The Ghosts of Kitchens Past
Whether they represent a hive of healthy creativity or the shackles that bind, kitchens are a necessity. We cannot cut them from a household in favour of a new hot tub. In today's busy world in which we are pressured to do everything faster and achieve the impossible, we can often be found multitasking up to our eyeballs wondering where we will find the energy to cook dinner at the end of a busy day. A kitchen must work for us, so how can we make it welcome us with open arms?
Kitchens are often described as the heart of a home, a place where families come together to talk about their day - a relaxed, “doing” space and most importantly, where the tea and biscuits live. This is certainly the case in our household, often the only time when we are all together is to prepare and share a meal. Of course we want kitchens to look good but what use is that if they don’t function efficiently. It's important that research and planning are taken seriously when updating your existing kitchen or planning a complete overhaul. You don’t have to have a posh kitchen complete with the latest mod cons. I find those rather sterile myself. Any kitchen can be improved, the key is to recognise your true needs. We all have our ideals but are they realistic? Do they suit your personality?
Consider the requirements your dream kitchen would have then question if you would really use that bluetooth bread machine. Do you even enjoy cooking, or are you a coffee machine and microwave kind of person? With all the overwhelming choices out there, a useful trick is to run your ideas past your budget because this will helpfully restrict your options and encourage realistic decisions, unless you are a millionaire.
Reflect on all past kitchens (it's more amusing than the ex-relationship game); from your parents place to your first bedsit, university slum to more grown-uppy rentals. Which ones worked best for you? All of us have experienced many a kitchen in our time and everyone has a story to tell. Although we may not have a clear vision of what we want, I would guess we certainly know what we do not! I suggest that be the first list you make. What do you hate about your current space? Take into account how frequently you use the kitchen and what for. Do you just need the basics or are you catering for a large busy family and a michelin starred chef?
I have experienced them all; from a superb galley in a turret with 360 degree accessibility, to shared houses abroad with mice infestations. Not to mention the building sites! I have cooked in the bedroom and washed up in the bath. Balanced over planks of wood to drain pasta and picked bits of ceiling out of the sausage pan while someone drilled into the floor above. The slug infestation was very traumatic, especially when they popped up to say hello through the rotten wood around the sink during a round of dishwashing.
When it comes to aesthetics I consider our kitchen to be one our most triumphant design solutions. My partner, the main cook, wanted restaurant standard versus my love of all things old. How to keep us both happy? I racked my brains to consider retro industrial options and came up with the idea of tweaking the rigid stainless steel look with the glam of an American diner, complete with curves. At the time we were working our way through the TV series Mad Men, and I was absorbing all the 50’s decor into my psyche. As the plans evolved, a temporary birch ply worktop hurriedly fitted in order to have a kitchen “for Christmas” became permanent. Off the shelf gloss units were jazzed up with art deco handles painted 1950’s green to match the splashback. A restored freestanding drinks cabinet from the reliable and much missed local shop Pams, a splash of wallpaper around the door frame and other antiques acquired locally, added friction and individuality to the space. The end result satisfies everyone’s needs - a design respectful of the 1930s to 50s era complemented with a second hand Lacanche cooker and prioritised industrial extraction. I call it the Mad Men, Poirot kitchen.
And finally, always remember that storage is everything. If peace and order is something you crave then consider the amount you need, and double it. Otherwise prepare to spend the rest of your life searching for everything, including your life, on the kitchen table amongst the biscuits, cat, and family paraphernalia!
Photo credits: Matt Hayden
Published in the July 2018 edition of Bridport Times magazine: bridporttimes.co.uk