Article by Ng Ai Hwa (Atelier M+A): The Kitchen is the New Living Room

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Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 489), June 20 – July 3, 2014

By Ng Ai Hwa

Kitchens were once used solely for cooking, but they are now also used for living. While this is not a ground-breaking concept, it could be relatively new to many homes in Asia where kitchens had been traditionally created as utilitarian spaces to handle choking fumes and chaotic food preparation.

Nowadays the kitchens are changing, at least so on our island. It has been almost certain when home owners approach us they request for an overhaul of their kitchens, usually fully enclosed, stifling and often dim. The transformation happens when the kitchens are opened up to combine with other spaces and serve as multiple functions.

The Kitchen Is a Metaphor
The historical purpose of dinner was never just about eating together, but more about connecting through conversation and eating. Most of the home owners we worked with had either little knowledge in food preparation or were not enthusiastic in cooking, less so in preparing meals on a daily basis. Yet interestingly they requested for special attention to the kitchen designs to ensure provision of a ‘proper’ kitchen equipped with modern electrical appliances.

Consciously or subconsciously, one desires having a kitchen regardless of usage frequency and level of cooking skills. This is because psychologically having a kitchen in a home is nourishing in itself, as it denotes home and hearth. It primarily brings a sense of security and connects one to his livelihood.

Preparing and Sharing Food Is the Communication
We have undertaken many projects when the kitchens overtake the living as the main space for the households. One of the projects we heart is for a family with three generations under one roof. The brief had a specific request to provide visual connection, good lighting and generous space for the kitchen and dining space. This is because the family spent most of their time conversing with each other in the kitchen and during meals than when they were in the living room.

We designed the kitchen to directly face the dining space. Though separated with an island counter, visual and verbal communication was facilitated with sliding glass panels. The kitchen became well used by the grandmother for preparing daily food, the mother and daughters for baking cakes together, and the dining space for family dinners and social gatherings (refer to Photo 1).

Kitchen as Communal Space
The kitchen and dining are commonly used by young children working on their homework. It is interesting to note that even if children have their own study area and desks, they are often drawn to this family space for a sense of togetherness with the mother. One of the mothers whom we worked with requested for a study area to be visible from the kitchen so that she could attend to them during study times. We located the study space to be right beside the kitchen, separated by an island counter which allowed a visual link between the two spaces. We also designed the study to accommodate a workspace for the father. Even though the unit was equipped with a proper dining space, the island counter and the study area became the frequent lingering spot for the family, where the mother and her sons would enjoy snacks and tea during study breaks (refer to Photo 2 and 3).

Food as an Experience and Event
With the current trend where food, celebrity chefs, and star restaurants are celebrated by our mass media, food becomes not only an obsession but also an alternate form of art.

The ritual of dining, the design of meals, and the process of cooking all form a distinctively expressive experience, and more so a sensuous one with designated lighting, interior decorations, furniture, the entertainment of music, and so on.

The celebration of food culture inevitably helps to promote the kitchen to take centre stage within homes. The design brief from one owner of a maisonette unit called for a spacious open kitchen that integrated with the other spaces in the unit, forming a large space for frequent social gatherings. In this project, the kitchen no longer served as just a space for food preparation, but it was also where entertainment took place. We designed the kitchen to be facing the entrance, and beside it a lounge space for guests and relaxation. Instead of the living room, the guests would be greeted by the open kitchen and the lounge as they entered the unit. In this instance, guests linger and interact around the kitchen and the lounge space and may never need to proceed further into the living room, negating the living as the main space traditionally used for receiving guests (refer to Photo 4 and 5).

We always find inspiration when we design in response to the different lifestyles, inclinations and personalities of home owners, and the results always materialise in better design solutions for the occupants. With that, we will share more on the specifics of kitchen design, and on responding to different needs and essential design considerations for kitchens in our next write-up.

Atelier M+A
89B Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6222 4405

From – (pg 1), (pg 2)

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