A case for traditional kitchens


Click on almost any kitchen design website, and you'll probably see large, open kitchens that flow seamlessly into surrounding living spaces. While this concept has seen steadily increasing popularity in the past decade or two, not everyone is a fan. Audrey Brashich of realtor.com writes about why she doesn't like open kitchens.

Brashich notes that traditional, separate kitchens "aren't isolated and inconvenient, but rather refined and gracious." In the past, kitchens just weren't designed to be gathering places. "The equipment was usually along the periphery," explains Virginia McAlester, author of A Field Guide to American Houses, "meaning that anyone who entered the kitchen was most likely greeted by the cook's back." In upper-class homes, visitors probably wouldn't see the cook at all.

Fast forward to the present and it's a totally different ballgame. "Food preparation is central to how we entertain and socialize," says Erin Gallagher, chief of insights for the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence. "It's how we live today." Most kitchen designers, she says, say that their clients want their living, dining, and cooking spaces to flow together.

A small but growing backlash to the open kitchen plan is brewing. Tyler Merson, a designer and former professional chef, is a fan of more traditional, separate kitchens. "People think they should love open-plan kitchens because they've been told to love them," he says. "They can be fine for low-impact prep like chopping, but real cooking is messy work and requires a great deal of concentration."

Brashich reminds us of what Julia Child had to say: if you drop food, "you can always pick it up if you're alone in the kitchen. Who is going to see?" In an open concept plan featuring guests with cell phones, the answer to that might be everyone. In which kitchen camp do you belong - open concept or separate?


  • lilham  on  12/9/2015 at 3:46 AM

    I like the large kitchen. I do the cooking and I prefer people to take to me while I cook. In the past, the women are hidden away while the men chatted. And for the rich, it's the servants that cooked. We aren't living in that era now. There's a reason why this is so popular. And if you have the space, you can have both a large open kitchen and a more formal dining room.

  • Bronny  on  12/9/2015 at 9:58 AM

    I agree with with lilham, my open kitchen is the hub of our household and a convivial meeting place, family gather at the bench and chat everyday. Friends include me in the conversation whilst I am cooking, rather than slaving away in the kitchen out the back and being the cook. If people don't like what you do in the kitchen they probably shouldn't sit at your table.

  • Cubangirl  on  12/9/2015 at 10:46 AM

    I'm the opposite. Our kitchen opens to the family room. However for company I prefer folks stay in the living room. I specifically looked for a house with a formal dining room with a door to the kitchen that can be closed. The open kitchen worked great when the kids were little. I try to do as much as possible ahead, but don't really want anyone talking to me when I'm doing the final steps and get ready to serve. I especially don't want help cleaning up after the meal. I rather close the door and enjoy the company and deal with the kitchen later (I've already cleaned up all that could be done before serving. BTW, my kitchen is close in shape to the picture except my JennAir is on the opposite side facing the family room.

  • sir_ken_g  on  12/9/2015 at 12:42 PM

    I guess you would call our kitchen open. It is connected to our only - but large - dining area. Our "formal dining room" got turned into a family room the day we moved in 22 years ago. The biggest "problem" is shooing people out to the more comfortable living room after dinner is over.

  • FJT  on  12/9/2015 at 4:54 PM

    I prefer a separate kitchen - you can close the door on any mess and the cooking smells don't permeate throughout the living area!!

  • TheSpicedLife  on  12/13/2015 at 12:57 AM

    Both LOL. I designed my home--it is open to family room, which I insist on. I want to be able to watch the game and not be the cook stuck alone in the kitchen. HOWEVER, I insisted the dining room be separate. is there anything ickier than a gorgeous formal meal surrounded by the mess in the kitchen?

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