The mancave mainstay that became a kitchen must-have
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The mancave mainstay that became a kitchen must-have

How COVID changed when — and where — we like to drink

By Robyn Willis
Fri, Jun 16, 2023 8:47amGrey Clock 4 min

World health events have always made an impact on the domestic front. From the introduction of indoor plumbing to deal with water borne diseases in Victorian times to the rise of seaside resorts as a panacea for respiratory ailments like tuberculosis, architectural design has always risen to the challenges and demands of modern living. 

So while the recent pandemic has elevated the importance of domestic design ranging from bigger and better bathrooms to fully equipped home offices, there are quieter but no less significant changes afoot in the kitchen.

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As lockdowns kept all but the most essential workers at home, many began looking at ways to replicate restaurant and bar experiences within their own four walls. Although some people already had dedicated bar areas, others gathered in communal areas like the kitchen to try their hand at making their favourite drink. As restrictions eased, it’s a trend that has continued to gather pace.

Whiskey ambassador, James Buntin, says often it simply makes good sense to make drinks at home.

“When you’re paying between $22 and $25 for a cocktail and you have four of those, that’s $100,” he says. “It becomes quite expensive and so during COVID a lot of people started to create their own drinks instead.” 

For connoisseurs with a particular preference for spirits like whiskey, vodka or gin, Buntin says perfecting your favourite cocktail at home can be a more satisfying experience than ordering it at a bar.

“The home bar is not usually set up for making lots of different drinks — you won’t get a menu,” he says. “Generally, it’s one or two drinks that are the owners’ favourites. It’s about simplicity, so it’s your space and you have everything within reach and it becomes a pleasure.”

Kitchen designer and director of Minosa, Darren Genner, says a built-in bar has become a popular must-have among his clients.

“During COVID, the kitchen became the headmaster’s station where mum or dad sat while the kids did their school work,” Genner says. “Then it became more about  entertaining at home.”

Rather than the freestanding, mobile drinks trolley that gained popularity among millennials in recent years, the new look bar is curated and integrated, with the occasional touch of glamour. 

“It used to be we had the drinks trolley with bottles of whiskey and vodka but now we don’t want to see it all the time,” he says. “We have clients, for example, that love their gin and collect the bottles and they want a place to store them.”

Most recently, Genner created a pop-up bar in a kitchen in Sydney’s Alexandria that emerges from the kitchen benchtop, James Bond-style, at the touch of a button.

“Home automation is the next step,” he says. “We are fitting voice activation now so that you can say ‘hey Alexa, I’m thirsty’.” 

This bar designed by Darren Genner and Simona Castagna at Minosa emerges from the island benchtop at the touch of a button.

The concealed nature of this new style of in-kitchen bar is also about increasing the functionality of the space within an open plan area over the course of the day.

“There is a touch of the nightclub about them,” Genner says. “When you are sitting in the lounge, you don’t want to see a kitchen — you want to see a beautiful piece of joinery. Materials are metallics, marble and smokey glass with LED lights with sensors that are really positioned to illuminate bottles. 

“All those kinds of things make it special.”

Architect Carla Middleton says as footprints shrink, it just makes sense to create spaces with dual functionalities. She has created several spaces on tight sites for clients that are dedicated to easy drinks preparation, including an area under the stairs in her own home at Tamarama.  

Architect Carla Middleton designed a home bar and coffee station under the stairs in her own home. Image: Tom Ferguson. Styling: Anna Delprat

“It’s a combined coffee and bar area and it was the only thing my husband really wanted,” Middleton says. “We couldn’t do a cellar and this is central to the living and entertaining area that you can seal off when you are not entertaining. 

“It’s a nice area when friends come over to set up and let your guests help themselves.”

Rather than creating a separate bar or mancave, a luxe mini version in a shared space like the kitchen also ensures that everyone feels welcome, including the cook. Whether it is concealed or not, for it to be successful, Middleton says a drinks station needs a few essentials.

“You want a good open benchtop, when you are entertaining, to serve as a cocktail station and then a sink big enough to have some ice in it,” she says. “A wine and beer fridge is also good, perhaps one of those under bench wine fridges, and then a separate fridge for soft drinks.”

While the materials and technology might have changed, Middleton points out that the idea of having a cocktail bar at home goes back some way.

“It’s not a new thing. We used to have a drinks trolley in my grandmother’s house,” she says. “It’s just transforming in its style and location.”

Here’s cheers to that.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).


People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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