The kitchen is the heart and soul of the family and the house. Whether small or large, the kitchen is the hub of a modern home. It is where nourishment begins. While life may be created in the bedroom, it is certainly lived in the kitchen. Some tend to agree while others not so much. Where do you stand on this?

Irrespective of our views, it is undeniable that the kitchen feeds the family's physical and emotional needs. Coming into a house with delicious aromas is comforting. It says someone is home and caring for me. Kitchens are where families gather for hunger, for conversations, for debates, for arguments and for hugs! It is the most important room in the home. How you stock your kitchen, how you keep it organized and clean can say a lot about you.

Much of the importance of this room seems to depend on the size of the kitchen, the family, and on lifestyle. In older homes, kitchens were smaller, separated and removed from the rest of the home. It was a contained space used almost exclusively for cooking that could be closed off to conceal the mess. Family and friends would eat and congregate in the dining spaces and living rooms that were situated nearby. Kitchens were utilitarian and that was about it.

We all have memories of our mothers (in some cases the father or both parents) and grandmothers (in larger families) slaving over a stove, working tirelessly to prepare delicious, filling and nutritious meals that the family enjoyed and savored together. In some cases children were told to keep out of the kitchen – mother’s workspace – so that mother could prep and cook. In many families, children especially the older ones were encouraged to join and learn the art of cooking. The joy of preparing a family or holiday meal together created true memories of a lifetime. Kitchens are not sedate and quiet rooms. They are rooms filled with energy, aroma and texture. They were created with a purpose, one purpose in mind. They were created to be utilitarian spaces.

In medium sized and larger homes of the western world, kitchens were often spacious enough to seat a family for breakfast, a snack or a light meal, with the important meals still meant to be served in the dining room where the family congregated at the end of the day.  The family meal had much more importance and significance in past generations than it does now – much of this, again, due to busier lifestyles of modern times.

Over the course of the past twenty years or so, kitchens started to become living spaces. Families are spending significant part of the day in these spaces and where more is being done than just cooking.  Newer homes are now designed with kitchens as living spaces in mind and so these rooms became larger to better accommodate family and friends as an additional space for entertaining. 

In many homes, kitchens have begun to open up to other rooms, yet some remained separate spaces. These newer, larger, more accommodating kitchens now have the space for large tables and islands are planned in to create a natural flow for those coming and going. Much more thought is being given to kitchen design and functionality. The idea of the kitchen as a living space is becoming more and more popular and those with smaller kitchens in older homes have started to take notice. Homeowners are remodeling kitchens to enlarge the spaces, both for lifestyle and resale purposes.

Today the importance of a good sized, productive kitchen is vastly important. In the eyes of realtors it certainly is. A house’s resale depends greatly on its kitchen. Its location and functionality are the key. Older kitchens are being made to look newer, more streamlined and more modern. As our lives become more casual, our homes are as well and the walls are literally coming down all around us.

With much less importance being paid to separate living and dining areas in today’s modern times, the importance seems to be almost solely concentrated on the kitchen space. Much attention is being paid to the room’s layout, design and functionality. There are still those who will argue and tell you that their living and dining room areas do matter greatly, even if they are only used a couple of times a year. Again, much of this is reflective on lifestyle.

Newer kitchens, while called kitchens, are really so much more. These large rooms comprise several areas within. There is the kitchen area – the designated cooking space – thoughtfully, carefully planned and laid out. Then there’s the dining area within the kitchen, usually large enough to hold a table that comfortably seats six or more, and finally, in many of these larger kitchens, is the sitting area, so that in effect, the whole family can hang out together while cooking, working or relaxing. Many new homes embracing the more casual lifestyle are being built without a dining room or formal living area. For those who enjoy entertaining and do so often, even the homes with formal dining and living areas find that the crowd usually gathers in the kitchen.

So clearly size does matter. When asked whether the kitchen was the most important room of the home, the result was pretty evenly divided. Those with smaller kitchens tended not to think that these rooms were the most important – necessary but not most important. Those with larger ones absolutely believed them to be the most important space in their home.  Lifestyle was a large influence as well. Those who enjoy cooking and entertaining view the kitchen as an important and integral space – contributing greatly to family life, even if the space was not large enough to be “lived in.”  For these people kitchen efficiency is very important. For families where cooking and eating is very much a part of their lifestyle and tradition, cooking, teaching, sharing recipes, and passing them down from generation to generation was important to many – and this is done in the kitchen, regardless of size, with the belief that cooking with a child, or as a family, is an important moment in family life and not to be dismissed or taken lightly.

The kitchen is ever evolving. Builders, architects, designers and realtors all recognize this, as do kitchen manufacturers. Kitchen functionality and design is ever evolving based on today’s busy and varied lifestyle, with much thought given to where we are headed in the future. Kitchen appliances, from refrigerators to dishwashers and ovens are constantly changing as well. New products, concepts and designs emerge into the marketplace every year.

Kitchens are also becoming more environmentally friendly, using recycled materials, environmentally friendly products and incorporating “greener” lifestyles that cut down on our footprint. For example, in the UK garbage disposals have been banned and composting is a must in every home. Modern kitchens are being designed with this in mind.

The current trend of remodeling kitchens and filling them with gadgets and gizmos is our attempt to reconnect with times past, when the kitchen was the heart of the home. We all yearn to reclaim the comfort and joy of eating and cooking in the kitchens of our mothers and grandmothers. The kitchen is the new living room, the social area of the home, the primary entertainment venue for the home. It is the place where family, holiday and religious rituals are celebrated. Intimate conversations are carried deep into the night with the hearts and souls of those gathered there inextricably woven together.

Technology has blessed us with convenience, but we must be cautious that this does not drive us further and further away from our grounding in the earth. The core of the human experience, the foundation of our drive to do productive work, is the transformation of raw ingredients into mental, physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment and sustenance. It is time to reclaim this basic connection. The kitchen in a modern family can be a space where the societal rediscovery may happen.



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