Articles » Fun in the Kitchen

One of the paradoxes of modern life is that kitchens are becoming larger and more elaborate at the same time that people are spending more money than ever eating away from home. In some markets, people spend over half their food expenditures in restaurants. So why all the emphasis on high end appliances, luxurious countertops, and fine cabinetry?

The answer is that the kitchen is now the social center of the home. Lifestyles have become more casual, and cooking has become easier and more creative. We cook now, not because we have to, but because it's fun. We even eat in the kitchen, with built-in breakfast areas and island bars, so that guests can converse with the cooks while they work.

Once the kitchen became the social center, it was important that the kitchen reflected the family's social status. Granite countertops became the range. Cabinets, especially on islands, look more like fine furniture, with legs, contrasting woods, and decorative elements. Upper cabinets often feature stained glass doors to display their contents. And even though we cook less often, we do it in style on a professional range that would work nicely in the restaurants we eat at. It's not about saving time and labor anymore - it's about status, social interaction, and just plain fun.

If you're thinking of building a new home, or remodeling your existing one, you should probably start by thinking of the kitchen as your social center, and relate the other spaces to it. Make sure that it's placed adjacent to the areas people spend time in, such as the family or Great room. If there is an openness between these rooms, parents can keep an eye on children, and interact with them, without having them underfoot while preparing meals. It's less important that it be convenient to the formal dining room, if you have one, since people tend to eat there only on special occasions. Instead people tend to eat in the misnamed "morning" room, which is used throughout the day, and at the island counter for quick snacks.

In choosing or designing your kitchen, think about who will work in the kitchen, and how they go about their tasks. In one family I know, the husband does the chopping, and the wife does the cooking. That means they need two separate sinks, so they can both use a sink at the same time. There's been a lot written about the "activity triangle" in the kitchen - the stove, sink and refrigerator. However, today, you need to plan for several triangles so that more than one person can work at the same time without interfering with each other.

Make sure there's plenty of light - both from windows and overhead task lighting. You don't need a window over the sink, since we don't spend that much time washing and drying dishes. But you should have windows next to the morning room or kitchen table, to flood the room with light. A bright, sunny kitchen, with space for eating and working, sitting and talking, and interacting with family and friends becomes the highlight of the home, and a facilitator of good relationships.