someone who has been thinking about doing a new kitchen?

RACH: Research. The kitchen IS the most important space in your home.

If you are not prepared to give it the time and attention it needs then it will not reflect your entire vision. That can be devastating.  

There is so much information out there regarding kitchens – there is no reason why we cannot arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible before we embark on this journey. 

This includes budget, layout, function, appliances, form, materials & finishes. 

Don’t forget to check out our Kickstart Your Kitchen Course.

And if this is not possible or lack confidence – then engage an expert! 

Be true to yourself. Don’t worry so much about what is on trend or here to stay. The truth of the matter is, every style, every look, goes in and right back out.

I say – go with your gut, your heart and soul. Design a kitchen which reflects your personality, lights up your senses and brings joy to your everyday life.

Sometimes we sit with our plans for so long, we find it hard to look at it with fresh eyes. Having an expert design your kitchen can often save you time, stress and money. 

What might seem like an expensive process in its initial stages, it will save you money ad heartache in the long run.

If you are completely stuck and overwhelmed – engage a professional or book in a Free Consult with us.


IVY: What are some trends to note, or avoid, in the joinery world?

RACH: I don’t often like talking about trends but rather design concepts/looks I am experimenting with at the moment.

The concepts I am totally crushing on at the moment; upstands (the part that sticks up past the benchtop to hide dirty dishes on an island). It’s great way to design especially if you can’t fit in a butler’s pantry. 

Mid-tone timber joinery. Handles. Block colours.


Combine psychology, interiors and pure passion and you get an interiors & joinery expert who really knows her stuff. Rach has a way of combining her knowledge of products and suppliers with her ability to genuinely relate to and understand her clients which will undoubtedly supersede your expectations in service and design. 

Known as bright and bubbly and switched on but not one to ever take herself too seriously. Genuinely hard-working and eager to please.

She is the Founder of Co.Kitchens. Works as the Style & Sales Guru at Buildher Collective. Has 3 (very active) boys and 2 puppies. And would currently love to be basking in the sun in Byron Bay.

Follow Rachel on Insta here, a fab way to find out about more of what she does in her spare time! 

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