Lately while on design consultations I find myself talking about the total home, and the fact that the Kitchen is NOT just another room . And this has me thinking about the ways things were.
Whenever I look at older houses it’s always fun to peek behind a wall or two and discover the kitchen. Tucked behind the foyer, or adjacent to the dining room, kitchens
historically have enjoyed spaces of their own.
Starting as cookhouses in separate quarters, kitchens were originally set apart from the homes of the south because of the open fire and the safety of keeping those fires away from the main house. Many a home had a totally separate staff to man ( or woman) the “Kitchen House.” It was not a space for anything but preparing food, and rarely did anyone besides the cook step inside.
Modern times brought the kitchen in, usually segregated to the rear of the house, purposely not visible from other “fancier” rooms like the dining room and living room.
In the 50’s and 60’s, during the gourmet cooking at home initiative, it was important for guests to not be able to see into the kitchen. What went on in there was a secret, a magical laboratory where delicious treats were prepared and then bought out from behind swinging doors for enjoyment. If the cook wore an apron, it was removed prior to exiting the kitchen because what went on in the kitchen stayed in the kitchen.
Fast forward to the 80’s and 90’s where kitchens opened up to include a Family Room, creating a total living area for gathering. Still, the kitchen was set apart , if only by a bank of upper cabinets and a high counter. On the set of Mad Men, Don Draper’s most modern NY apartment has an open floor plan with a sunken living room. Positioned at the rear of the room is the kitchen. Although it’s part of the room, it still has a designated doorway or entrance, and a 42” counter separating the spaces.
Step into now. Today’s kitchen is a part of the great room, or as I like to call it , the “Gathering Space.” Recent architectural directions are plans that include lofts, open floor plans and little or no definition of a room’s perimeter. For Kitchen and Bath designers , this creates new opportunities and challenges.
The good news is that kitchens now bleed into the total space, allowing for more storage and work space options- and the easy flow of integrated spaces encourages togetherness. This is conducive for sharing a TV or Netflix show, helping with homework, or just joining in because the activity is right under your nose. Continuing kitchen pantries can be integrated with a flat screen TV wall or bookshelf, and work centers are part of the kitchen island allowing for more storage, prep and work space.
The integrated kitchen features plug-in and connection areas. Having this communication hub right in the kitchen brings back the kitchen as the “HEARTH OF THE HOME.” In Little House on the Prairie, Pa and Ma and Laura and the family gathered every evening around a central hub, darning socks, reading books, doing schoolwork and oiling farm equipment. We mirror that in our modern kitchens except we are networking, reading the Kindle, doing advanced math homework, or playing video games.
Integrated interiors commands that K & B designers be adept at total Interior design, but for many designers this is new territory. The kitchen, no longer an area separated off by itself, is part of the new open concepts and the total living space.
We find ourselves having to take the whole home into account, and integrate our design scheme with the rest of the rooms. Whether we are able to do the total design or we choose to collaborate with an Interior Designer, the client expects their kitchen to be part of and the same as the interiors that surround it.
Kitchen colors, materials, flooring and lighting all must be part of a greater design plan. This is what I call Integrated Design. An easy way to approach integrated kitchen design is to ask more questions in your initial interview. Ask about the interiors. What would they will look like if there is a renovation in place, or planned. Take note of the surrounding areas if there is already a set design. Share some of the resources that were used, continue the design elements in space planning and the scale of the room.
Try to repeat elements into the kitchen, and think of the way the space will be really be used.Stop by and observe your design family in action. Dinner time is a great time for researching, as is the early morning. When your client begins to apologize for a mess or the chaos of family life, that’s when you are getting your best information.
Kids eating on the run, dog bowls in traffic paths, refrigerator open and closing all morning, homework lost because it’s all over the room. These are great design clues and opportunities for space planning.
The Kitchen is not just another room or building; it’s no longer separate and somewhere else. To design today’s kitchen is being an active part of a greater whole.
The kitchen is a part of a space that encompasses cooking, eating, reading, networking, and TV viewing. It’s a space for family discussions, for keeping things organized, for checking in, in person and on line. It is a movie theater, a homework station, a storage center, and pet central. It is an integral part of the total home design.
One thing remains constant, no matter where it is, or how it integrates with our homes, the kitchen is and always has been the “THE HEART of THE HOME.” Aren’t we so fortunate to be part of this?
Shelly Preziosi is a full service designer serving clients in Florida and beyond. An Allied ASID Member, an Associate Kitchen and Bath designer (AKBD), and a member of IDS, she has been creating spaces for happy clients for 23 years. Owner of her own firm, Shelly Preziosi Designs Inc, she focuses on the unique needs and lifestyle of each and every project, and offers full design from an architectural phase to move in as well as designing kitchens, bathrooms and whole homes. Shelly’s website is www.InteriorsbyShellyPreziosi.com.