The kitchen is not just for cooking anymore
Did you ever notice that no matter how long it takes you to prepare your sitting room for expected guests, people prefer to gather in the kitchen? Guests quickly perch on countertops or stand with wine glasses in hand to talk as the host or hostess finishes the meal.
It is this cultural shift into the kitchen that is dictating the way interior designers and architects are thinking about kitchen space. In fact, Ellen Cheever, an author and designer who specializes in kitchen areas, has thought up a new term to better describe the kitchen’s purpose: the cooking room.
“Changes are being made in kitchen design based on the ways consumers are considering their kitchen,” Cheever said.
Cheever was one of two speakers at the “Design is in the Details” seminar Tuesday at the Marriott in Lionshead. Vail Valley designers and architects congregated to listen to Cheever and William Ohs, product designer and founder of Wm Ohs Inc. cabinetry, talk about industry trends. The national Sub-Zero/Wolf Kitchen Design Contest for 2003 was the platform for the discussion, as participants could mingle before the seminar to look at photographs of the winning kitchen designs – obviously created by experts in the field. The contest is one of the country’s most prestigious, with more than 900 entries and a panel of judges whose standards and integrity are among the highest in the industry. Only 50 winners were chosen.
Cheever just returned from the Euro-Cucina Show in Milan, Italy, – the largest biannual European presentation of German technical expertise and Italian styling. Just as Milan is a fashion hub, the city has become the place to go to see what is on the design horizon. What surprised her most at the furniture fair was how similar Europeans’ use of space was to North Americans’ use of space.
“There has always been a more American focus on the great gathering room. Europeans always separated rooms,” Cheever said. “At the Euro-Cucina, designers were opening up their kitchens and creating cooking rooms.”
The kitchen is moving out of being just a work space and into a living environment. Designers, however, are not the ones creating this trend, Cheever said. Good designers will look and listen to the way their clients want to live. Families today want to gather in the kitchen and enjoy meals at home. The scene in the kitchen is no longer the sole cook staring out the window at the mountain vista while peeling potatoes.
“Cooks are looking into the vista of their family,” Cheever said. “That request leads designers to remove walls and open up spaces.”
It is this notion that is leading designers and architects to manage kitchen space a little differently. They are taking this large, airy space and creating blocks of space, or areas of activity. A technique, Cheever said, that is applicable to mountain-area homes.
“When you have a very large space that is going to function as a cooking area, gathering area and Internet area, you need to take the overall room and think of it as areas of activity,” Cheever said.
Vice president of Slifer Designs Yvonne Jacobs said that keeping the kitchen as the core isn’t a trend for mountain homes anymore, it is a lifestyle. Jacobs said she hasn’t created a closed kitchen in a home in a very long time.
“Second homeowners want to engage with their guests,” Jacons said. We create kitchens so you don’t mind seeing it from the living room. We incorporate a breakfast table, fireplace different seating areas all in an open area.”
Rather than thinking about individual appliances, designers are thinking about bigger blocks of space, which allows for a lot more creativity, Cheever said. In the kitchen you take the refrigerator, prep area and sink and that becomes a block of space. Then you move around that block of space to make it most functional for the family that is going to be using it. For example, you may place the sink on the island in the center of the room. Designers and architects must consider the possibility that the cook may want to stand and stir the soup while looking at the fireplace and the children.
Blocking spaces in the kitchen is also producing a need for alternatives to the traditional wall cabinet. Designers are moving storage to allow the cook to be more engaged with other people while cooking. Designers, instead of traditional cabinets, are using tall pantry cabinets that look like a modern version of an armoire for storage. Consumers are moving away from the straight lines of standard countertops.
“We’re also seeing the introduction of furniture pieces to provide some of the storage,” Cheever said.
As cooking rooms continue to become larger with higher ceilings, designers have more freedom to be innovative with accent pieces. Matthew Quinn, professional kitchen designer and first place national winner in the Sub-Zero Wolf Kitchen Design Contest, exemplifies this with his use of a large chandelier center stage. Dramatic lighting and light fixtures is a way for the client to put a personal touch on their home.
“It is an interesting heroic function of larger architectural spaces,” Cheever said.
Culture will continue to dictate trends. Technology will be the next factor that impacts kitchen design, Cheever said.
“Wireless technology and use of laptops is going to lead a trend in the kitchen where someone coming home from school or a business trip is going to need a spot in the kitchen to open up a laptop and check e-mail,” Cheever said. “Seating patterns are going to change.”