When I was growing up as a child in the sixties, kitchens were always a hidden affair. If it was not separated by a wall from the other rooms in the house, then a divider had to be installed to hide it from the rest of the world. Inviting friends over to the kitchen to show off your new kitchen island or cooktop was not the thing to be done.
But not anymore. The kitchen of my adult years has now become the focal point of the house and the people who live in it. There is still the obligatory lounge room to receive guests but it is now just a little room on the way to the grand, open space of kitchen, family and rumpus rooms combined.
This is where most families now gather after a long days work – the parents preparing the family meal while the children (if they are in their schoolyears) do their homework in the family dining table or (if they are already young adults), sit and chatter around the breakfast nook or family room couch. Kitchens now exude warmth and welcome helped by the oak or teak oil-finished kitchen cabinets that usually line the kitchen walls, as well as mahogany or red cedar curio cabinets housing revered family treasures such as photos and bowling trophies.
I have long used my kitchen as my lounge – one of the rooms in the house that I consider most comfortable, functional, tribal and welcoming . My husband and I and anyone of my kids who occasionally fancy themselves as the new Jamie Oliver can showcase our gourmet talents as we gracefully move around the red and brown speckled granite kitchen island or benchtop to the glistening stainless steel sink to the brown flattened glow of the ceramic cooktop. All these in view of the rest of the family, and often times friends and guests who we show in straight to the kitchen/family/dining room area to sit in our beloved dark aubergine brown no-nonsense, yet sumptuous and very practical “Virginia” sofa.
Gone are the days when you felt you needed to detain your guests in the comfort of the Italian velvet sofa in the lounge while you excuse yourself and slave away in the dark, hot and steamy recesses of the kitchen preparing their food. Now there is no shame or cringe to invite friends over to the kitchen because kitchens have become the hub of family life and social entertaining. Architects, home builders and appliance manufacturers have all taken heed of the new trend and have made kitchens not only functional and efficient but also overwhelmingly stylish. Even whitegoods now come in different colors of stainless steel, earthy brown, luminous orange or buttercup yellow to suit everyone’s desire and taste.
Friends are invited to hover around stylish marble-topped kitchen islands as they continue with their socialising, talking about nothing and maybe even lending a hand in washing the vegetables and peeling the potatoes. Even wine bars are now in the domain of the kitchen (not the basement or the lounge) as friends sit down and relax in the midst of kitchens sipping their favorite red or white.
Even when alone, my kitchen has always been a delight and a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. When I wake up in the morning, I find no greater joy than seeing the sun streaming through the beige voile curtains of the northeast facing kitchen window into the deep purple flowered african violets and tall and lanky chinese fortune plants that brighten up the farthest end of my granite kitchen benchtop. And when I come home from work in the evening, I open the very same northeast facing kitchen window to be greeted with the sweet scent of the orange jasmines that line the backyard fence.
My kitchen has certainly come a long way from its hiding place in the sixties and I intend to enjoy it and keep it that way for a long, long time more to come.