By L. Cusack and V. King

Past

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Kitchens evolve out of necessity.  More than any other space in a home, the kitchen directly reflects the activities and attitude of its owner. Today, we think of great open spaces where family can converse over food and drink in a relaxed environment. Nothing seems more natural. However, it’s only in the last 100 years that we have adopted this idea. Kitchens of the past, most notably Victorian kitchens, were a stark contrast to informal gathering rooms of modern standards.

Having a few friends over for an impromptu dinner party in Victorian times? – Think again. The Victorians had a laundry list of moral guidelines and scrupulous etiquette they were encouraged to follow. Invitations must be sent out, visitors announced by servants, conversations in the drawing rooms and parlors, thirteen plus dinner courses and lastly, finger bowls – all this, yes even for close friends and family. The entertainment practices and kitchens of pre- twentieth century fashion were nothing like the modern “hearts” of the home we all are so fond of.

First things first, upper-class kitchens were the territory of servants only. The lady of the house was expected to manage the kitchen, but never to cook. These rooms were not the lavish show kitchens of today’s mansions, but functional utilitarian spaces where work was diligently being done by hired help.  The Victorian Kitchen was used for cooking and cooking only.  Even the preparation of washing vegetables was done in a separate compartment called the scullery.  This act of washing up and scrubbing vegetables was considered the lowest of kitchen activities.

Even with modern amenities, the cleanest of kitchens sometimes get the occasional visit from an ant or, heaven forbid- a cockroach. But that is nothing to Victorians who were literally in constant battle of the bugs. Because of this, many kitchen maids employed hedge-hogs in hopes to keep the insects at bay. Their wall paint even had a “blue tinge” to it – which was said to be effective in repelling flies. Most kitchen walls were of plain plaster, regularly whitewashed featuring a dado of bead board in high gloss paint. Floors were commonly stone slabs or unglazed tiles. All materials that could be scrubbed clean multiple times on a daily basis. The Victorians associated an impeccable house with high moral character. This showed everyone what a good citizen you were and cut down on vermin-carrying bacteria borne illness.

Many Victorian Kitchens featured soaring ceilings with windows only at the top. Why the high ceilings and windows? Many kitchens had open flame ranges, some around decades after gas cookers became available. Since these ranges put off an exceptional amount of heat – The ceiling was made high to allow the heat to rise. The purpose of the sky high windows? This was to prevent the servants from daydreaming and spying on their employer’s when taking air in the garden.

The Kitchens of the Victorians truly evolved out of their needs of the time. The same is true of today. The modern kitchen is a living, working space. A place for the family to gather to eat, drink and be merry. Gone are the days of full kitchen staffs and endless lists of proper etiquette. The world we live in today is much more casual and that is reflected in the way families flock to their kitchens as the true “heart of the home”.

Present

The “hub”, “heart”, or “soul” are just a few of the names that are given to the kitchen of a home. It is the place where people tend to gravitate, whether for cooking or socializing purposes, and it is the place where people tend to feel most at home.

There are many reasons that people are drawn to and congregate in the kitchen.  The Flying Onion blog puts it well, stating, “Your kitchen—that place where guests helplessly end up—is more than just a kitchen. More than just a place to store pots and pans and that blender that hasn’t really worked since day one… Your kitchen is the heart—the very soul—of your home… Your kitchen is where vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, carnivores, republicans, democrats, and every one in between can suddenly come together and get along… ” [1].

Often, hosts or homeowners intend to entertain in their living room or dining room where there is a strong sense of formality and tradition; however, these days more and more of kitchen design has turned into making the space intended to prepare and cook food into the central nucleus of the home. The kitchen has turned into a space where all activities of almost every kind can happen for casual and entertaining purposes.

Today, kitchen design is about making a space that can be highly functional and where the family and guests can feel comfortable.  Therefore, there are a number of solutions that have turned up in present day design to make the kitchen more conducive as an entertaining environment. The website Housing Zone notes, “As designers and builders, we all know how important kitchens are to our clients. In fact, the kitchen is very likely the most significant room in the home. Since it seems that everyone wants to congregate there, the space must function not only as a cooking area, but also the hub of family activity” [2].

Often seen in modern kitchen design is a large, open- space plan. Typically, the plan has a core, central island that acts as the main ‘headquarters’ of the space, providing “a conversation-friendly seating area and the perfect gathering spot” [3].   Furthermore, open-space kitchen design offers the opportunity to create little areas within a kitchen such as the prepping area, the cleaning area, the socializing island area, and usually also a comfortable seating area. In modern day design, the kitchen and living areas flow together and become one, meaning that “Maximum impact is achieved by connecting the breakfast, kitchen, and family room to function as one large space. The kitchen becomes a catalyst to encourage socialization between occupants” [4].

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It is clear that entertaining in a modern day kitchen is a regular occurrence, as time has gone on the formality of eating has become more casual, thus people want to be where there is the most convenience and feeling of warmth.

Future

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The kitchens of the future are not so far away. Futuristic designers are taking the core elements of kitchen design and putting them in a shiny new package for the ever-changing modern family; maintaining the kitchen as still very much the “heart of the home”.

Kitchens have become streamlined, technologically advanced and compact central family hubs. The futuristic kitchen has to be space-saving, sophisticated and kind to the environment. They feature new versatile materials that make a surface a dual functioning control zone, eliminating the need for separate quarters. These new spaces are so innovative that they have become the kitchen, office, and family room all in one.

French designer Ora-Ito has designed a futuristic and energy efficient kitchen for the European manufacturer Gorenje. His prototype, which was a four-ton free-standing and transportable module made from a single block of material was shown at the Paris Design Expo in 2008.Ora-Ito describes his concept as “simplxite” or, the marriage of simple and the complicated.

These kitchens are not only beautiful to look at, but highly functional and focus on the needs of modern families. These modern spaces are green, clean- cooking machines. The modern kitchen incorporates graphic user interface that not only has the ability to bring high entertainment into the space, but to act as a home computer – notifying the owner when the pantry is low or the garbage needs to be emptied.

As a whole, this new modern kitchen that acts as the central nucleus of the home does more than simply organize and modernize, but it brings about a whole new way of interaction amongst people. Not only does this space work for the family that lives in the home, but also this new futuristic kitchen brings everyone into the “hub”. No longer is there the formality of an event when guests sit in the living room and then migrate to the dining room table for a four- course meal. Interaction in the 2000’s is a far different thing. Family members, old friends, and new guests all tend to gravitate immediately towards the kitchen, without a question.

This new way that home-owners and guests interact at a gathering gives us a hint as to how entertaining in the future and more specifically entertaining in the kitchen in the future will be. Today and probably even more so in the years to come, many homeowners are eliminating the formality in their lives by getting rid of living rooms and dining rooms. Instead the family room, dining room, and kitchen are all combined (we can also see this with the new design of the futuristic kitchen as mentioned above) into one. With all of the new technology that is being placed into the new kitchen it only brings about a new way of entertaining. The music, meal, games for game night, “video-chatting”, and more are all done through this new futuristic kitchen, which is not only the hub for the family, but the hub and place for all guests to intermingle in the future.

Footnotes

[1] More than Just a Kitchen, http://theflyingonion.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/more-than-just-a-kitchen/

[2] Re-thinking the modern kitchen: 5 design concepts, http://www.housingzone.com/design/re-thinking-modern-kitchen-5-design-concepts?page=5”

[3] Kitchen Tours- Clever Islands, http://www.kitchens.com/kitchen-tours/clever-islands/curve-the-perimeter.aspx?terms=entertaining

[4] Re-thinking the modern kitchen: 5 design concepts, http://www.housingzone.com/design/re-thinking-modern-kitchen-5-design-concepts?page=5”

Works Cited

Images

1. Hughes, Kristine, and Victoria Hinshaw. “Preserved Kitchens from the Past.” Number One London. N.p., 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

2. “Victorian Cooking & Kitchens.” The Victorian Era. N.p., 27 11 2007. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://19thcentury.wordpress.com/2007/11/21/victorian

3. Open Plan Kitchens, A Bright and Airy Space.  http://www.thekitchn.com/openplan-kitchens-part-i-106194

4. Hohenadel, Kristin. “The Kitchen of the Future from Ora Ito for Gorenje.” Apartment Therapy. N.p., n. d. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/at-europe-black-kitchens-from-50461&gt;.

5. Hohenadel, Kristin. “The Kitchen of the Future from Ora Ito for Gorenje.” Apartment Therapy. N.p., n. d. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/at-europe-black-kitchens-from-50461&gt;.

Copy

“Dinners & Dining.” Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. N.p., 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mrsbeeton.com/&gt;.

“Kitchens: We do a lot more in Our Kitchens than Victorians did in Theirs.” The Victorian Society: Campaining for Victorian and Edwardian Architecture. N.p., 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/advice/kitchens/

“The Victorian Kitchen.” Victorian Decorating. N.p., n. d. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://victoriandecorating.blogspot.com/2007/02/victorian-kitchen.html&gt;

Hohenadel, Kristin. “The Kitchen of the Future from Ora Ito for Gorenje.” Apartment

Therapy. N.p., n. d. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/at-europe-black-kitchens-from-50461&gt;.

Culpepper, Lee Anne. “Kitchens of the Future.”Network. N.p., 28 09 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. < http://www.networx.com/article/high-tech-kitchens-of-the-future >.

“Kitchens of the Future.” Future Technology. N.p., 05 02 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://itechfuture.com/kitchens-of-the-future/&gt;.

“Kitchen is the heart of the Home.” Design Boom. N.p., n. d. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.designboom.com/contest/view.php?contest_pk=3&item_pk=1001&p=1&gt;.

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