Coming of age in the Chicago area, I was highly exposed to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I am a huge fan of his sense of space and the way he created hallways that were small so they could open up into a room and make it feel expansive. He made good use of every inch of a home and recognized that bigger wasn’t necessary better….the secret was in what you did with the space that you had.
A modern day architect that I highly respect and follow because she has a similar sense of space is Sarah Susanka. She is the author of the ‘Not So Big House’ series of books and she has made great strides in demonstrating that a well-designed modest home can have more charm, character and livability than any ‘mcmansion’. Her books are in the Project Partners Shop because I have them all, have read them cover-to-cover and use them as reference from time-to-time. They are filled with gems of ideas for any room of the home. Rarely do I disagree with Sarah on any of her design advice…until today.
I was reading a builder trade magazine that talked about one of her latest projects where she is demonstrating the idea of placing the kitchen on the front of the home in order to “shift toward livability and neighborliness”. The idea being that the front-situated kitchen draws the visitor in and connects the homeowner with the outdoors and what is going on in the neighborhood. I also saw Sarah demonstrate this home via a webinar not too long ago. It is a beautiful house. It is full of well-thought-out ‘green’ features and it flows really, really well but I still don’t want to live in a house with the kitchen on the front.
I have come to this conclusion from experience. My husband and I have lived with both…a house with the kitchen open to the back yard and a house with the kitchen open to the front yard. After living in the latter, we went so far as to remodel and move the kitchen to the back of the house! What we ultimately found was this:
- When you want to sit and read the paper in your pajamas or your bath robe, you don’t want to be on display in the front bay window to every passer-by. They won’t notice the beautiful landscaping; they will notice you.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night and just want a glass of orange juice or some cold water, you don’t want to have to make sure you are presentable to the public to wander out into the kitchen where the refrigerator light is going to cast your silhouette for all the neighbors to see. That’s just goes beyond neighborly in my book!
- We often have neighbors over to partake in a meal, but we don’t invite the whole street and everyone doesn’t get invited every time. When you are hanging out in a front-facing kitchen, those that didn’t make the cut for your latest party are instantly aware of that fact. Good luck with that!
- Also when entertaining, do you really want the kitchen being the first thing that a visitor sees when they walk in your home? For an informal get-together, fine, but what happens when you want to create a little ‘dinner theater’ in your own home? When you go to the theater or a restaurant or any other public entertainment venue, you don’t pass behind stage before taking your seat. It kind of spoils the allure and the mystery.
I could go on awhile longer with more examples, but you get my point. Obviously, I am not a fan of a kitchen on the front of the house. It may be neighborly but it don’t find it livable. Time will tell if the up-front kitchen catches on and becomes the latest trend. I know one couple though (Keystone and I) where the rear kitchen that opens to the back yard will always be the preference.
I am curious. What is the configuration in your house? What do you prefer? I would really like to know.