We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home. The necessity for nourishment is complemented by our desire for companionship with family and friends as we eat. Victorian era home design reflected the greater formality of that age. The rooms in houses were smaller, often more numerous and were used for specific limited purposes. The kitchen was a distinctly separate part of the house as was the formal dining area. After World War II, designers began to favor the open kitchen concept for houses. Open designs permitted interaction and flow between the kitchen, dining area and living spaces. The “island,” with its informal seating for smaller groups or family has become a mainstay feature. Dining areas have also become less formal with many opening up to both the kitchen and living areas.
When family and friends come together, we tend to celebrate with our favorite and most elaborate cuisine. This tradition has its roots deep in the past, when community feasts often signified deliverance from times of scarcity. Feasts and harvest festivals announced and symbolized survival and prosperity. In ancient days, dining rooms of castles were often huge and far away from the kitchen due to the danger of kitchen fires. But many working-class people had no dining rooms at all. In Victorian times, formal dining areas became the norm for the well-to-do. This involved elaborate and beautiful dining furniture and dining ware, which was often left on display. Some people still enjoy this formality, while others tend toward the more casual, but still elegant, dining areas and furniture of modern design.
Many homes now feature bars or islands off an open kitchen, where smaller groups of the family can gather for comfortable, informal meals. These areas also offer barstools for additional seating capacity when special occasions arise. Islands have become favorite places for children and teenagers to study or play games. Before the coming of the mobile phone, these islands (and bars or peninsulas) were often the communication hub of the home, with access to kitchen and living areas and a phone strategically placed. In this way, whoever was busy preparing food could cook and socialize or supervise children at the same time. Before the open concept became fashionable, the cook was often isolated from family, friends, and entertainment.
Dining Furniture Trends
Along with the open concept, various dining furniture trends have appeared. To mention a few: Smaller, less formal, dinette sets are often used for breakfast nooks. Partial bench seating has become a useful dining room alternative to chairs. Dining decor has become less stuffy and more playful for many. Bolder colors and designs are more common. Mixed chairs and other combinations of modern, rustic and traditional dining furniture are being explored, although the traditional and formal are still viable choices. Whatever changes in dining and kitchen furniture design may lie ahead, however, it’s a very safe bet that the kitchen will always remain the heart of the home.