When is a Kitchen Not a Kitchen?
When is a kitchen not a kitchen?
That is the question I’ve been asking myself recently.
It’s been prompted by several things. First, as consequence of the pandemic, we all have been forced to use our homes in ways we had never previously considered. For example, in my son’s family both dad and mom are working from home. Preschool has been canceled for the year, so they’re juggling work load with working on “school projects” with their oldest. Their home office was never intended to be nor is it set up to be a full-time place to work. Their dining table is not necessarily the ideal place for school work/projects and the more than occasional back up home office. Somewhere in there, each day three meals are prepared and served on that same table. It’s a bit chaotic. Their kitchen is being asked to fulfill functional needs it was never designed to support. I’m sure you know families living in similar circumstance. Perhaps you are?
During the past month I have had several conversations with clients in which I have posed the observation, “Perhaps your kitchen is working too hard. It looks/feels like a room full of cabinets.”
Today, whether a kitchen is part of a larger multi-use space or a stand alone room, the multiple demands we place on the space begs the question, “Does a kitchen have to look like a kitchen?”
Or more appropriately, “When is a kitchen not a kitchen?”
“When its a…”
kitchen as connector
As I look back at the kitchens we have designed, they are often part of something bigger. They are part of a greater whole. For instance, consider the design we did for a client on Boston’s North Shore.
It served as a link between a lounge area on one side of the kitchen,
and an open plan dining area on the other.
The kitchen was the glue that holds the space together.
It’s important to point out another essential aspect of this project. The accessories and artwork. Take a moment to look at the artwork and lighting in the lounge. Zoe Design’s hand painted mural in the dining area tells a family story. Finally, the classical mirror, pedestal and bust, adding richness to the space.
This is the stuff that brings personality and charm to a room. I’m afraid most kitchens are sorely lacking in that regard.
Kitchen as an experience
At the other end of the spectrum was a kitchen we designed that was contained within four walls. Inspired by the brick walls of the old carriage house/barn, our client asked us to design it in a cozy French/Continental Style, in sharp contrast to the classical formality of the rest of the home. She wanted earthiness and drama. Note the lack of upper cabinets. The hanging copper cookware. The variety of finishes and materials. The antique chandelier. She wanted an experience.
Instead of a simple backsplash behind the range, Sally created a custom toile design.
The custom millwork surrounding the banquette seating/dining area (pillows and all) hint of an intimate dining experience.
Across from the dining area, a custom mantel and fireplace invite you to linger a while in front of the fire.
Of course, there are little touches that round out the room.
Our client envisioned an experience, where a person could feel comfortable walking about in their stocking feet. I think she succeeded!
Lastly, our recent on line consultation with our Houston client, reminds me that a kitchen can be the anchor of large multi-use room.
Of course, much will depend on the final design of the entire room. But wouldn’t it be fun to speculate?
Just for fun, let’s consider a few possibilities…
What if there were a massive fireplace and mantel, flanked with builtin cabinetry at the far end of the room? The kitchen would need to be designed with equal weight in order to balance/anchor the room. Stone faced cabinets and exhaust hood, perhaps? Finger pulls instead of hardware, for a modern minimalist look.
With a large walk-in pantry and storage room nearby, we don’t need to load up the kitchen with upper cabinets. We can play with shape and form and positive and negative space, creating a modern sculptural feel.
Finally, what if the kitchen disappeared? Concealed behind folding pocket doors, when not in use or to hide the mess and clutter after a meal is prepared and served.
the answer to the question
Let’s see, we have connector, experience, anchor, sculpture, invisible. The common thread? In each case, the sum of their parts is greater than the whole, exceeding expectations and functionality.
When this happens, a kitchen is no longer a kitchen.
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
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