Everyone says they love a large, open kitchen they can entertain in. But is that really a practical solution? How much entertaining do you do? Or do you just like the thought of entertaining? Reality and perception of the way we live are often at odds with each other and can guide us to make mistakes that are costly and unpractical.
Most new home developments, from single-family homes to townhouses to condominiums, are designed under the assumption that everyone wants a large, open kitchen. You walk into any model home and sleek kitchens and stainless-steel appliances are there to make you salivate. But ask anyone who does the cooking or housekeeping and their answers are likely to shock you.
Most chefs, even the celebrity kind in fancy restaurants, will tell you they prefer a small — but well-organized — kitchen. While most open kitchens are large to wow the dining audience, most behind-the-scenes kitchens are no larger than the size of two walk-in closets. Why, you may ask? Well, when you are in the kitchen and on your feet for 8 to 12 hours, you prefer your equipment, storage and wash-up areas to be just a few feet apart. Efficiency — and lessened physical fatigue — are the main reasons for preferring a small kitchen.
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So if these are the insider secrets from chefs who spend all day and night in their kitchens, why do so many of us want a large kitchen? The answer is simple: It is for show, just like the ones seen in large upscale restaurants. I always like to please my clients, and if they ask for an open kitchen, they usually get an open kitchen, but I try to make them aware of the pluses and minuses of an open kitchen versus a closed kitchen.
In an open kitchen, it is true that the homeowner or cook is able to interact with their guests almost seamlessly, and that is great for conversation. But it is also distracting to talk and try to tend to your guest while cooking. Things often go wrong in an open kitchen while one is cooking and entertaining simultaneously. For example, a plate may stay in the oven or stove too long, and the bottom of the pan may be scorched. Or a meat or fish dish may be overcooked, leaving you serving carbonized organic matter.
Then there are the issues of smells wafting through the house. When baking cookies or bread, the aroma might be intoxicatingly good, but ask your guests if they loved the scent of salmon or grilled beef when they entered through you front door. The answer is more than likely “not.” Closed kitchens are great for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they allow the cook to really pay attention to what they are doing without any social interaction. Closed kitchens can be set apart by a door, reducing the food odors greeting the guests and adhering to the expensive fabric you chose for your furniture. And, lastly, a closed kitchen allows you to stack dishes after dinner service while keeping them out of sight.
So, the next time you are looking at homes or renovating and thinking about the possibility of an open kitchen, think again about reality versus show.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. His website is www.josephpubillones.com.
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