Picture of grandmothers cooking in 1940s kitchen

Every Kitchen You’ve Cooked in Shapes Your New One

Photo: My grandmother’s kitchen, New York, circa 1940s.

I’ve often wondered why so many people turn to others for advice when planning a new kitchen or upgrading their current one rather than drawing from their extensive experience. While consulting with professionals is valuable, reflecting on your history with kitchens can help you gain valuable insights about what you want and need long before seeking their expertise. After all, it’s a room that nearly everyone has firsthand experience with. 

Think of your kitchen knowledge as a unique lens through which you view every kitchen you’ve ever encountered. Whether you’ve been a homeowner, guest, visitor, potential home buyer, or renter, each kitchen experience has contributed to understanding what works and what doesn’t in a kitchen space. By paying attention to these experiences, you gain valuable insights that can greatly inform and enhance your planning process when considering improvements or renovations. Your accumulated knowledge becomes invaluable in crafting a kitchen that perfectly supports your needs and aligns with your life.

Memories, especially from the kitchens of family and friends, are powerful. I particularly like Julia K. Porter‘s piece in Taste of Home, where she describes research that explains how smell, light, sound, taste, and even touch (or feel) evoke strong emotions and a sense of nostalgia. Those thoughts that come from the senses connect us to family, friends, and events, making us feel like the moment that occurred years ago is happening now. These memories are also beneficial to keep in our bag of kitchen experience.

With this knowledge, think about your environment. Some of us live in older homes with kitchens that have been updated over time to fit modern lifestyles. Many of these changes were random, unplanned afterthoughts often made without expanding or altering the existing space. Even brand-new kitchens, designed without our input, can fall short, especially if the designer doesn’t cook or entertain.

picture of an older retrofitted kitchen

So, how can we use our kitchen memories and experiences, new and old, to create a more pleasant room?

Start by recalling kitchens past and thinking deeply about your current one.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Do you miss having a big bright window over the sink? 
  • Was your old smooth-top electric cooktop easier to clean? Are you avoiding cooking on the back burners of your gas range because you’re afraid? 
  • Would you prefer to display your gadgets, utensils, and tools where you can see or hide them?
  • Do you wish the trash was closer to the sink rather than across the room in a dark corner?
  • Is your refrigerator so big that food is getting lost? Do you need more space since you’ve downsized to a smaller, more compact fridge?
  • Was cooking in your tiny first apartment more effortless and convenient with everything hyper-organized, close by, and within reach?

Next, consider you and your family’s likes, dislikes, and preferences. Which aspects of these kitchens might be worth incorporating into a future kitchen?

Focus attention on these three things:

Smart Setup

    • Getting things done efficiently (Cooking, Prepping, Cleaning, Storing, Dealing with Waste)
    • Choosing appliances that are simple to use and easy to maintain
    • Ensuring your kitchen is easy to navigate, and anything used often is accessible 
    • Meeting storage and work surface requirements

Welcoming Environment

    • Having great lighting for seeing and setting the mood
    • Making your kitchen a comfortable place to be that’s cozy and inviting
    • Setting up for chatting and hanging out while cooking

Green and Hi-Tech Solutions

    • Using gadgets and tech to make kitchen tasks easier and more convenient
    • Doing things in a way that’s better for the environment

When using this process, you might be surprised at what you realize about yourself and your future kitchen needs. 

All this information is relevant and valuable for pointing you in a more confident direction so that when you engage the architect, design, and build professionals, you are more precise with your vision. The clearer you are upfront, the closer you and the pros can get to your dream kitchen.

By now, you know that I am passionate about the importance of the kitchen. Take time to contemplate your kitchen history and bring it front and center to the conversation. It’s totally worth the extra effort. 

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