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A Brit Weighs in on America’s ‘Open Kitchen’ Debate
When looking at housing options in the U.S., Brits will notice a distinct lack of doors and walls. It’s very common to walk through the front door and find yourself in a living room, which in turn leads straight through to the kitchen and out the back door. Even where there’s an entryway with walls, there are usually holes where we might find doors in the U.K.
I’ve recently noticed this open plan design creeping into British homes too, especially when it comes to kitchens. One friend, who lives in a beautiful old country house, has just bashed three small-ish rooms into one enormous kitchen, complete with armchairs, a dining table and a small TV. Another friend, with a flat in London, basically has one large room that triples as kitchen, living room and dining room. Apparently open kitchens are fifty per cent more popular in the U.K. than they were a decade ago. Very American.
Personally, I am totes over the live-in kitchen. In my last house we had one, but in my current house (which we gutted), I deliberately installed doors and walls. Who wants to sit watching TV with unwashed dishes in the periphery? And quite frankly, it’s bad enough with the car keys and mail on the counter-top but homework and Lego while I’m trying to cook the dinner? No thanks. As for being able to keep an eye on the kids, I installed double doors to the family room that open up for maximum supervision and scolding when needed. Oh and did you know the open-plan kitchen can lead to uncontrolled snacking and is perhaps to blame for the recent obesity epidemic? It also encourages shouting; who needs to walk to the next room and merely talk when you can stand still and yell at the top of your lungs to announce dinner?
When it comes to entertaining (you know, that thing the TV shows think we do all the time but in reality we don’t?), my guests don’t need to bear witness to my culinary inadequacies. I don’t want them gathered round the kitchen island while I sweat over a risotto and try to maintain lively conversation without swearing profusely. When I serve up dinner (which is usually prepared and cooked way ahead of time), I want the effect to be one of grace and effortlessness, not whether the “three second rule”* was invoked.
While I don’t quite feel the “total disgust” expressed by some architecture aficionados in a recent article, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my love of isolated kitchens. (You must read this article for the pure drama of the open-versus-closed kitchen debate. Who knew it could arouse so much passion?) Unfortunately, if you’re a door-and-wall lover, you may have a search on your hands for your ideal kitchen here in the U.S. Indeed most American realtors won’t even get your desire for the closed-kitchen concept and will remind you, ad nauseam, of the resale considerations of open-plan.
* Three-second rule – Technically, this is a safe and recommended way to check that you’re driving at a safe distance from the car in front of you. The alternative definition (used above) is the length of time many people deem okay to retrieve and eat food that has been dropped on the floor. (Oh come on….we’ve all done it.) Apparently this theory has been tested, and most foods found to be safe to eat, so I’m all good, as they say!
What’s your preferred floor plan?