I used to have a lot to do with house construction. It’s very rare for me now. The furniture is everything. I’ve been in thousands of homes; modest, palatial, big, small, desert, arctic, seashore, mountain, underground to apartment aerie. Canada, lots of US states, Central America, Italy. I’ve noticed lots of things about lots of places. But the thing I’ve noticed most, is that 99 times out of 100, the kitchen is devouring the soul of the inhabitants.
It’s not meant to. It costs more in treasure and effort than any other three rooms in a house. And though people are constantly striving to get a kitchen that’s the center of their home, generally they spend all that money and end up with a sort of dismal industrial vivisectionist’s operating room, more or less.
Look at that picture. You want that woman’s kitchen. You tell me you want it something awful. You describe in painstaking detail the cozy, sunlit, roomy, casual kitchen you want, and are willing to pay big dough for, and then — I’m sorry to tell you this — you absolutely refuse to allow any of the elements that make that kitchen look so lovely. You throw it a way with both hands.
It’s not all your fault of course. A sort of grim sameness descends on the whole process. You can choose from an almost endless assortment of the same damn thing. It’s like the industry makes you take three lefts to take a right. But you don’t want to go that way. In my experience, the advice you are going to receive from the vast majority of kitchen designers is a guaranteed lock to make your kitchen about as homey as a podiatrist’s waiting room. So what is it that makes that place in the picture look so luminous across the decades?
Here’s why that picture looks so lovely:
- The room has a high ceiling
- The room does not have a vaulted ceiling, making it a cavern
- The room is lit from at least two sides
- There is a great big sink
- There are two great big windows over that sink
- A little sconce between the windows below eye level
- Items in constant use are at hand
- The cabinets are made for the room, and have inset doors and face frames
- The cabinets are painted and look like they can be refreshed
- Broad windowsills allow houseplants to grow in the sun
- There are no fussy finishes or furnishings
- There is a door to the outside
- There is room for others to gather
- There is room for others to help
This is well and ably done, and undoubtedly by an amateur designer. Probably just a carpenter with a pattern book.
Let me point out that that woman is poor. She isn’t holding a basket of eggs that a style magazine just handed to her for a photo shoot. The hens just handed those to her. Money won’t cure your problem. Mostly, money makes it worse.
There was poison put into our intellectual drinking water last century. The brutalists took up the lament that a house, and especially the kitchen, was ” a machine for living.” Let me ask you. Should people be fed into a machine? Do you want to feed yourself and your family into one, every day, for the most essential thing in your life — the marvelous ritual of preparing and eating food — made no less profound for how often you do it?
( More tomorrow)