Form and function: Finding the balance in your kitchen
For many years, kitchens were entirely focussed on function. They were dark, filled with cast iron pots and every corner of the tiny room was clad with gnarled wood or dirty stone. The wealthy wouldn’t enter, the poor would simply make do. The old kitchen was a functional place simply designed to make food with no décor, sense of personality and certainly no semblance of ‘kitchen form’.
All that has changed.
Today the kitchen is a veritable heart of the home. Dinners are enjoyed here, friendships made and stories told, not only through word of mouth, but through the very experience of being in a well-designed kitchen. Today, when we think of our dream designs, kitchen form often takes priority over kitchen function. However, in no other room in the home is designer Frank Lloyd Wright’s motto “form follows function” more appropriate than in the kitchen. In the best kitchens, not only does everything look beautiful, but it is all in the right place.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the ways in which you can find the perfect balance between form and function in your kitchen. The ultimate goal in any kitchen space should be to have a room that both looks beautiful and fulfils its purpose in every sense of the word.
Know your purpose
Now, if we’re trying to fulfil a purpose in the kitchen, it’s important that we know exactly what that purpose is. Of course, on a surface level, cooking is the reason for your kitchen’s existence; the reason why it would feel utterly empty without an oven or sink. Realistically though, it’s deeper than that. Rather than being used simply for cooking, the kitchen’s purpose in the modern home changes entirely based on the residents.
For instance, you may be more of an entertainer than a dedicated chef, or have a love for baking greater than your slight disdain at the idea of hosting yet another dinner party. Whatever the case may be, know exactly what it is that you intend to get out of the kitchen and prioritise that when collaborating with a designer.
If you are a budding chef, there’s plenty of functionality to get started with right away. You’ll likely want to ignore the bar accessories (for now), instead focussing on bringing in a stripped-back, cast iron gas range – even if someone less gastronomically inclined would prefer a more sleek conduction hob.
Then there’s the fridge. While the so-called kitchen triangle may have been rendered effectively obsolete with the advent of the countless gadgets present in today’s kitchens, that doesn’t mean that the essential appliances should be left to fall to the wayside. Having an excellent refrigerator, even if it is bulky and industrial, simply improves the way in which you cook.
Of course, if cooking for you is more of a necessary chore than a beloved hobby, you may wish to focus less on acquiring the best of the best on the cookery front, instead opting for those appliances that suit your personal aesthetic tastes.
If your kitchen is where you allow your inner entertainer to run wild, then you should instead be focusing on the room’s function as a party spot. Did somebody say home bar? Wine fridge? Perhaps some high-quality built-in speakers?
This Extreme kitchen design, pictured below, features a dedicated bar and drinks area which links the kitchen area with the informal living space beyond. The position of this feature within the space encourages guests to gather around the end of the island as they sip cocktails, creating a functional and beautiful hub for any cocktail party.
No matter what you want out of your kitchen ensure that, first and foremost, that’s what it is designed to provide. Of course, bespoke design is a must for the room to exemplify what truly makes your kitchen yours.
The magic of the island
We’ve previously spoken at length while lauding the remarkable benefits of the kitchen island, but we can’t imagine an element of the kitchen that so effortlessly finds the balance between form and function like the island. Like a utopian atoll rising out from the centre of the kitchen, an island acts as a hub for everything you could possibly require in your kitchen. A beautiful island can be married seamlessly with just about any functionality that you require.
The eye-catching centrepiece is often a piece of art in and of itself, but when it becomes a breakfast bar, food prep area, serving table or even a place to test out some amateur mixology, it grows into so much more. Islands really are a must-have in the modern kitchen, no matter the function required, you will be guaranteed a beautiful place in which to host it.
Of course, the functionality of the island can be improved in a number of ways, all while still maintaining a beautiful form. Consider installing cupboards – bespoke to your own needs, giving those pots and pans a perfect home – a variety of drawers, or even some handy wine storage.
Take the island below, some of our clients call it the ‘bow tie’ island due to its shape. At first glance it may not appear to serve much of a functional purpose beyond hob cooking and food preparation, however within each of the curved ends of the island are three deep bespoke drawers. Handcrafted in a ‘fan’ shape to fit the exact form of the island they maximise the usable storage.
No useless gadgets
The amount of kitchen gadgets currently on the market is, frankly, rather ridiculous. At all price points, you can find useless tat that appeals to our ‘buy now, worry later’ sensibilities. From cheap, plastic banana slicers to £1,500 ice cream machines, gadgets that usually have a one-off use are everywhere. While you may enjoy having such things in your cupboards, or even on display on your worktops – they certainly don’t help you achieve that form/function balance.
It’s not just silly gadgets that tempt us away from the functional kitchens that dreams are made of. No, far too many of us also end up buying attractive – if useless – cookware and accessories. Before you buy that next chapati pan, authentic tagine or imported Belgian mussel pots, think about how much you’ll actually use them. Of course, it’s possible that Moules frites are an essential feature of your dinner party menu, in which case you’ll be fulfilling function once again.
Instead of choosing these unnecessary accessories, equip your kitchen with the very best of the best when it comes to the cookware you use on a daily basis. A set of Japanese Shun knives may be costly, but their functionality will be maintained for years to come. The same goes for high-quality cast iron pots, pans and skillets – with the right care and attention, these will continue to be of unmatched quality in your kitchen’s highly-functional arsenal.
Always invest in functional quality over novelty or aesthetic factors when it comes to the items you cook with. Your kitchen and stomach will thank you for it.
Choose the right décor
When decorating in the kitchen remember to use appropriate décor. While art in the kitchen can be beautiful, it’s important to remember that the room will often get incredibly warm, smoky and messy – exactly the opposite of how you want your art to be treated. Keeping fine art in close proximity to the hot, oily air of a kitchen is never a good idea.
Aside from art, kitchen furnishings should be viewed similarly. While beautiful, expensive chairs made from delicate materials are likely to be ruined almost immediately when kept in a hot, active kitchen.
Instead, choose hardier artworks and furnishings made from materials that can survive even the busiest kitchens. Opt for hardwoods and metal over velvet or almost any easily-stained white materials. In a busy kitchen, what once was a beautiful example of form over function can quickly come to demonstrate why function comes first.
At Extreme Design, our designers are committed to delivering the perfect kitchen. With our assistance, you can be assured that form and function will combine wonderfully. To discover more, visit one of our studios today.