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Modern Kitchen Evolution

Does the evolution of the modern kitchen mean the death of the triangle? Modern design and personalized functionality add new dimensions to old kitchen components, fire, water, and storage.


More than 50 years ago, The Futurist magazine predicted a world of jetpacks, mile-high cities and vacations on Mars. Kitchens would be neat, clean laboratories where actual food and food preparation would be cast-out in favor of “food-pills” and “radar-ranged,” freeze-dried dinners––not welcoming “heart of the home” gathering spots.


Thankfully, these visions are still the stuff of science fiction and despite all the gadgetry (trivection ovens, warming drawers, cell phone controlled appliances), our kitchens still embody the core elements archeologists have discovered in excavations from Taos, New Mexico to the ruins of Pompeii. Ignore the stainless or veneered exteriors and believe it or not, the traditional layout of any kitchen can be found from an Amazonian mud-hut to a New York, 5th Avenue penthouse. With all our evolutions, we still are answering the same needs that faced our predecessors in ancient times: fire, water and proper storage.


What’s important is not how kitchens themselves have changed, but how we have changed the way we use and understand kitchens. At one time, the kitchen was a purely functional space. Now, it is the “heart of the home.”


Hide the Kitchen, Hide the Process

A century ago, the kitchen was designed to be an out of the way place for servants to gather and prepare the day’s meals outside of the main household. It was sparse, functional and easy to wash-down.


By post-war UK, the kitchen was pared down for a single participant, the woman of the house. It was laid out with an assembly line efficiency that created the “illusion of order” by hiding the kitchen’s true function. By hiding the food, waste and appliances, kitchen designs hid the process of cooking and the disorder it creates. Appliances dictated the form and flow of the kitchen. The sink was under the window, the dishwasher to the right or left of the sink, the cook-top with its 12 inches on either side, the double oven, used only for holidays and special occasions, and the space dominator: the refrigerator.


Over the past 30 years, the use of the kitchen has broadened to become “the place” for friends and family to gather, share, rejuvenate and commune. So today’s kitchen is still a gathering place for tribes, but the once hidden and secluded room is now part of a larger social arena. It serves as meeting place, dining room, home-office, place to do homework. It can even serve as a hide away for quiet reflection.


A ticket to the dance

This once private domain of the feminine world has given way to the new social order and reflects the world that we live in. Quite simply, the kitchen defines the home and those who live in it. Today, in exchange for a role in the food preparation, anyone can wrangle an invite into a kitchen. And with more bodies dancing in a ballet of fire, boiling water and sharp pointy knives, we find that the assembly-line kitchen, with its uniform horizon of sink, dishwasher, cook-top, oven and refrigerator, is forever locked in a limited, one-person “work-triangle,” and must give way to a new way of thinking.


The new paradigm casts the kitchen as experimental theater, where elements of the stage are moved about or “lit up” to give the audience a better experience. In Europe this is literally true. Cabinets are on wheels–which provide workspace when you need it—and roll away when you do not. This cabinet impermanence is virtually unheard of in the UK – where kitchens dictate the resale value of the home.


Gaining in popularity on the west coasts the double island kitchen. One island is for clean up, prep and periodic storage. The other island is the primary workstation, encasing dishwasher, sink and stove top. On a long wall you would have a double oven side by side – versus top and bottom configurations.


A buzzword in the business world is “work-flow analysis,” a first step for any and all processes to make sure everything – from the physical space to personnel location – is kept streamlined and efficient. The many and diverse activities that take place in a kitchen should qualify it for the work-flow analysis swat team, but rarely does that occur. The chief problem is that kitchens in the UK must be a certain vanilla way so as not to offend the tastes of the next owner. A truly custom kitchen installation fits the personalities and activities of an owner – can that translate to the next person? So instead we purchase a giant white box filled with cabinets that extend shoulder to ceiling with never a consideration of what it is you will try and accomplish in there.


Kitchen Design aka Workflow Analysis

When we design a kitchen, each opportunity is unique. Just like workflow analysis folks, we ask who will use the kitchen and what activities will take place. For example, different countertop heights accommodate specific repetitive motions. Cooktop areas should be a little lower so you can look into a pot.


Chopping is at one level, mixing is another for proper ergonomic design. Proper height is calculate by measuring the distance from the person’s waist to the crux of the elbow. Tendenitis? Carpal tunnel? It maybe just that your counters are not at the right height. Counters with a pneumatic lift can be adjusted to what suits you best. Children tottering on bar stools are neither safe nor helpful, so we will set up an area where the counter is lowered to say, 27’”.


Obviously, the kitchen still has to have a specific functionality, you are going to want to sell it at some time, and it can’t be a completely foreign landscape. There are certain universal heights--lower shelf of a cabinet is 5 feet, highest shelf at 7 feet–a lot of this is common sense. But culturally, British and Europeans want to get the most out of the space. We are starting to see trends to the contrary, and while the kitchen as place-of-cabinets may not change soon, there are still options. Think classic suit – customized with lots of accessories.


Space utilization devices are quite prevalent in Europe and catching on slowly in the States. And we’re talking much more than rollout cabinetry, typically the litmus of an upscale kitchen, but extras, like space-saving inserts and dividers.The frustration of baking is the energy it takes to excavate the proper pans, all teetering on top of each other in some hard to navigate cupboard. So imagine a rollout shelf with dividers for mixing bowls, pie pans, cake tins and more. The whole key is to make it accessible.


Bottom line is the kitchen must be an efficient, productive environment conducive to the tasks at hand. It is about changing the way we think about this space we call “kitchen” and an individual’s, or family’s, relationship to it. The new belief is to create an environment that allows us to experience new ideas and rediscover aspects of our lives that have been lost in the daily rush of activities, meetings, jobs and planning. The modern kitchen will continue to be the heart of the home, an essential element of our daily lives that touches and affects us both physically and emotionally, a place where we seek communion, rejuvenation, and sanctuary. Of all the items we will choose for our home, today’s kitchen is the most apt to provide us with an outlet for creation and self-expression.


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Article Source Pure Contemporary


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