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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Food for Thought on Kitchen Design

After seeing "Julie & Julia" last weekend, it really drove home to me how kitchens have changed in the past 50 years. The kitchen Paul Child designed and built for his wife Julia in 1961 (now enshrined at the Smithsonian) is a testament to utility and practicality rarely seen in home kitchens today.Paul Child raised the countertop height so Julia would be comfortable as she worked. Every tool, pan and utensil had a home - plus the ability to entertain inside the kitchen itself made it unique to its time and owners; it's a great example of custom design.

Julia Child's kitchen presaged a change in the American home over the last 10 or 15 years. These days, the kitchen has become the place where everyone wants to hang out, often watching TV in a "family" room adjoining it, making it the true center of the house.

As kitchens have evolved in their role to become the center of the house, their design seems to have forgotten the basic use - that of cooking and eating - and ease of use and cleanup. Look at this kitchen:

What is it? Is it a formal dining room with a range (and TV) stuck off to the side? Where do you do the prep-work? There's no proper work triangle in sight. And the worst sin of this kitchen in my mind is how on earth do you keep it clean? I think Julia Child would be aghast.

Then there's the opposite approach - the ultra sleek modern version:
This would be easy to keep clean, but where do you store anything? I hate the notion of only having open upper shelves for storage (dust catchers to me). It's not a kitchen where I imagine great meals being prepared or consumed.

These last two examples illustrate what the shelter magazines tend to advertise and illustrate as "Kitchen" today. Granted, Julia Child's kitchen is dated but, to me, it is still a more inviting space, exuding warmth and cheer. It's certainly good food for thought when thinking about designing kitchens!

1 comment:

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