Several years ago, I began experimenting with a new kitchen layout strategy aimed at better integrating family activities and the primary storage/preparation/cooking work centers into one large living space. This new approach revolves around changing where these traditional work centers are placed within an expanded “roomscape” still labeled as a “kitchen.” I call it the “Live-in Kitchen” plan, rather than an “Eat-in Kitchen” or a “Great Room Kitchen.”
To better understand the basic premise of this new approach to design, it’s a good idea to review how the kitchen has evolved. Many of us remember when a kitchen was a walled-off space associated with grease, grime and drudgery. Over the last 30 years, walls have come down, and kitchens have been placed alongside family gathering and activity centers. Professional space planners are moving the kitchen “out of the corner” in these Great Room settings, and placing it in the center of an overall living area.
This “floating” approach to locating the primary work spaces of a residential kitchen allows various people-related activities to be integrated into the actual food-focused space or occur along the perimeters of the space. So – quite simply – rather than people gathering “in” the kitchen, they are gathering “around” the kitchen.
After creating such a space in a concept kitchen for the Jenn-Air exhibit at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, I wrote about new planning considerations for a “floating” kitchen in a Kitchen & Bath Design News article entitled “Emerging Kitchens Take Center Stage” (February, 2010).
Over the last few months I’ve enjoyed seeing both “real-life” and “conceptual” kitchen plans based on this new way of placing the kitchen in a gathering space.
The t-SHAPED KITCHEN
This new approach to space management was beautifully employed by Chris Novak Berry of brooksBerry Kitchens & Baths of St. Louis, MO, and her co-designer, Emily Castle, in their 2011 NKBA Design Competition “Best Kitchen” award-winning design. Berry and Castle placed a kitchen in the center of a space, allowing the back wall to serve as a two-sided work and storage station (see photo at right).
The key to this solution is rethinking the concept of an island. The island is created with a full or partial wall. The design offers a combination of the traditional “corridor” kitchen (that “floats” in the room) and a secondary one-wall counter and cabinet assembly anchored nearby. We might need a new name for this shape: the “T-Shaped Kitchen”?
‘WAGON WHEEL’ KITCHEN SHAPE
A second “floating” kitchen (see photo at left) was created by Kristen Hiestand of the Shadowlight Group. While this photography set may not serve an actual family, Kristen clearly understands the concept of multiple living spaces being created adjacent to or as part of a kitchen that is at the center of the space.
This approach to planning could be referred to as the “wagon wheel” kitchen shape: The primary work stations are located in the center with people activities radiating away from it like the spokes of a wheel. Look carefully – it is another version of the “T-shaped” kitchen. The corridor area houses the primary work centers and appliances. The back wall in the corridor space is intersected by a second corridor double-sided work area. These counter areas provide space for the cook’s helpers or a secondary chef who works alongside the cook all the time.
This kitchen design creates separate – yet connected – gathering or work areas in the “L” configured areas behind the work stations. Perhaps an area for the family computer/office center? Maybe a quiet reading corner? Alternatively, a classic dining area might be placed in this part of the kitchen. The general space just beyond the 36"-high snack counter would surely be reserved for the entertainment/media center.