In life and, apparently, in kitchens, the pendulum is never allowed to swing too far to one side for too long. So after years of knocking down the barriers between the kitchen and adjacent living spaces, creating wide open plans where everyone could see everyone—and everything—it might be time to start building back some of those walls. A growing trend has buyers seeking out houses with separate cooking, dining, and living areas. Goodbye, accessibility. Hello, Gramma’s house.
“Not long ago, open kitchens and dining areas tucked into vast great rooms were fixtures of well-appointed New York City apartments, thanks to the popularity of loft living and the lure of large open expanses,” said the New York Times. “That is changing. Retrofitted and even some new buildings now feature separate kitchens and formal dining rooms, gracious attributes of prewar design that many residents find increasingly alluring.”
If you just breathed a heavy sigh while sitting at your huge island in the kitchen that looks into your great room, you’re in good company. There are plenty of folks who think that the idea of returning to the closed-in kitchen of yore belongs in the rubble of all those walls that have come down over the last decade or so.
Interior designer Anthony Carrino of Brunelleschi Construction told Houzz that, “Ninety-nine percent of our clients ask for an open-concept kitchen.” It’s a similar story for Andrea Dixon of Fiddlehead Design Group, minus “some people who are uncomfortable with letting guests see their ‘unmentionables,'” she said about untidy kitchens.
And, in fact, it’s the desire to keep dirty dishes out of sight, combined with a thirst for a more formal configuration—one that “reminded us of our childhoods,” per the New York Times—that’s driving the cry for separate kitchens.
Nod to the formality of a bygone era notwithstanding, the idea of a closed-in kitchen seems out of sorts with the way today’s families function. How do you make sure your toddler isn’t throwing his Legos into the lit fireplace or tweezing the dog’s whiskers in the living room from behind that oppressive wall? And who chooses to be the one stuck in the claustrophobic cookspace, cloaking their loneliness with cooking sherry while preparing food during a dinner party while everyone else is mingling in the dining room? Clearly, separate kitchens breed loneliness, fear, and despair.
Or do they?
The Wall Street Journal heralded the return of the separate kitchen all the way back in 2012(!) while a Slate article has all but become a rallying cry for the “Close it in, wall it up” movement, decrying the open kitchen as a “distressingly popular design choice that has spread throughout HGTV’s stable of shows like black mold through a flooded basement.”
If you’re on the fence—or the wall, as it were—consider this alternative: the “hybrid kitchen,” so named by the New York Times. Open when you want it to be and closed behind pocket doors when there’s a mess to hide, this old-new kitchen may just satisfy, well, everyone. It’s popping up in remodeled homes and is also a centerpiece of projects like 560 West 24th Street, a luxury condo from Architectural Digest 100 architect Steven Harris in the West Chelsea Arts District. It’ll only cost you several million dollars to not have to take sides on this hotbed home issue.
What do you think? Walls up or down when it comes to your cooking space?