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Of all the rooms in the house, the character of the kitchen has changed most over the past 20 years. ONE17 considers the design of our favourite space
KEEPING THE KITCHEN COOL
A quiet revolution has taken place over the last 20 years in our homes. The once crisp distinction between the functionality of the kitchen, the formality of the dining room and the intimacy of the living room has become blurred.
Walls have come down and extensions have gone up to create more fluid, light-filled spaces. But they have to work harder than the conventional 20th century layout where the door could be closed on a kitchen overflowing with dirty pans as guests sauntered into the candlelit dining room.
There is still a place for separate dining rooms for those occasions that demand a more elaborate or atmospheric setting but many homes have sacrificed them for a larger kitchen and open-plan arrangement. The kitchen table these days not only fulfils its traditional role of accommodating daily meals and the children’s homework, it also has to smarten itself up to cope with entertaining guests and more formal festivities.
Kitchen design is about more than planning the layout of units and appliances and choosing the finishes of doors and worktops. Before investing in a new kitchen, you need to examine how the space works for you. Kitchens often become corridors, with doors to the garden, utility rooms and dining / living spaces opening from them. Some minor changes to the spatial arrangement can make them more efficient by channelling movement away from the main cooking and preparation areas.
Good levels of natural light make a huge difference to the look and feel of a kitchen. Even a modest single storey extension offers the opportunity to introduce glazing in the roof in the form of a lantern, ridge lights or simple rooflights. Glazed doors opening on to a garden or terrace create a greater sense of space.
INTERIOR DÉCOR AND DETAILING HELPS TO BOUNCE NATURAL LIGHT AROUND THE HOUSE WHILST REINFORCING THE CLARITY OF THE PROGRAMME.
The combined cooking/dining/living functions of the room require an intelligent approach to the layout of the units. Islands with some form of screening - such as a breakfast bar - can be useful for concealing the debris created in the preparation of a meal. It has become increasingly common to have two dishwashers installed to avoid cluttering the pristine lines of a kitchen with dirty dishes.
Thinking beyond the kitchen units, pantries are incredibly useful for reducing clutter. Columns, furniture and steps can be used to help define spaces without compromising light and the sense of openness. In these open plan spaces, good extraction is crucial. The technological advances and elegant design of built-in ceiling and downdraft extractors mean they no longer intrude on the kitchen.
It is easy to be seduced by the look of a sleek run of units along the back wall of a kitchen but their practicality must be questioned. Here, form really must follow function. Any keen cook respects the principle of the work triangle – the positioning of the fridge, sink and hob at the three points of a triangle. While the recent trend has been for wall-to-wall tall units, they should not be at the cost of worktop space which, no matter how much you have, never seems enough.
When it comes to finishes, be wary of trends. A kitchen is one of the largest investments you will make in your home. A thoughtfully designed, well engineered kitchen will last for decades so it really isn’t the place to be bold with colour. At the risk of sounding boring – greys, whites and neutrals are timeless and can be revitalised with different wall colours and accessories. Gloss lacquered cabinets have been in vogue for several years but they show their weakness in the presence of sticky little hands. Hand-painted finishes offer more flexibility in the longer term but generally lend themselves to period properties and lack the strong lines of some more contemporary designs. Consider the colours and materials of the units and worktops as part of the wider palette of finishes used throughout the house to create a balanced, harmonious interior.