Grey Matters

‘Yes, we cook’ – Obama’s Kitchen Imagined, Installment 3

The White House interior is never static.  Each new first lady has an opportunity to make history through the décor and furniture she chooses. How then will Michelle Obama furnish her new family home?  According to a statement she released when designer Michael Smith was appointed as the White House decorator, her vision is to “create a family-friendly feel”.  She’ll be presented with catalogues of antique furniture and art available from the White House collection, but how will that combine with her desire for “incorporating some new perspectives”?  The words of her husband’s stirring inauguration speech about the hard work ahead might just provide some inspiration.

A hard-working house has come to mean one that provides comfort, practicality, retreat and beauty. We can assume Michelle will desire their personal kitchen to be harder working than the room’s name currently conveys. She may appreciate the flexibility of a room in which the family can not only cook, but do homework, send emails, enjoy fireside chats and share family meals. A room such as this would certainly become the hub of the house.

The “atmosphere of being” offered by a space in which each member of the family can coexist while carrying out differing activities can become priceless in the midst of a jam-packed schedule.  Such a space requires subtle zoning  – keeping the room as one, at the same time defining its many parts.  This is where the hard work of design comes into play.

Barack Obama’s mother-in-law resides in the White House to help with the kids: where will she sit to read the girls a story? A conversation bed inspired by the work of our Chinese ancestors might provide the solution; it provides a protected yet light permeable zone for reading and learning activities.

In a sociable room how does a cook preserve the space they need to prepare and serve food uninterrupted?  The breakfast bar and island configuration is one such way to direct visiting friends to a perching place where eye contact can be maintained with the cook.

President Obama’s inauguration speech reflected on the “greatness earned by the makers of things”. In this context, it is highly skilled artisans who know how to change a texture, colour or surface height to give maximum potential for the activity carried out at any given piece of furniture. Carefully combined, these pieces create a space that waits expectantly for individuals to dwell as a sociable group. In other words, a space that creates an “atmosphere of being” – where everyone can be themselves and be together at the same time.

– Leila Byrne, UK

See the entire concept presentation here.


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