Kitchens are rarely quiet, impersonal rooms. They are spaces where tastes and aromas, friends and family, work and relaxation collide.
The kitchen has earned its reputation as the most important room in the home because it functions as the hub of daily life. From your first cup of coffee to your midnight snack, your kitchen provides fuel and comfort for your day. It’s a familiar, hospitable space for family to interact and friends to clink glasses.
Photo credit: Select Surfaces
The kitchen is one of the few rooms every family member shares and every guest encounters. It’s both a utilitarian workhorse and a place where people connect and relationships deepen.
The Evolution of the Kitchen
The first kitchens would be unrecognizable to us today.
The ancients relegated servants to the dark, soot covered environments. And for centuries, the kitchen remained a fire-prone, uncomfortable space you’d never allow a guest to see.
In the 18th century, the kitchen was typically the largest room in the house because it housed a massive, always-burning hearth for cooking. These kitchens may have grown in size, but they were still hot, smelly, and kept safely at the back of the home or in a separate building.
The advent of gas, electricity, running water, and mass manufacturing gradually gave us the efficient appliances and sleek countertops we now take for granted. These innovations also made it possible for the kitchen to (eventually) move to the heart of the home.
Moving the Kitchen to the Heart of the Home
Early 20th century homes were built with smaller kitchens often closed off from the rest of the home. That’s because they still served a singular purpose: cooking.
Kitchens became the separate, maternal domain many of us grew up with. Some of us even remember being shooed out of the kitchen by a parent or grandparent busy preparing dinner or baking treats.
Family and friends wouldn’t gather around the food until it reached the dining room. Then they’d retire to the living room for drinks and entertainment.
Societal changes and continued technological innovation helped tear down the kitchen walls (literally and figuratively). The new, liberated kitchen quickly transformed to the communal, multipurpose space you inhabit every day.
The 21st Century Kitchen
Today’s kitchens are for much more than cooking. They are larger, open to other living spaces, and equipped for eating, working, relaxing, and entertaining friends and family.
New homes are designed to integrate the kitchen’s many functions into one room. They are big enough to hold large islands and breakfast nooks, or cleverly designed to maximize every square-inch of space.
The ideal modern kitchen contains an ergonomic, easy-to-clean cooking area along with ample storage and a wide range of time-saving appliances. All with enough space and seating to entertain friends, cook with the family, or have a cup of tea while you catch up on emails.
And it should look beautiful and welcoming, too.
This is a tall order for any kitchen to fill, but it’s practically required for homeowners who want to boost their home’s resale value.
Does Your Kitchen Meet Modern Demands?
The great news is that just as the role of the kitchen has expanded, so have the design possibilities.
Architects, renovators, and interior designers are giving more thought than ever before to kitchen style and functionality. And they’re discovering smart, creative, versatile solutions that enable homeowners to have it all — even in small spaces.
The defining features of the new kitchen slash living room are:
- Open Layout: Can you see and talk to your family as you cook? Does it flow naturally into other spaces?
- Maximum Functionality: While lots of space makes it easier for your kitchen to serve every purpose you want, a well-designed small kitchen can be just as versatile.
- Thoughtful Design: It’s not about cramming everything you can into your kitchen. It’s about understanding how you use your kitchen and designing it to serve your lifestyle.
- Hospitality: All are welcome in the modern kitchen, whether you want to mix pancake batter, relax and peruse a magazine, or cram for a test.
5 Tips for Creating a Kitchen You Can Live In
There are endless ways to create a seamless kitchen living space. And new design concepts, materials, and technologies emerge every year.
When designing (or re-designing) your home, consider these five tips to build a more open, functional, thoughtful, and hospitable kitchen.
Tip #1: Let There Be Light
Great light makes your kitchen an appealing, useful destination at any hour. Proper lighting can also help bridge your kitchen and living room, creating a smooth transition between spaces and accentuating an open layout.
Designers divide lighting into four layers:
To serve multiple purposes around the clock, equip your kitchen with layered lighting.
- Ambient lighting provides the overall light to your space and sets a mood. Think recessed ceiling lights or evenly spaced wall-mount fixtures. Focus on using ambient light to make your kitchen warm welcoming.
- Task lighting provides focused, higher intensity light over cooktops and sinks, inside cabinets, and other spaces where you need the extra visibility.
- Accent lighting selectively highlights your kitchen’s beauty. Use accent lighting to draw the eye to your fine dishware, stylish shelves, intricate tiling, and pieces of art.
- Decorative lighting includes lamps and fixtures that add interest and beauty to your design. Chandeliers, antique sconces, or a statement floor lamp, for example, are beautiful to look at while they illuminate your space.
Tip #2: Embrace Functionality
Don’t limit yourself to the kitchens of the past. Explore the latest kitchen products and technologies to create a super functional kitchen tailored to your needs and preferences.
Sometimes embracing functionality means altering your kitchen design in small but powerful ways.
Max Thompson, owner and chef of popular Twin Cities restaurant Stewart’s, sees value in an open kitchen layout:
“I still remember eating at a Michelin starred restaurant in France. Part of the dining experience was a tour of the kitchen before you sat down for your meal and it has stuck with me how important that was in terms of our visit. We were constricted by the existing kitchen layout of our restaurant, otherwise we would have done an open kitchen design. It really adds a sense of excitement and energy to the meal when you can see the chefs working hard to create something delicious just for you. Everyone likes being a VIP so we do a lot of kitchen tours.”
Other functionality improvements are made possible by modern appliances and inventive storage solutions. Now you can have a custom espresso bar, temperature controlled wine storage, a countertop office with a pullout keyboard tray, and even a dishwasher in a drawer.
Tip #3: Take a Load Off
Is your kitchen the first place you go when you get home from work? Maybe you drop your bag on the counter and fix a snack to eat while you unwind on the nearest comfy chair.
Or maybe it’s where you spend Saturday mornings, sipping coffee and indulging in blueberry waffles with the family.
Make space in your kitchen for relaxation and tranquility with comfortable seating. Options range from counter height stools to cozy, cushioned nooks and nap-worthy sofas and lounge chairs.
Tip #4: Make Cooking a Social Event
A Cambridge study showed that cooking at home actually increases longevity.
Forget what you heard about too many cooks in the kitchen. Encourage more home cooking with your family and friends by designing your kitchen to accommodate both meal prep and socializing.
This is where an open layout and wide surfaces become extremely useful. Guests can wander in and out without pathways becoming congested, and helpers can find space to chop without bumping elbows.
A butcher block island makes a great place to set out cheese and crackers or coffee and dessert. And touches of personality, such as display shelves or colorful accents, help an open layout still feel intimate and inviting.
Tip #5: Get Down to Work
A kitchen office should make ultra-efficient use of your space. It should also be a snap to tidy and organize when you’re ready to transition from work to downtime.
That’s not to say you can’t spread out when you work. The wide surfaces of a dining table or island is often what draws us to work there in the first place.
Use convenient, hidden storage space to stow bills, notebooks, electronics, and cords out of sight when you’re not using them. Concealed power strips can also make a kitchen office less intrusive.
You may also choose an empty wall or underutilized corner to place a compact desk or computer hutch where you can still work within arm’s reach of the coffee maker.
Does Your Kitchen Meet All of Your Needs?
As the hub of your home, your kitchen should be thoughtfully designed so you can comfortably cook, gather, work, and relax.
Whether you’re designing your kitchen from the ground up, or renovating an older kitchen to be more open, functional, and livable, Purcell can help. Call us today at (651) 748-1304 to ask how you can design and build the kitchen of your dreams.