A garden kitchen is a new genre on the cusp becoming a popular addition to a well-planned property. It provides a way of immersing oneself in the garden’s realm, an easy and continuous way of experiencing nature, sunlight, trees and sky while still being protected from the elements. An open shelter, perhaps housed in a conservatory, orangery, pergola, loggia or semi-open structure that opens and closes according to climatic requirements. Whatever cover is chosen, it acts like an environmental filter; the idea is to be comfortable but as open to nature as possible.
It is important to realize that it is not a replacement for a kitchen. It is an additional facility, a rough luxe version where you can forget worries about storage where the furniture is plants as well as functional pieces of the carpentered variety. The locus is maybe still cooking, ideally with an open fire or with a suitable appliance for barbecuing but its companion function, and perhaps most critical one, is its role for outdoor congregation, either around a fire or with a table – placed in the open or under shade or weather protection of some kind. The third use is a more private one – communing with nature, de-stressing and enjoying the garden’s poetic and aesthetic pleasures.
The gardens that surround our homes are often divorced from the rooms inside and out of sync with views from key windows. Kitchens and living rooms are often designed to promote internal priorities such as maximizing size, serious décor work, circulation or, historically, making a fireplace work. According to research, the average Westerner spends 80% of their time indoors. The expectation our bodies have accumulated through evolution is the reverse.
In our search for well-being we need to develop living habits that allow us to be outside for much longer. We are hard-wired, as neuroscientists such as John Zeisel tell us, for prolonged exposure to the flowers, plants, green space and sky. Access to nature, as well as exposure to long views and seasonal routines, keeps us calm. Part of my work at JG Studios has been to develop a concept I have termed “instinct-based design”.
Creating outdoor kitchens is part of that programme. By listening to our instincts we can make kitchens and gardens that work together and make us feel good. The effort, time and expenditure that people lavish on their gardens is often wasted as the rooms of the house where most of time is spent are not visible.
Without French doors, growing beautiful flowers, trimming hedges, mowing the lawn, filling pots, building ponds and construct rose arbors’ seem a little wasted. ‘You own what you see’ has been attributed to Capability Brown. How many of us have that pleasure in our gardens?
JG Studios have been asked recently to design a number of garden kitchens and will be exhibiting at the London Chelsea Flower Show (25th-29th May) with Alitex - makers of conservatories and greenhouses and endorsed by the National Trust. It will be a great opportunity to explore the new concept of the garden kitchen further.