Saturday, November 01, 2008

Open "Farmhouse" Kitchens: A Grouchy Dissent

It's raining. It's been raining heavily for three days. Monsoon-like rains pound the roof, sluice down the windows, pool in every little muddy depression on our front walk. Water drips from the leaves of the oaks whenever the storm takes a break.

And no one goes outside. At first it was cozy and fun, but after about 24 hours, not so much.  I was going to put on an apron and do some apple canning yesterday.

But I didn't. Because we have an open kitchen

Everyone seems to think they want an open kitchen where Mom can whip up a pumpkin pie while keeping an eye on the little ones as they do their homework or peacefully play Monopoly (ha!) at the handsome antique farmhouse table. Dad can be watching football in the adjoining "great room." Guests come and go, stand around the center island and pitch in with the chopping, joke with the merry cook. The kitchen is the warm, inviting center of the house.
In our old house we had a dowdy little kitchen that was off to the side of everything. It had countertops made of whatever it was they did before formica. You know, the hard plastic surface with an amoeba design and metal rims. The kitchen had no center island, no dishwasher and one of the world's most pitiful stoves. It offered a view into our chilly, eccentric neighbor's living room.

But I loved it. That frumpy, out-of-the-way kitchen had something that our infinitely nicer current kitchen does not: a door. Being in the kitchen was a choice. It wasn't the default setting of the whole house.

Our kitchen is the center of the house, which is to say, it is loud, messy, and chaotic. You can hear every touchdown in the Texas Tech game or the fiftieth screening of Transformers.  You get to witness every shrill fight over filched Halloween Twix bars. Each time someone crosses the threshold they drop a Comcast bill, a plastic Batman lunchbox, the keys, a 6th grade book project, or a copy of Henry Huggins on the kitchen's center island, which, I should add, is quite petite. I have considered making a rule about this, but that would mean I couldn't do it either.

I would go on about the drawbacks of this trendiest of kitchen designs. About the way you can never pretend you don't notice dirty dishes. About the way you can never really escape during a party. And so on. But I know how curmudgeonly I sound.

Anyway, I didn't can apples yesterday. I made popcorn and watched Cloverfield and The Host with Isabel and Juliet. We wanted to be scared, but the movies weren't that scary.
Trying again with the apples today. Will also try to be a better person, the kind of nice person who actually belongs in a friendly, fashionable open kitchen.

Crabby rant over. 


  1. come to think of it, a lot of those "open" trends have downsides, don't they?
    open door policies
    open meetings laws
    open marriages
    open houses
    open minded
    open ended

    you could be on to something. "closed" could easily catch on in the 21st century.
    "keep out" the new mantra.
    "closed for business."
    your best rant ever, in my closed-minded opnion.

  2. I love how in magazines they claim to address the problem with a "bi-level countertop," because I guess most people don't have a foot-tall pile of dishes like I do when in the throes of meal prep.

  3. Years from now as you work canning high tech peaches engineered to turn pink with past their best taste date in your open kitchen and the kids are grown you won't hate it so much. But I hear ya.

  4. I'm not that sure about having open kitchen anymore. Is there anything like half-open kitchen?

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