Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's Changed in the UK since 2006? - Kitchens

As I mentioned in a recent post, my book "Rules, Britannia" came out in 2006 and quite a bit has changed in the UK since then. Call it coincidence, but my mate and fellow ex-expat Iota is currently blogging about the changes she's noticing on her return to the UK. (She left in 2006 so we're looking at the same time frame.)

Another thing that's changed are kitchens - seating and dining to be precise. When we bought our first house in the USA we gutted it (as you often do here) and turned three teeny rooms into one huge kitchen. The kitchen not only housed an L-shaped cabinet and appliance corner with a six foot island in front, but a large kitchen table, six dining chairs, a sofa, an easy chair and a TV. Yes, that big - although not particularly big by American standards. American houses have long had live-in kitchens, often leading straight into the living and dining rooms with no walls or doors in sight. This floor plan shows a typical American (new) home. Note the distinct lack of hallway - you come in the front door (through the smaller covered porch) and land smack in the middle of the family room,



It took a few years but I started to notice the same arrangements springing up in British kitchens whenever a remodelling project was tackled. Where possible, adjoining walls have been bashed out to double the size of the kitchen (which in some cases still makes them fairly compact); out goes the table in the middle of the kitchen (or pushed against the wall) and in comes an island, complete with bar stools. What I've noticed is that there are usually only a few stools at the island; not enough to seat all family members, so any entire-family meals are still served (sensibly in my opinion) at a proper table, possibly in the dining room. (I know, I know, with kids doing different things during the week, family meals are not always possible and therefore bar stools at the island are useful. I can dream...)


Here's an article that discusses the evolution of the British kitchen, from table to Breakfast Bar (remember them?) to islands. I'm rather fascinated I have to say.


6 comments:

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

When we moved into our current house in 1994 it already had an island even though the decor was quite old-fashioned. It's always suited us so when we've updated it (twice now) we've kept the central island. It probably helps there are only three of us so we can happily eat at it as a family. Doesn't feel right having more than that number around it for a meal, so have a dining table in another room.
I think it was the spacious kitchen that was the main selling point of the house: I spend so much time in there - a great hub of the home.

Expat mum said...

That's the way they do it here Trish, although I have to say I got sick of doing everything in the kitchen - watching TV while the dishes were staring at me wasn't very relaxing. In this house, I deliberately made the kitchen just a kitchen, although it has a family room right off it with double doors so can feel like one room when I want it to.

Lottie said...

We knocked our house down last year and rebuilt it and our new kitchen is my fave room - huge and it encompasses dining table, breakfast bar area (with just 2 stools!), sofa & armchairs - interestingly the house has been designed in New England style x

About Last Weekend said...

Our house is all kitchen and now I even regret having a living room, we never use it. I should turn it into a pool room or something. Funnily enough though I find its the Americans who cling to their dining rooms especially here in the Bay Area where I find the architecture very trad.

Mrs Baum said...

I hate my kitchen - it's just not quite big enough in any dimension, and it's badly designed so the space isn't used well. If there's more than one person in it, we always seem to be falling over each other. Wish we had some money to have a new kitchen! Or indeed a new house. British kitchens generally suck.

At my friend's house we always sit at the island to have coffee, so I'd quite like one of those, especially as it would give visitors somewhere to sit while talking to me. My mother in law always leans against the dishwasher, so I have to ask her to move so I can get to it, then she leans against the fridge, then... you get the picture. I just want to shout "JUST GO OVER THERE AND SIT DOWN OUT OF MY WAY!"

Not sure I like completely open plan though. I like being able to keep cooking smells out of other rooms, and I don't always want to hear the TV if someone else is watching it.

Iota said...

Well, this is very timely. My new kitchen has been "knocked through" to the dining room, to make a bigger, open plan space. Trouble is, I've therefore lost a wall, and the counter space that went with it, BUT the kitchen is too long and thin to have space for an island. So what can I do? I'm sadly lacking counter space (especially since I've filled up the counter space I do have with a toaster and a microwave).

Still preferable to separate kitchen and dining room, both leading off the hall. Yes, it's a 1970's house. Seems a bit silly to have designed it without having a door from the kitchen to the dining room, but having both leading off the hall, but perhaps there was a logic to it then.

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