As America's new first family settles into the White House, speculations abound on what kind of nation - and what kind of home - the Obamas will create. The Johnny Grey team believes it's not just a question of decor. It's more fundamental than that. As the heart of the new President's home, a sociable kitchen, where people instinctively gather, could have immense significance.
Here we present three visions of our imaginary kitchen space for the Obamas created by designers across the Johnny Grey Network. We think the new President needs a space that is the center of family life, where he, his family and friends of all ages can relax and savor the joys of being - and cooking - together.
We've teamed up with C'est Si Bon, a cooking school based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They have created three menus, each inspired by one of our conceptual kitchens for the White House. Selected recipes are available for download below.
In addition, we've created a series of kitchen furniture for kids, as part of our latest project on designing family-friendly kitchens. Taking the three Obama conceptual kitchens as our starting point, we explore the relationship between design and the cooking experience. See our sketches here.
Matt Withington's "helm" concept is a collection of thoughtfully scaled and elegant pieces of free-standing, custom furniture, each purposefully designed to facilitate family-centered activity. His design includes a helm from which Michelle and Barack can survey and command their family surroundings, while a tall-backed sofa provides a sight-line partition from the hallway.
Envisioning a Renaissance boat captain pushing off shore from Spain into the Atlantic in search of the New World, C'est Si Bon created a menu to match Matt's kitchen, incorporating Peruvian influences with dishes such as scallop ceviche, "coca" Spanish-style pizza and a Coimbra orange essence cake with dark chocolate.
Every family needs its own active space, a place where family members and guests can connect on all levels. This means living, dining, cooking, playing, laughing, being - in a single, open family environment. Kevin Hackett's design thus embodies a sustainable language that echoes the family's heritage and world-centric perspective on things. The value of this room comes not from its material wealth, but rather its nurturing capability.
Incorporating freshly grown and picked garden edibles, C'est Si Bon has created menu that generates warmth and emphasizes bringing the family together with dishes that are newly inspired twists on classic comfort foods, such as roasted chard and garden delight macaroni and cheese, Pennsylvania Dutch pepper cabbage with watermelon pickles and Thai basil lemon meringue tarts.
Leila Bryne's design creates an "atmosphere of being," referring to a space in which each member of the family can coexist while carrying out his or her own activities. 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.
C'est Si Bon's menu enriches the "being" of each family with a series of dish that works individually and can stand alone, yet, when joined together, create a powerful and utterly compelling symphony of eating. You'll find recipes for halibut en papillotte with garlic haricot vert, Caponata (Sicilian eggplant caviar) and herb-crusted slow-rising fougasse.