By CRISTIAN DAVID | Special to the Palisadian-Post
When you recall your childhood home, you will probably remember the kitchen better than any other room in the house. I remember my mom’s kitchen growing up in Romania in the early 1970s; it was the place where we savored the thoughts of dinner and salivated from the aroma of the products of mom’s Transylvanian culinary skills.
It was where we used to “help” my mom lick the chocolate frosting off the eggbeaters or be mesmerized by her sifting the powder sugar over the delicious cookies she would bake for us.
The excitement then was epic. It is where we shared many quiet afternoon cuppas with close friends and family, and laughed over congratulatory glasses of champagne. The kitchen was then—and still is today—the equivalent of the human body’s heart.
The kitchen obviously has a lot to do with food. And food is nourishment—not just for your body, but also for your soul.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach. If food draws a woman close to a man’s heart, then the room where food is prepared should be the heart of the home.
Whether small or large, even if it’s just a small portion where a stove is placed, the kitchen is the hub of the home. It is where the meals are created—it fuels the bodies, minds and souls of friends and families all over the world.
Some say that while life may be created in the bedroom, it is certainly lived in the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is where you spend time with your children solving math problems, where you call your college roommate from and most importantly, it is where you gather with friends and family.
The history of the kitchen is quite fascinating—and ever evolving. The kitchen we know today is an indispensable component of our everyday life. Considering how important the “trophy” kitchen is for today’s homeowners, it’s amazing to think that not long ago, kitchens were one of the least desirable rooms in the home.
It’s obvious that the kitchen has undergone many technological and social changes over the decades. Historically, kitchens weren’t luxurious and, unlike today’s kitchen, they were not rooms people wanted to spend time in.
They were not rooms meant for hosting guests or entertaining. They were dark and prone to catching fire—filled with noises, messes and smells. Kitchens were extremely busy, hot and uncomfortable spaces.
For these reasons, kitchens tended to be situated as far away as possible from the social or private rooms in a home. The upper class even celebrated a disconnection from food and food preparation by situating their dining rooms far away from the kitchen, going so far as to mask the smell of food. Even the lower classes placed the kitchen away from the center of the home by moving them to the back of the house, next to the outdoor work areas.
The kitchen had a pivotal moment when gas, water and electricity became more readily available. The industrial era produced productivity studies led by Philadelphia’s Frederick Taylor. He believed that there was a formula of efficiency that corresponded with movement and space.
The idea of the “Golden Triangle” needed to account for the process of preparing food and the idea of the stove, refrigerator and sink being the key items in the kitchen quickly evolved into how these items were placed in the room’s design—what’s known as the kitchen triangle used in most designs.
The 1950s put a spotlight on the kitchen and household work as the epitome of the “perfect” family. The advances in technology, lighting, flooring and even the location of the kitchen placed the kitchen in the center of the home.
In the 1960s and 1970s, other societal changes were taking place that impacted the style of the kitchen. A renewed interest in home cooking, fetishizing kitchen utensils and entertaining meant that life was happening, once again, in the kitchen. The kitchen became a source for honing culinary crafts, displaying designer cookware and served as the hub for social activity.
By the 1980s, the idea of a completely open kitchen, with appliances designed to show off, came into being. And so, the trophy kitchen was born.
We have been keeping the open floor plan of a kitchen in place for many years now. Especially today, when it is more and more difficult to connect with your family members at the dining room table.
Today, the kitchen plays the important role of more of a communal space and the open plan designs reflect our desire for the kitchen to be more than just a place for cooking and eating.
“Now kitchens are the hub of the home,” award-winning interior designer James Dawson said. “An island bench is often the center of activity in the kitchen, whether it be where the laptop lives, where kids do homework while meals are prepared or where friends gather around with a glass of wine for weekend dinner parties.”
Designers spend a long time creating an experience where the kitchen is no longer an interior feature. Sotheby’s International Realty recently sold an exquisite property on Amalfi Drive here in Pacific Palisades, designed by the award-winning local designer Ken Ungar. His superb design exemplified the bright open floor plan, with walls of doors that fold away for a naturally intuitive indoor/outdoor flow.
As a specialist in designing high-end luxury estates and having designed more than 200 custom homes, he clearly understands that people gravitate to the kitchens with islands—and in this Amalfi property there are three islands, which navigate easily for convivial mingling while meals are made.
Kitchens can be the most expensive thing in a house, due to their integral nature. There is also a parallel trend towards connectivity, integrated appliances and using wireless technology throughout the home. While one trend is a bit of a throwback, looking backwards to a simpler time in our kitchen history, the other trend is shooting for the future.
When it comes to our kitchens, the design trends we choose should be personal—after all, family life seems to take place most predominantly within the kitchen space.
Cristian David is vice president and brokerage manager of Sotheby’s International Realty Pacific Palisades, and a contributor to the Palisadian-Post. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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