Central eating

THE way we use our homes is rapidly evolving. Jamie Hempsall looks at the role of the kitchen.

The lifestyle of the modern family means that they use a home in a very different way to previous generations. This revolution has been brought about by a move towards more casual living over the last three decades, aided by the revolution in home technology.

As a result, rooms are becoming far more multi-functional and no longer have to be assigned a specific purpose (such as a home office or television room) as the activity can move with the individual.

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In addition, the development of the full time working family, rather than stay-at-home parenting, can necessitate creating areas in your home to provide natural meeting spaces for your family. The most obvious place for this to happen is in the kitchen, as everyone gravitates there at some point simply to eat.

Home cooking trends also to mean your kitchen is less likely to be ruled by the family meal creator – particularly as the average person now spends less than 30 minutes preparing a weekday meal. So it could be one of the underutilised resources in your home.

Families have often traditionally had an informal eating space in the kitchen (be it a breakfast bar or small table), but people are now seeing the benefit of opening up their food preparation areas and integrating them into everyday living spaces.

This trend means that the kitchen is definitely becoming the heart of the home, wrestling dominance from the living room. To achieve this successfully you do need to incorporate a number of key elements and this is where space and planning is vital.

Obviously, you still need somewhere to prepare and cook meals. The preparation element is essential so you should never compromise on worktop space when designing any area. Worktops in a modern kitchen often get “eaten up” by the various essentials that we all now have (microwaves, blenders and coffee machines seem to be firm fixtures – so you have to plan accordingly).

However, a good size, formal dining table and chairs helps to create a further focal point. This is not only for dining at, but also where family members can multi-task while keeping in contact with the person creating a meal.

Finally, a comfortable seating area, with access to a television, in the vicinity of the table and kitchen areas means that your “together time” is naturally extended as people move from table to seating, rather than migrating to their own personal areas.

Our pictures feature a kitchen living area that we created in a large period property.

Cooking was a critical function of this area, as our client was a keen amateur chef, so it was essential that we provided a kitchen with really usable cooking spaces. We wanted to evoke elements of the art deco with a modern twist and to create a practical living area which could be both relaxing and invigorating.

Our emphasis was on durability, style and storage as the room needed to service not only the family, but to act as a focal point for entertaining – so it was essential that the worksurfaces could stay relatively clutter free.

Chiselwood, cabinet makers who specialise in bespoke kitchens (01522 704446; www.chiselwood.co.uk), created and manufactured a wonderful design which incorporated all the best elements of art deco with a modern twist.

The units were crafted in walnut with burr walnut panels and the interiors of the cupboards were lacquered in loganberry and lime cordial. Star galaxy granite tops, which are perfect for pastry, added a stylish and hardwearing finish.

Despite its large proportions, the galley style design ensured that the kitchen was logical and easy to use.

We echoed the natural tones of the kitchen in a Bitter Chocolate Hussar Limestone Floor with white and grey veining. The floor patterns were all designed to flow from the shapes of the central reservation, linking all areas of the room together. Chiselwood also made a table and chairs, echoing the woods and design of the kitchen units. These were covered in Phaeton by Osborne & Little, a stunning yet incredibly practical fabric.

The fireplace from Chesney was used to define a grand focal point and hint at baronial dining halls. It also provided the perfect location for the remote controlled TV, housed in a complimentary wood frame. The TV was mounted on a movable wall bracket so that it could be angled towards the cooking area if required.

A bespoke club chair and chesterfield sofa upholstered in Zoffany Rossini Stripe were used to create a conversation area around the Andrew Martin side table.

The feedback we get whenever we create this type of living space is that the rooms end up being the most used in the house and in the majority of cases our clients find that they spend an increased amount of quality time with their families.

Jamie Hempsall, BIID is an award-winning interior designer. You can contact him on 0800 032 1180 or visit his website www.jamiehempsall.com


* Flexible lighting is key to the success of any multi-function room, as it allows you to change the entire feel and focal point of the room.

* In this project we lit the central kitchen area with halogen drop down lighting and incorporated strong down-lighting over the kitchen sink area. Wall washers above the units were designed to give ambient light while the Donghia Chandelier added both drama and intimacy.

* All of the lighting was controlled by independent dimmable switches which allowed the room to be “sectioned” with light and for the ambience to be completely altered at the touch of a button.