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The Essential Kitchen – getting back to basics

The Dolphin kitchen island design

The Dolphin – a casual and unexpected place to perch

What is the essence of a kitchen? Sociability and living comfortably, and then usable surfaces, storage, and cooking equipment. I have recently been thinking how we could get back to the kitchen’s core and what this might be.

Sociability is created by a) providing plenty of opportunities for eye contact and b) places to perch and relax that are built-in, sometimes in unexpected places and with different types of chairs or stools, for people of all abilities. (see the all aluminium bar above, nicknamed the dolphin) And space for doing hobbies, laptop activity and general all round chilling, reading dancing or repairing a bicycle.

Surfaces – or the planes in the space, the table tops and countertops – matter a lot. They do the basic work organising the space, both directing us around it and structuring it. As well as delineating the room into spatial zones they generate light reflection. My current focus is to think in terms of tables, conjoined or not, replacing solid masses of cabinetry and central islands: this makes for a subtler, lighter variant of the traditional layout. By dispensing with a lot of units you can liberate your kitchen space and it will still work beautifully and leave more room for breathing, more physical space.

The best kind of storage is a large walk-in pantry. It also has the advantage of being cheap to make. Smaller items can be housed in drawers linked to surfaces, small tools hung from a gantry, with the remainder to hand on open shelves. Family furniture and collected bits and pieces add personal touches to this living kitchen.

Finally we have cooking appliances. Freestanding where possible for lower cost, easy replacement. They can be built into cupboards if this is important to the client for style or practical reasons.

In two of our recent projects, one open plan and the other a smaller integrated, living room kitchen, we used minimal cabinetry (walk-in pantries were embedded into the architecture), hidden but effective ergonomics and the quality of the artisan work gave both a sense of spaciousness and tactile pleasure.


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