Anyone have a working 'back' or hidden kitchen? Pics? Do tell!

fishpantsApril 10, 2012

Like a huge working pantry?

A "commercial" working room?

We're in the planning to build phase and are thinking of having a working back kitchen to contain our major cooking and baking supplies/pans and to do our heavy duty prep and work in there.

The room would be at least 11x15 in size.

The main kitchen will be open to the great room and we'd like to have that area stay a bit on the cleaner side.

I am having a hard time finding anything like what I am looking for when I do net searches. Just walk in pantries and regular kitchens pop up...

Thoughts? Experiences? Pics?

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I have seen some kitchens that were influenced by some Asian cooking styles that have a small separate "wok" kitchen. Maybe try searching that. It is a space probably the size of a laundry room just behind the kitchen to use for wok cooking to keep the aromas confined and keep the kitchen free and clear of any grease.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 6:58AM
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A local mansion built a few years ago has a 'catering kitchen' but I don't know how large it is but it's a term you might research. Same with the old Victorian 'scullery kitchens' but they may have been more for cleaning.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:13AM
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There are some here who have canning or preserving kitchens separate from their main kitchens, often in separate buildings. I think one GW-er with such a thing is Macybaby and there is another woman with a brick preserving house out in No. CA, I think.

Somehow the idea of a back or working kitchen to conceal the everyday heavy cooking from the "dress" kitchen attached to living space strikes me as the (pretty funny) end point of a bad idea taken to its inevitable extreme.

I do understand why there might be some wish to conceal the workaday looks of heavy cooking, but why not just have a single separate kitchen and call it a day? That's my solution, but then I can't abide kitchens as part of living or family rooms or even principal dining rooms, if one can help it.

I should point out that I know I am in the minority on the forum where kitchens in the family room or dining room are almost the norm. I'm not mocking your idea of having a room for (heavy) cooking, it's just that if you have the impulse for this why not designate this space as your (only) kitchen and skip the expense of a fancy-ed up area in public rooms dressed up to look like a "kitchen."

People often state that they don't like separate kitchens because they don't want to be separated while cooking from their guests or small children or family life. So they moved the kitchen to the public rooms, or at least tore out the walls that separated these spaces. But if you create a working kitchen, you'll still be separated - unless you are planning to have cooking staff. In either case why go to the expense of decorating another room with kitchen-themed appointments that won't be used much, especially the fancier ones usually involved in "public" kitchen spaces?


    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:49AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Cotehele's baking kitchen comes to mind. Scroll down:

Here is a link that might be useful: rikerk's baking kitchen thread

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:52AM
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I would love to have a setup like you discribe, and if we stay in our current home long enough that I can talk DH into building an attached garage off the laundry room. I'm going to expand the laundry room and put the workhouse kitchen there.

Now, if I was building new just for me, I'd have a "quick fix" kitchen area and a seperate "work horse" area. I'd have a MW and maybe a speed oven, but at least a toaster oven. The big oven would be in the workhorse area. I'd keep all eating utensils in the quick fix area, and a DW in both, maybe two DW in the workhorse area (I can dirty up a huge number of pots/pans when in the mood). I'd also have a cooktop in the workhorse kitchen, but it would be used for processing and large meal cooking, not day to day normal stuff.

I doubt most people would want to devote the extra space to a real workhorse of a kitchen, but the average homeowner is not TKO to start with.

In truth, since DH and I are post kids and never entertain, I think mostly I'd like to have a breakfast area and then the workhorse kitchen. Main goal - get Dh's messy coffee grinder, pot and breakfast stuff he wants out on the counter OUT of my way!

You may want to consider what you would do in each area, and often you'd be going between them, and what you would need to duplicate to avoid or keep that to a minimum.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 11:10AM
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I have a friend with this set up, which consists of a very efficient kitchen, a walk through galley-like area, but somewhat open to the family room as you stand at the sink (High counters and storage cabs flanking both sides make conversation with family room possible but not really visually very open). Baking center is large and snugged up to the windows at the DR end of the kitchen. The DR is a kitty corner jog away from the kitchen with a large )maybe 10 feet) open "hall", that is also open to another work area in the armpit between kitchen and dining. These folks have occasional (used to be monthly or more) very large gatherings for business and/or family, and the separate pantry/work area holds stacks of dishes,etc, that are not used daily, as well as about fifteen or twenty feet of counter top for prep, Extra ovens,serving dishes, sink, extra dishwasher, etc. Good space for caterers when they have them, but also used by the owners frequently. However, the kitchen remains ultra usable for day to day needs. They have a giant range, components including some miele and I believe a base of Viking 8 burners maybe (?). Overall, it is a wonderful space to cook in whether it is for a crowd or just a few.

I think the main advantage of this set up is to be able to have the nice simple kitchen, small and easy, but be able to expand the operation when needed. Wish I had the room for it!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 11:35AM
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We have a large WIP, approx. 12' x 14', it contains the fridge, ice maker, medium sized sink, toaster, countertop toaster/convection oven, coffee maker, recycling, canning equipment, slow cooker, booze, wine, spice storage, pots & pans, picnic gear, cookie tins, lightbulbs, batteries, all dry and canned food and other stuff that is infrequently used or bulky to store. There is a 3' doorway into the kitchen and a 5' slider out to a deck and the lake, one window and about 10 linear feet of counter space.

In the cabs over the toaster and under counter icemaker we keep the cereal, cereal bowls, bread, sandwich plates, chips (and other evil snacks), etc., and we use that space to make breakfast, lunch, snacks, hors d'oeuvres and drinks, it keeps the action out of the main kitchen. The counter is wood and we cut right on it, there is trash and compost in there, so it's almost self contained. At various points we have debated a dishwasher drawer in there, but have not put one in, we use metal plates/bowls and plastic glasses, so even if the kid drops them on her way from the DW in the main kitchen there's no breakage or glass anywhere.

Our "real" kitchen has the range, main sink, DW, hutch, table and workspace, baking stuff, dinner plates/silverware, containers for leftovers, wax paper et al, onions, potatoes, garlic, live herbs, butcherblock/ knives and is wide open to the entryway and LR (which is our preference, I detest small warrens of dark rooms, I need openness and light, YMMV). I like keeping the toaster, coffeemaker, etc., back there, but it's mostly the fridge, I just don't like to look at the fridge when I'm sitting down reading in the evening. Sinks and ranges don't bother me, but the fridge, can't stand looking at or hearing it.

We cook and can a lot and bake a fair bit, so this makes sense for us, and it's about convenience for the cook and canner, we don't want people in our way when working (especially canning, that can be downright dangerous), and having the fridge and snack/lunch stuff accessible from the outside without tromping through the house.

Good luck-


    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 12:12PM
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We have designed a prep/baking/catering kitchen in our new home. I make bread several times a week, homemade pasta and baking and wanted to "contain" the mess - a lsding door closes it off to the main entertaining/living area. Our primary kitchen is open to the great room.

Appliances are still under consideration for that area but probably induction with an under counter oven. Our utility room will be multi function, laundry, mud, pantry, china/crystal and silver storage. I will be meeting with KD's next week.

Good luck with your design.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 2:38PM
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OMG. The final, inevitable result of the open, showplace kitchen--a State Kitchen, where Marie Antoinette can pretend to bake petites fours for the court surrounded by opulent symbols of casual living and catalogue-ready domesticity, before retiring to the secret, private cookery to nuke some chicken nuggets.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 3:29PM
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Marcolo- LOL! I thought you'd be describing the sculleries of Victorian/Edwardian England, but you surprise us again, with Marie Antoinette :)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 3:54PM
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We have a kitchen pantry. I do most of my baking prep there. I have a freezer, a counter convection oven, and MW in it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Sorry I don't have pix, but my gf's Portuguese mom put that into her gorgeous new build home.
When you walk into the kitchen, it looks like a normal LARGE kitchen w/ stove (for when the kids want to boil water or something, wall oven, sink, etc.
But then when you go toward the pantry, there's another separate smaller ?~8ftx14ft room with a saloon style swinging doors.
In it was the big working machines:
- the viking w/ the ?salamander/deep fryer
- the big restaurant style stainless counter w/ matching deep sink and faucet/sprayer and
- the big restaurant huge CFM stainless hood to suck up all the smell.

It was amazing what she could whip up in there.
The space was so efficient.

I think a design like that is great if you have the space and you don't cook while talking to people.
I sometime would like that, where I can just whip up the food before my guests come or something...


    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 5:40PM
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I've seen something like this in some very nice homes in Newport Coast, CA. Here's a link to the floorplans. Unfortunately, the plans are kind of small; the easiest to see is Residence 2's "Butler's Pantry/Service". I would guess these are mainly used by caterers during parties so they remain behind the scenes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Newport Coast Floor Plans

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 7:26PM
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Well, if I had the money and space, I'd definitely go for it. It's about different kinds of cooking. Utilitarian, mass-cooking gets done in the working kitchen: Canning, massive baking projects, the 8 large pans of lasagna for the church potluck, major prep work for dinner parties. In other words, the stuff that you usually do alone and that causes giant messes. The "front kitchen", if you will, is for cooking/socializing with friends and family nearby. Family dinners; quick snacks; last minute stuff for dinner parties, etc.

Of course it's not necessary. Neither, in many cases is having a pick-up truck and a sedan, a laptop and a desktop computer or a landline a cell phone, or a TV in the family room and in the bedroom. In some cases there are real needs for both. In others it's just convenience. I'm sure there's a heated argument to be had over the ethics of environmental waste and/or conspicuous consumption. But whether or not it makes sense to have such a kitchen depends on whether one can afford it and will use it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 8:31PM
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An extra TV is not in the same league as a fake kitchen for show.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:22PM
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It would be doubly great if you could enter the secret "hidden" kitchen though a secret door by, like, pressing the bottom of a perfect display-only gleaming copper pot on a pot rack in the "show" kitchen!

Mad I did not think of this so my kitchen would never be marred by actual cooking. Of course, it probably won't anyway! Oh well, off to microwave some chicken nuggets (seriously)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:42PM
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I have almost a full kitchen in my bakery. It lacks a cooktop, which could easily fit in the space if needed. It is 8'X16'. My main kitchen doesn't stay cleaner, however. :-P The separation of tasks is really nice. The two kitchens allow for many people to prepare a meal at one time without duplicating task areas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bakery Pictures

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:31PM
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We walked through a model home with a "work in pantry". It had space for cabinets, counters, storage shelves, and a sink. I thought it was a fantastic idea because I would love to hide the endless handwash only baby bottles and sippy cups. However, the salesperson wasn't convinced by this space at all. He laughed about it and told us it was like the time-out room for someone who has been assigned punishment in the kitchen. I had a totally different opinion after he said that, and I honestly can't imagine that a set up like that would ever work for us. Granted it was only about half the size of what you described, but I like being able to see my friends, family, and my general living space while I'm working in the kitchen. I spend a TON of time in the kitchen, so I wouldn't want to be hidden away. Just my opinion though. YMMV

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:51PM
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A separate room dedicated to one specific task, like wok cooking or baking, can make some sense for functional reasons. And a truly large house can support a catering kitchen for paid help. But the idea of building a complete separate kitchen to hide the cooking--and the cook--exposes the entire "open kitchen" concept as a bit of a fraud.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:59PM
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Marcolo: Same principle, different scale. I'm curious: Would you say that someone who say, lives on a farm or ranch and owns both a Jeep Wrangler and a Porsche has one real vehicle and one for show?

In both and kitchens...having two would be a luxury. And for many people, an extra car or a second kitchen really would serve no purpose. But I disagree that it's necessarily a useless redundancy, there only for show. And I certainly don't think it's the equivalent of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 11:57PM
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Oh my goodness! I never thought I would get so many varied replies! I really pushed the hot button with my question, didn't I?

To put things into perspective: We are both heavy duty cooks. We preserve our harvest, enjoy daily sit down family dinners, etc.
Show kitchens don't make any sense to us.

I just don't want the Hobart (or similar) commercial oven, extra refrigeration, noisy grain mill, Vitamix, food processor, etc. all out and open in the main kitchen. Along with the bulk (like 25-50 lbs) flour, beans, rice, sugar and so forth. Hard stuff to move around for use!
The main kitchen will have all our dishes, main sink, two dishwashers, toaster, cooktop, etc. and will be used on a regular basis.

I will have to look up the site suggestions many of you have provided. Homework!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:53AM
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I just read an article that there are so many wealthy Chinese moving to Vancouver that the number one thing that they are looking for in a kitchen is a wok kitchen. It has made real estate there so in demand that the locals have been priced out of the market and they have 24 hour real estate offices and showings. New Yorkers are preparing for the Chinese buyer next adding the "wok kitchen".

Here is a link that might be useful: Wok Kitchens a plus

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 7:56AM
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I think it is alot like the Italian basement kitchens that all my Italian relatives had and still have but alot more convenient. If I had extra room I would have a work in pantry and I covet my friends catering kitchen behind her everyday kitchen, she is the caterer and she has a separate work kitchen for code reasons not the help. From what you describe I think it would work well with the way your family lives.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:04AM
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The second kitchen was pretty common where I grew up, but it was very basic: A range, a refrigerator and a sink, often sharing space with laundry, mudroom off the garage, or in the basement.

I think as a concept, it could be very functional or every bit as fraudulent as Marcolo says. If the real work is done in the back and for your guests you open the oven door or finish something on the stove top "ta-dah!" like a cooking show...that would be pretty fraudulent, imo.

It's the same way with cars. I know people with Porsches, or Bentleys for that matter, (although no Rollers), and while many of them use different cars in different weather, most of them use the "good car" as a real car as well. The most off-putting owners of this type of car are those who fret over them, keeping them mostly parked in the driveway or parking them in the middle of two spots if they dare take the car out in public.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:14AM
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Exactly, Pal...all depends on whether you really use both.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:15AM
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I ... just don't understand.

I actually understand the wok kitchen because all that frying results in a bit of a mess but having a show kitchen and a working kitchen just seems like overkill.

I would never say "people shouldn't have X" because it's their money they should spend it as they see fit. I don't have those kinds of friends I guess. The ones that are wealthy enough to have a show kitchen have a working staff that does the cooking for them and the rest of us rather enjoy cooking so they'd just be back there in the kitchen with me doing the work.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:30AM
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fishpants, you sound like my kind of person. I've got four pressure canners, and people often think I must be nuts . . .

DH and I grow/raise/hunt about 80% of our food, and we plan on getting dairy goats and that will help get that number larger since right now dairy is the bulk of what we buy. And I really don't want to be dealing with cooling milk, or cream seperation or a cheese fridge in the "show" kitchen.

We do this because we like doing it, some people like to play golf, some like watching TV, I like growing food.

What I love most about the summer kitchen is being able to leave the huge mess and go into the house for lunch, and have a nice clean kitchen to make a sandwich and then head back to the mess. And if I pop a tomato while running it through the mill, clean up is so much easier as that kitchen is designed with function and ease of cleaning as number 1.

The bad part is I didn't have enough room in the house for it to be there, so it's in a seperate building, and I live in a cold climate so that limits the use. So I still end up doing more processing in the "show" kitchen than I would prefer.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:44AM
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I think, at the Core of this thought process is this:

A closing back up of the open plan within the context of a house with a larger footprint.

What (some) people are finding is that a kitchen open to primary living spaces is not always that "kind" to the primary living space. Cooking can make a mess, cooking/washing/ventilation can be noisy, and people want their living spaces to be clean looking, quiet, serene.

I have a kitchen open to the living room (the closed kitchen was small and unpleasant to be in) --but kitchen function has often caused someone in the LR to miss a crucial line in a TV program, and the ventilation is noisy enough that the person working in the kitchen can't participate in conversation anyway. We clean up as we go along, but I hate looking at mess some people make during preparation.

In the context of a larger house, it could make sense to have the noise of prep and clean up isolated with the shorter term cooking and finishing off in a more social setting (ventilation would still be a potential problem). I don't know that I would build in this kind of redundancy in a small house, but I have pretty much decided that the kitchen in the house I just bought is going to stay fairly closed off but the compensation will be to make it as nice a place to work in as possible.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:54AM
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The Italian basement kitchen, which we had, was installed only because the first or second-generation immigrant families like ours lived in houses with kitchens far too small to physically support cooking for the huge throngs who came by for Sundays and holidays. There was no room for second ovens or 48" fridges or extra dishwashers or any of the "necessities" that people now regularly install in their real kitchens.

If a back kitchen is installed for specific functional reasons, such as to support high-heat, large-scale wok cooking, large baking projects, canning, etc., then it's important that it includes everything needed for that task with minimal running to and fro from the main kitchen. I do have to wonder about storing a food processor in a back kitchen because it seems those are used for more than just major projects. What I would suggest is posting a potential layout along with a list of the desired functions for the room.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:57AM
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Well, I think Marcolo makes a very good point. While there are a variety of reasons to have a second kitchen work space...wasn't there a poster a while back, who said they'd love to have a working kitchen 'for the mess' and a show kitchen, for entertaining? If someone needs it, wants it, can afford it...more power to them, but we do love to duplicate our functions.

Probably the same idea as a formal dining room and a breakfast room...but I keep thinking about that commercial where the gal throws flour on her face, to make it look like she's been baking! LOL Maybe the back kitchen could also be a great place to hide and make it look like you slaved over that frozen dinner :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 11:20AM
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Fishpants, my grandparents had a room in their very old house that served the function that I think you are looking for. They had a small galley kitchen and then enclosed the back porch to make space for "heavy duty" kitchen activities that they didn't have room for in the galley kitchen. My grandmother canned back there and stored her bulk items like flour, sugar, etc. in this area. It wasn't fancy; just an area to spread out to do those large-scale tasks. She also stored her oversized kitchen items back there like large stockpots and mixing bowls. However all of this was the result of a functional need - she just needed more space than her "main" kitchen had to offer.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:10PM
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I live in Richmond (suburb of Vancouver). We have had wok kitchens in previous houses and will have one in our new build. Mainly for resale value (like gr8day referred to). It will have tons of cupboards, a pantry and a gas cooktop. Perfect for storage.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:25PM
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If the idea that everyone in North America is going to become rich by adding a wok kitchen to appeal to an endless supply of rich Chinese buyers sounds like something listing agents used to say during the property bubble, there's a good reason for that.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:48PM
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I can only speak about my area which is very heavily populated with Asian families. A wok kitchen is a must for resale value. So is consideration of feng shui but that's a whole other subject!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 1:03PM
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It is true that a whole separate kitchen to do all the scullery work is an extreme end of indulgence (although, for sure, for people who can afford it, it may seem like a necessity), but for a slightly above average cook, an open kitchen that puts all the appliances and cooking in plain view is less than desirable, if you plan to entertain in the plain view of all the dirty bowls, pots and pans.

I am an appliance freak. Our family also eats a variety of cuisines, that require fresh herbs, freshly ground spices and dough kneaded fresh. This lifestyle calls for a lot of appliances, starting from Kitchenaid mixer to Rice cooker to spice grinder. They look ugly even in my current closed kitchen, and take away valuable prep space. At the same time, the idea of appliance garage cannot work for me. Garages are great but it's hard to plan for future expansion or replacement.

Even for an average family, a blender, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, a food chopper and a microwave are ubiquitous and these appliances begin to dot a nicely done kitchen in no time, creating a cluttered look.

A good middle for the two extremes seems to be an oversized pantry for housing all the appliances, perhaps a small sink, and all the pantry related items. Depending on your family's needs, this space can become a butler's pantry, or a wok kitchen, or just food storage with countertop for appliances (as in my case).

I have a neighbor who has done this successfully in her new build recently -- and the result in spectacular! I sure think that it's a very practical compromise between having a cluttered kitchen and having two separate kitchens.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 3:21PM
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I grow and preserve most of our food, along with dairying, cheesemaking, grain milling, pickling, bread baking, with a bit of meat processing and sausage making, etc. My kitchen plan is designed to handle this heavy-duty use in the same space as I prepare our daily meals.

When I posted my plans some commenters suggested I wouldn't like it separate from my living space - too closed off, they said (as if a room with a door on each side is really closed off) - but that is the salient the point for me. It's a kitchen, made for cooking not socializing, and because I, too, don't like the reality of living in a heavily-used kitchen I want it to be separate from my sitting and dining rooms. This feels right to me, especially as I also feel that kitchens are one of the most deeply personal, not public spaces, in a house.

It's interesting to me that others who heavily use their kitchens are responding to the same need by considering having two cooking spaces to resolve the tension between the uses. Somehow, they are not questioning the strong popular trend of open kitchen/family room designs, which are the real origins of the conflict.

I'm not saying that is a wrong solution, but it does mean that the result is bigger, more complex, expensive, environmentally costly housing. The simpler solution is one, unified, space sufficient for both every day and heavy-use cooking, that doesn't impinge on other very important living, but non-cooking, activities in the house.

I'm suggesting cooking in the kitchen; eating in the dining room (every day and for most meals, not just on fancy occasions) and hanging out and entertaining in sitting, living, or family rooms (or dens, studies, libraries, offices, playrooms, etc., as appropriate to the households' members' needs). These rooms can easily be immediately adjacent to the separate cooking space, so no cooking person needs to feel cut-off from family life (unless they want to be!)

Cooking (beyond reheating take-out and prepared food) makes a mess, can be noisy, smelly, and intense. It is a tranformational actitivy, after all. It's wonderful and life-affirming, but not particularly tidy at most times. I believe it deserves its own dedicated space. Functional, workmanlike, cheerfully straight-forward, kitchens are very beautiful to me. But I wouldn't want that same ambiance in my sitting room, nor while I was dining nor as I was paying attention to my visitors.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 3:30PM
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First of all, to each their own, as space, priorities, and budget allow. I can understand the dream of a bakery, but I'm still not sure I would want to run back and forth, or keep 2 rooms of utensils and ingredients separate... But that's just been my own thought process.

In this discussion, I certainly understand the use of the back kitchen described here, because I have a large rangetop, double ovens used daily, the noisy grain mill, the storage for bulk items and grains, and the accompanying mess and clutter in my own kitchen. (Except we have residential appliances... Does code and home insurance allow commercial ovens?) But having the tasks almost constantly underway, and the kitchen not always in show order, is exactly why I have doors on my kitchen for cutting noise and view. What I am curious about is what is the front kitchen used for? If it's just a place to visit with guests and serve, does it have to be a full kitchen?

I was just wondering, as it sounds like the "back kitchen" would do everything important. For serving and chatting, we have a dining room. One day I hope we'll have a section of counter in it, so we can serve buffet items without using the table, and so we can keep things hot. But I've no wish to duplicate the kitchen.

I know this is just the way we choose to do things and respect that you're choosing otherwise, but I'm honestly curious about how this will work for you. You've piqued my love-all-types-of-kitchens interest. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 3:38PM
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Interesting idea about the Italian basement kitchen. My husband's family is Italian and I know at times they had a goat in the basement... but not sure if they ever had a kitchen down there. I'll have to ask my in-laws.

On the other hand - the cousins in Sicily that we visited ALL had outdoor kitchens on their balcony patios or in their courtyards. These were full kitchens - stove, oven, sink, and wood burning (or charcoal) bbq. The idea is that summer months you keep the heat outside the living area. They either didn't have, or didn't use AC... so this was a real consideration. They're houses were cool because of awnings, lots of marble floors, and high ceilings.

We are planning on implementing an outdoor kitchen ourselves... It will be funner than retrofitting AC to an older house. Outdoor kitchens are also useful for stinkier foods - including my Sicilian favorite - cous cous con pesce. We made that indoors once... the fish funk was with us for more than a week. Now we cook it on a portable burner in the garage.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 3:43PM
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I could never understand why people wanted to open their well-sized kitchens into the dining or living room. it is like having a "show kitchen" and then needing a "back kitchen". When you have a party, don't you try to prepare food before and then socialize with your guests, instead of cooking in front of them?

Yes, I know, cooking when guests are already there happens often, at least in our house, but when I am doing the last minute stuff, I do NOT want to be chatting at the same time as I need my concentration to finish things up.

We have a wide door between the kitchen and the LR/DR. I just close it and let DH entertain folks while I am frantically getting the final touches.

We eat everyday meals in our (good size) "breakfast area" which is part of the kitchen, so the mess is "contained.
I would never combine a kitchen with the living area, it is enough to have one messy room, LOL.

We have a small walk-in pantry off the laundry room (whcih is next to the kitchen). I keep bread machines and other large countertop appliances there. I have to admit, it is really handy.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 3:59PM
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I also really like fine rooms dedicated to cooking. This function is SO worth its own space and makes a wonderful place to be. It occurred to me a while ago that a whole generation has grown up with many never having worked or sat IN a room like that. Sad. Not very, of course, but still...

Fishpants, one of my favorite kitchens ever was Julia Child's--before it was remodeled to film her show. She had a little room behind a door on the other side of her center work/dining table (remember the oilcloth?) from the window wall. I've forgotten what was in there, but I have a notion it included some kind of stove. Small, no windows, but it no doubt got put to a lot of very good use.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 4:01PM
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I set up a pretty complete kitchen in my laundry room to use during the renovation. An older family member asked if we didn't think it would be a good idea to keep it like that after the renovation to use, you know, as a back kitchen. I managed to suppress my eyeroll and suggest that no, I didn't think we would keep it, as it made the laundry room pretty cramped. Internally, I was shouting "ARE YOU NUTS!? I can't wait to get out of there and start cooking in my pleasant, upstairs kitchen!"

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 4:21PM
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It all comes down to lifestyle IMO. We only have an EIK, no DR, and an open floorplan in our 2100 SF house and that was by design. I was responsible for cooking dinner M-F starting in 9th grade and going until I went to college, and I *hated* being in the kitchen while my younger sibs were watching TV in the LR, and let me tell you, I burned things more than once because my attention was more directed on The Beverly Hillbilles or Hogan's Heros than on whatever I had been directed to cook. Ditto on the DR, eating in the DR growing up meant the good china, getting dressed up (hated it, still do), trying not to spill anything on the tablecloth, my mother obsessing about everything, drunk adults, basically terrible memories, and it don't take Dr. Freud to know why I am not a fan of formal dining rooms or closed off kitchens (and mr. sandyponder had exactly the same experience with the DR, so we're simpatico there).

So, in the house that will hopefully be my last, we have a pantry that can handle lunch, drinks, snacks and storage while the heavy duty cooking is being done in the kitchen and the cook/canner remains unimpeded by, yet within talking distance of, others. Yes, I realize the environmental impact is larger, yes, I realize it may seem pretentious or wasteful, yes, my guests see the kitchen all messy (and I don't care) and yes we love it.

We have seen houses with coffee stations and gas fireplaces in bedrooms, outdoor kitchens, towel warmers and pet washing stations, why not a back kitchen?


    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 4:44PM
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Well, if you're comfortable with guests seeing your mess, then you don't have a show kitchen. You have a real kitchen and a pantry.

The real point is the one liriodendron made above. Some people are truly fine with open living. But for many people the "open living" concept has proven to be a failure in real life, because they don't really want to see the mess, hear the noise or smell the odors throughout their entire living spaces. But they are too invested in a fantasy ideal marketed by television and realtors to admit it. And so the open kitchen becomes just for show. The real kitchen is hidden not only to contain the mess, but to hide the shame of a failed idea.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 5:18PM
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I don't get why it seems so hard to grasp that folks could genuinely want and use two types of kitchens. Real budget considerations may require it, but that doesn't change what I would see as very valid reasons for wanting both.

If I could, I'd have one in a flash, and believe me, neither would be for show. Here's why.

I am a single mom, who likes to cook and likes to entertain. That means when I do entertain, I'm planner,cook, bartender, server and hostess rolled into one. No one to greet the guests while I pop the souffle in the oven. I am also a natural extrovert who prefers the stimulation of other folks around and like Sandy Ponder, abhor being separated from others while I am cooking. So, in both my current house and my last, renovations were aimed at opening the kitchen to the rest of the house. I like having my son and buddies near by kibitzing with me while I make dinner on a weeknight. I like entertaining casually with friends sitting at the counter and pitching in occasionally to help toss the salad, etc. On these occasions, I don't mind the mess being visible to the world. When I entertain more formally, I prepare most foods and clean the kitchen in advance, minimizing last minute chores and kitchen mess. But I'm comfortable with what mess is still exposed to those sharing the occasion.

BUT...I also do a fair amount of marathon, big, extremely messy cooking projects, and on those occasions, I am almost always alone anyway. I do some canning and lots of baking and I frequently buy and cook in bulk. I don't make one pan of lasagne. I made five and freeze the extras for later. I don't make soup for dinner. I make soup for the winter. And when I am doing this kind of cooking, my reasonably spacious kitchen can wind up feeling cramped. I worry about knocking over the antique vase I use to hold kitchen utensils. Stuff seems to spatter everywhere. And even if the rest of the adjacent dining and living rooms are clean, they feel trashed until I finish all the cooking and all the cleaning up.

For this stuff, I would love a more utilitarian kitchen with easy-to-clean,indestructible stainless steel counters, a drain in the floor so I could just slop water on it and mop, with everything easily accessible on open shelves, with my spare (and extremely ugly) refrigerator and freezer there instead of in the highly inconvenient basement. And a door, so if after a long day over a hot stove leaves me too tired to clean everything up, I can shut it and relax over a snack with my son in the front kitchen.

So...yeah, if I had the space and the money, I wouldn't compromise on either, giving up the utilitarian nature of my back kitchen or the comfort and ease of social cooking/eating in the front one. They serve two purposes, for two different kinds of cooking and both would be "real' kitchens.

The "tension" that some folks are trying to solve by having a front and back kitchen doesn't necessarily come from some designers' idea of kitchen as public space being foisted on folks who find that in reality it doesn't work for them. It comes from the inside...from people who genuinely want one kind of kitchen sometimes and another at other times. Most of us have to choose. But for those who have the luxury of not choosing...well lucky them.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:34PM
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Not having any difficulty grasping anything, thanks!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:07PM
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As a family that does a fair amount of heavy duty kitchen work (canning, cutting up our home-grown meat, grinding grains, baking bread, etc.) I can definitely understand wanting a specific area for the more involved kitchen tasks. Especially when it comes to those noisy grain grinders and blenders. We walk around with shooting range style ear-protectors on our heads while our grinder and blender are running. I'd gladly put those instruments of sound torture in their own room! : )

I don't see why you couldn't have a dedicated area for your heavy duty workload, and another area for the day-to-day tasks. Perhaps it could be sectioned off with a sliding door, so that it is separate when desired, but otherwise a part of the regular kitchen.

Since you asked for pictures, here is a copy of the Duggar's downstairs floorplan, taken from their 19 and Counting book (hope it's ok to post it...) It's probably over the top for most families, but there still might be some ideas worth modifying. In their dining area, they have a drinks station, as well. From what I understand the "pretty" kitchen is what they use most often, while the commercial kitchen is for when they have large gatherings, host parties, and so forth. The pantry and storage areas both have roll-up garage doors so that they can unload their vehicles straight into storage when they come home from their shopping trips.

I apologize the picture is so crooked.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos of Duggar home

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:35PM
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I was thinking about a separate baking area...when I couldn't fit everything into the planned kitchen. Since then, I've moved the kitchen (on paper) to another part of the house and have enough room for everything in the same space. While I like the idea of a 'work area' I was concerned that it might end up a cramped space, with nieces/nephews all trying to help me bake. I do plan to have a walk-in pantry (just food/storage) and the freezer will probably go in the utility room.

If someone needs the space...more power to them. But, the Dugger's plan with the 'pretty' kitchen reminds me of my days, working in restaurants. You have the counter or bar area, where customers can wait for food and chat with the staff...maybe even watch something fancy be prepared. Then you have the kitchen...where all the real work happens. That's usually better as a closed off area...not only to hide the mess, but maybe a bit of sound-proofing, too :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:49PM
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I'd never heard of the Duggers before, and well, I'm just astonished and a bit in awe of them! The kitchen is interesting, but the thing I'm most intrigued by is the "Goodbye Room". Any ideas what that is?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:02PM
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Probably where the auctions are held.

I'm not sure I would hold the Duggars up as an example of wise use of resources and mindful concern for environmental impact.

Anyway, as was mentioned earlier, nothing seems able to shake the faith of the cult of open living. Houses need to become as huge and complicated as any Ptolemaic model of the solar system before people will pause to question their basic premise. It reminds me of many, many layouts we have seen on GW, where the perfection of the kitchen is pursued at the cost of destroying all the neighboring living spaces. I can think of one condo kitchen where the wise owner had to resist calls to turn the entire interior into an eat-in kitchen with only the vestigial appendage of a TV and easy chair.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:30PM
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Well, I am not ashamed to admit that I like an open concept house with an island kitchen, but also know that a back kitchen room will work very well for us. I know how we live and know that it will not be a needless extravagance in our case. I cannot speak for others.

With the cooking and baking that we do, we need a working pantry for our odd and/or bulky appliances and bulk food. Baking is a messy affair for me and I would like to keep that out of my main kitchen. We do quite a bit of cooking for large gatherings as well.

Priorities change. We are focusing on building a home to fit how we live and how we anticipate living as the children get older. Forget the media room, the extra extra guest room, oversized above garage "bonus room", etc.

I sure appreciate all the input everyone has had. This is a good dialogue and it is fun to pick each other's brains!
Does anyone have any more pics?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 1:51AM
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An "average" family in the US does not have 17 children or the budget for a 2000 sq. ft kitchen/living area. Most people are somewhere in-between, so different rules apply.

There are always exceptions to (almost) any rule, of course. But the later part of the discussion was about open plan houses becoming a "norm".

About "on those occasions, I am almost always alone anyway".

How is it different from what Sandyponder said about being alone in the kitchen while preparing dinner?

When my guests want to socialize with me while I am still getting ready (which happens more often than I'd like, LOL), they are perfectly able to b/c the kitchen is wide enough to accomodate some traffic. But when we start dinner, I really don't want them and myself see the mess in the kitchen.

And even if there is no mess (b/c I finished and cleaned everything beforehands), it becomes messy after the first course as the salad plates are taken back to the kitchen and left on the counter. I don't have a maid doing dishes while I am entrtaining. :-(

That is when being able to close the door comes handy. I also like the sound-proofing aspect of it. I don't have enough "shooting range style ear-protectors" for my visitors when I am making ice-cream in my VitaMix (whcih is better consumed right away vs. being frozen) and I don't want to damage there hearing, LOL.

With the economy being the way it is, I am not sure how many people will be able to afford a house large enough for a second kitchen.

I wonder if the "island kitchen" is just an evolved (and lareger) version of the "bar area" in older houses. If so, then the "back kitchen" serves as the "real kitchen" of the past, right?

It was a very educational thread, thank you OP for posting. It made me think of moving the Vitamix into my small walk-in pantry - not for party purposes but to protect my toddler.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 3:19AM
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I think the "Good-Bye Room" at the Duggars is what we would call the Mudroom.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 8:37AM
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You're right Eleena the discussion is now really about open kitchens and thats really all matter of knowing what works for you. But as for what's different about marathon solo cooking on a separate room and being separate while making dinner: it's a matter of context. While Iam making 30 jars of chutney or baking 300 cookies. I nearly always the only person on the house. There's no one else carrying on an interesting conversation jot watching Hogan's Heroes just out of view.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 9:46AM
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I'm ashamed to admit I know who the Duggars are, and I don't even have cable! But I'm LMAO @ marcolo, since they are christian taliban reality famewhores, I guess they auction off the uterus space of the womenfolk?

Second, besides my traumatic upbringing of missing Hogan's Heros punchlines and being forced to wear itchy clothing on all holidays, perhaps I like an open floorplan because I'm out the door by 7 am and rarely home before 6:30 pm, M-F, so when I do get home, I like to chat with mr. sandyponder and the kiddo while he finishes preparing dinner. On weekends, when I cook, I like him and the kid to be there chatting with me. I dunno, all I know is that I would never, ever go back to anything but an open EIK/LR cuz I really like it, and I don't care about resale, that's the kid's problem.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:23AM
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I don't care about resale, that's the kid's problem.

ROFL! Love it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:39AM
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I just would have trouble deciding which of our tasks belong in which room! LOL

I think I'd be afraid to cook dinner in the show/visible kitchen and mess it up. Come to think of it, though, I've often daydreamed of having a houseful of kitchens with different types of ranges and ovens... a Britannia kitchen, a Wolf kitchen, a Bertazzoni kitchen... maybe this could be a way to justify it. ;-D JK

I just personally have no need for a 'pretty' (prettier?) kitchen, as I have room for the kids, their friends, or my guests in my kitchen, and if they want to hang out in there, they know it's a work room and probably looks like one. It's gorgeous when clean, but I have to say my favorite is when it's full of kids, flour, talking, and laughter. I have decided, though, that if I ever do another kitchen, it'll have more of a utilitarian focus with things like stainless counters and plainer cabinets. I'll still think it's beautiful because of how it works for me.

I'm not sure I would hold the Duggars up as an example of wise use of resources and mindful concern for environmental impact.
I don't think that was the intent...? ;-) We don't have cable, so I've only heard little bits about the family. I thought they were relationship-oriented, and about DIYing and living fairly simply, so those kitchens surprise me.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 2:08PM
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Melissa - please send cookies

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 3:02PM
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oops, forgot to post it all

In looking at the Duggars home, I was reminded of a recent article on Mormon cooking, where I learned that as a practice they like to have a years worth of food on hand. This necessitates very large pantries. Of course so does a gazillion kids. Billyjoebob sure has a tiny office.

It was an interesting read.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mormons, cooking, and storage

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 3:09PM
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Well, my knee-jerk response to the initial posting was huh?, but I'm sold and agree about the value of this very functional solution for a significant issue.

If I routinely took on very large, long, hot, messy cooking projects (instead of avoiding them like the plague), I'd also want a separate room to do them in. A door directly to the outside would be useful, as well as masonry walls and floor so I could hose it down. :)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 3:30PM
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I've seen a butler's pantry, a walk-in storage pantry, and a utility room...but I'm not sure what a wok room is. Anyone have pictures?

If you're remodeling or have a small kitchen, I can see the need to have a larger space for big a baking area or blanching/freezing gardening produce, canning, etc. However, with a new home...can't you just design a larger kitchen? I'm all for capitalism, so people can do whatever they like with their money...I'm just wondering about the layout.

Maybe as a design idea, we should bring back the bar area...for sipping beverages, enjoying a snack or having a place to chat and perch. They're popular on patios (or so it seems on HGTV) and allow a space to sit, but not be in the middle of the cooking mess...for those wanting to separate the kitchen from the living areas.

I just don't know how you'd keep track of the bar/pretty kitchen and still work in the back/hidden kitchen, especially when you have company. Maybe have a bartender? :)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 6:21PM
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Mtnrdrrdux: sure! Send address! What kind? Ginger cushions? Choc. Chip coconut macaroons? Everything but the kitchen sink oatmeal? Chocolate pepper pretzels? Linzer hearts? Name your poison ...

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 6:23PM
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A little late but I have been intrigued by the dichotomy of those who want to interact with guests while cooking, and those who definitely don't want to. Though I've been cooking for decades, I find that I can concentrate on only a couple of things at a time. My real thoughts toward family members/friends "wanting to help" in the kitchen and chatting away are, "You can say things to me, and I might say things to you, but I will not remember them because I am making gravy. Either that and we can have a conversation, but the gravy will stink because it is a floury mess and greasy too because I could not remember to separate it, or something will overcook because I can't hear the timer/forgot something was warming etc."

I'm trying to reform my kitchen ways such that I have most of the prep/cooking done before guests arrive, and then leave several things for them to "help do" so that they feel that they are contributing something. But this is an extra step because I don't want to send guests to our second fridge in the basement for all the cold water pitchers or trays or whatever else might be down there.

I feel akin to you, eleena!

Ideally, EVERYTHING would be done before guests arrive and there would only be a few things like serving that needed to occur. (This would also mitigate the women wanting to help in the kitchen and the men exchanging news in the LR, which is always what seems to happen in our family).

Kudos to those who can cook and carry on a conversation (with recall!) at the same time without major cooking disasters!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 2:43AM
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People need to design their houses to meet their needs, but often allow their decisions to be too influenced by trends or "resale value." How many posts do we see about a big shower versus a shower/bath combo and whether it will hurt the house value, etc? The answer is almost always the same - do what works for YOU.

I agree with Marcolo and several others that the open concept kitchen is kind of a mess function wise, and that this is a result of that trend. If you're alone in the house, why can't you use your kitchen to make a mess or be loud? If you are a person who uses a lot of loud appliances, your lifestyle probably doesn't fit with an open kitchen (or if you're a neat freak.) If it's hard to clean, why did you choose all that figured cabinetry?

We love to cook, and our kitchen gets hard use. In the new update things are chosen for cleanability, utility, and beauty. You can have all 3, you just have to balance them and not choose things only for their looks. It's funny, because it seems like on this board, most already do that. As usual, the people having the discussion aren't the ones who need to.

All this coming from a person who has had reason to close the door to the kitchen while entertaining. I don't have ANY problem with that, and love that we have a door!! So clearly a separate working kitchen is what I already have.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 4:33AM
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Also late - dunno how I missed the thread.

My rural relatives had various versions of the "back kitchen/front kitchen" concept. Most were the "canning kitchen" kind, just a room with lots of counters or temporary tables and a hulking cooking appliance and a really big sink for canning and large-scale baking and cutting up poultry or cows. The bulk freezer was here, and bulk canned storage. Plain and functional, easy to sanitize

Those that did a significant amount of milking had a dairy room ... a quiet, immaculately cleaned little room convenient to the milking parlor (which is in the barn, not the house!) for processing the milk, churning butter,and chilling it.

One of my aunts was really rich and frequently entertained business and political associates. She had three "kitchens" ... the catering kitchen, which was close to the formal dining room and had an outside entrance, for big dinner parties. It had enough appliances for the caterer, and I don't remember much else. She occasionally used it for overflow cooking when the family was there.

There was the "snack kitchen" where you could make sandwiches, grab a bowl of cereal or ice cream, etc. No serious cooking capability, it was more like an RV kitchen.

Right next to it was what might be called the "family kitchen" with the usual appliances and activities.

Given her family size (large), her lifestyle (political and social powerhouse), and finances (no need to scrimp) ... it made sense to have multiple food prep areas. However, none of them were showcase posh, they were utilitarian and easy to clean.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 5:09AM
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I've always been a keep stuff out of sight in the kitchen kind of person but I'm considering moving to the dark side & joining my husband in the open-kitchen concept.
We're planning a remodel of a bungalow we purchased for our retirement. The 1st floor of the house is under 900 sq. ft. with the front of the house consisting of a large open area approximately 35'x 12.5'. This area originally held 3 sets of French doors overlooking the Columbia River which we are hoping to restore. (The bungalow was built in 1916 and has an open front room because it was built to be a very modest home). The back of the house is chopped up into a bedroom, bath, small room of unknown use with 2 doorways, stairs to attic bedrooms and kitchen. It's got a quirky floor plan. You currently have to walk though the small room and the bathroom to get to the bedroom.
The stairs hem in the kitchen, which is a 12'x7' galley and has 2 windows, 2 doorways & the door to the basement. Wall space is in such short supply that the refrigerator resides in a mini-porch attached to the kitchen.
What we're currently thinking of doing is using the old kitchen space as a scullery/pantry/baking prep/canning area & having a large stove and island with prep sink in the open area in front of & next to the kitchen. So I will actually be doing the daily prepping & cooking in the open area while chatting with my husband, but clean-up, bake prep, canning, food storage etc. takes place on the other side of the doorway in the old kitchen.
We're still working on the concept and I'm not sure what we'll end up with, but my husband likes it and it would be nice to spread out a bit. Plus I'd have a nice view.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 5:28PM
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We are very glad that our (one) kitchen is open to the family room, because DD plays there while one of us is cooking, and we are together and able to keep an eye on her. Our dining room and living room are a little separated (though still open) so that guests in those rooms are not staring at the kitchen. But of course they all end up in the kitchen anyway.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 6:55PM
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A show kitchen makes way more sense to me than a show dining room. At least a show kitchen is likely to be used daily, if only for snacks and simple cooking. I've seen a lot of formal dining rooms that are only used once or twice a year, for anything.

I've got an old house with nothing close to an open floor plan, and no chance of ever adding on due to zoning laws. So the is issue is moot for me. Although, if I ever put a sink in the main kitchen, maybe I could convert the scullery to a wok kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 8:14PM
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Fori is not pleased

I think I'd make the front kitchen more of a wet bar/coffee center perhaps with a little fridge. A warming drawer for appetizers? But I couldn't justify having two real kitchens for myself. I'd rather make the one kitchen bigger! Maybe it's a good idea for others. Iunno. It certainly makes sense when you're working with an older home and the only way to fit in all your kitcheness is between two rooms...

I'm currently in the process of trying to decide where to insert walls in my open floorplan. I should add that my open floorplan is a poorly conceived remodel in a house that should not be open. It can work well with proper consideration but I prefer some formal rooms in my home. By "formal" I don't mean they have to be formal. They jut have to be there. I love a formal dining room. If it's used for meals, fine, but if not, it's a wonderful place to do an art project or spread out stuff to do taxes. My dining rooms are never unused, but they aren't always used for dining.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 8:39PM
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Liriodendron says what I wanted to say and expresses the working kitchen philosophy. Well said!

I retained the interior wall and door between kitchen and dining room. We don't pull that door shut very often, but when we do we're glad to have it. The kitchen is a workplace first, a conversation pit or entertainment center second, if at all. When I'm done in there I leave the room and go where the fun is. The dining room is the center of the house and the center of our home.

When preserving food by drying, we put a dehydrator into whatever place is out of the way--typically in an unused room or the basement (we found out that inside the pantry closet is not good because the humidity cannot escape properly.) We do move a Coleman stove or an induction hot plate out to the deck in the hot humid summer when we are cooking things like sweetcorn. And we use the grill on the deck for summer meats and veg, eating at a table on the deck. But when it's cool or wet, we eat inside, at the dining table. Guests are expected to go where the host tells them to go, even if a cook is in another room. The cook will join them at the meal.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 10:18PM
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Love this thread!

The open vs closed kitchen philosophies both make sense. I am pretty puzzled and disappointed by the ridicule of open kitchens, though.

I am currently raising small children. Not one day goes by that I am not thankful for my great room kitchen with the cooktop on the island. I cook hot breakfast, lunch and dinner (simple eggs, soup etc. but hot) I also bake and prep throughout the day etc. It is lovely to putz in the kitchen while my child continues to play, etc. I CAN imagine what it is like to have small children and a closed kitchen because I have friends in that situation. Two have dragged train tables into the kitchen, for instance.

Before reading this thread I would have thought the open kitchen is especially ideal for the stay-at-home homemaking type. But it makes total sense that if you have kids in school or are working all day you would also appreciate spending time with your family while cooking. During the normal course of the day I never want to be off by myself. I feel like I would cook a lot less if I had to go off into another room to do it...I love that if a toddler becomes suddenly immersed in something I can prep dinner or start a baking project while still keeping an eye on him or her. The open kitchen is literally necessary for the way I manage my everyday life.

We entertain a lot. Sometimes it is one other family and sometimes it's 100 people. We sometimes hire caterers, we sometimes cook and we sometimes order in. Regardless, I wish we had a closed off kitchen for these situations. I cannot cook anything remotely interesting while talking or being talked to! I like to concentrate on the task at hand. Also, I don't love putting effort in to presentation and party decor only to have it share space with dirty dishes or take-out trays...but that's what you get with an open kitchen...

It's remotely possible that I could manage the space and budget required to have a front and back kitchen but I just can't get my mind around it. I see now that that might be short-sided but I am already creating a laundry/project/craft/garden room behind my kitchen because I don't want to have to tidy my project area every time I have company!
Maybe all of this just the struggle to present our best selves vs our real selves, which is something I think about and grapple with a lot. As of now most of our guests see the imperfect "real" us. We don't host strangers (like you would for fundraisers etc) so it hasn't been a big problem.

I am analyzing our floor plan with these issues in mind, though. I want to separate our casual open kitchen-family room from the more formal entry/living/dining area. I won't be able to avoid people hanging out in the kitchen if they want to, though :)

Some of the anti-open kitchen folks out there must have happily and successfully raised children with a closed kitchen, what is your secret??

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:55PM
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Some of the anti-open kitchen folks out there must have happily and successfully raised children with a closed kitchen, what is your secret??

You could start by quizzing the previous twenty generations or so.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 2:06PM
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This home in this link has a second/wok kitchen that gr8day mentioned earlier. The second kitchen is smaller, but it has a sink, DW, stove/wok and cabinets. Both kitchens look really nice. I guess if you can afford it you don't want the spice smells in your drapery and furnishings, if you can close it off in a smaller kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 3:32PM
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I forgot to add the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Second/Wok Kitchen

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 3:35PM
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Come on, Marcolo, that was both dismissive AND ridiculous! My question was respectful and genuine.

Off the top of my head one great-grandmother was raised in a one room home in Arkansas (so all living and cooking done in one space) and the other had a live-in help. That is only 4 generations back :) Both situations were very normal just a few generations ago. A lone adult at home doing the bulk of cooking and child-rearing is a relatively new phenomenon. For much of human history cooking was done on the same stove or heat source that heated an entire home and was centrally located. From what I understand, closed, separate kitchens were a direct result of having hired cooks and servants. Children would have been under the care of someone other than the person cooking. It was also typical for more than one generation to live in the same home. I was asking a serious question of the anti-open kitchen folks that post on this forum. My friends with closed kitchens make-do, of course, but all pine for an open plan.

My mom cloth-diapered with no washing machine and managed to thoroughly enjoy our childhood. Just because previous generations made-do, or thrived even, doesn't mean we can't do it better/more easily/differently.

Marcolo- how did YOU cook and take care of your toddlers when you were the only adult at home with a closed kitchen? It sounds like you did so quite easily and I was just wondering about the logistics of it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 3:45PM
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We have a closed kitchen and we have young children (2,4,5). My kids either come help out or watch in the kitchen, or they play somewhere else. There isn't enough room to really play in there anyways. I don't feel like I need to keep my eye on my children every second while I'm in the kitchen and they are not. Not any different than any other part of the day when they are able to play in all areas of the house or outside. As long as I can hear them, I know where they are and that they are safe and I can usually fix meals, do laundry, or anything else without watching their every move.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 3:52PM
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mrsmortarmixer- makes sense! It also makes sense that there are different types/sizes of closed kitchens. The ones I have experienced haven't had a place for a child to sit and watch and have been pretty small and cramped. I am sure that colors my thinking...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:57PM
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From what I understand, closed, separate kitchens were a direct result of having hired cooks and servants. Children would have been under the care of someone other than the person cooking.

No. Only a small fraction of the population ever had servants, even though it was more common formerly than today.

I really don't know what to say to this. Almost every person over the age of 50 or a bit older was raised in houses with closed-off kitchens. This isn't something you need to reach back to the log cabins or medieval huts to get examples of.

As mortarmixer says, our mothers did not feel the need to helicopter over us every waking second. They had other things to do.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 5:21PM
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Well, I was the youngest of 4. I recall being shipped outside with the rest of my siblings and tagging along after them until I could be trusted by myself. We basically only came in to eat or go to the bathroom. I don't think it mattered what kind of kitchen my parents had.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 6:33PM
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Open plans and great rooms are relatively new...but the idea of the kitchen table, breakfast room, nook, etc. is not. That's why there was normally a table in the kids could be in there and not be underfoot.

TV has only been widely available for about 60 years, so before that, there was no need for more than the kitchen table. Kids colored, did their homework, helped prep, etc. If you look at the older house plans (especially the 1920s) you see the popularity of the little banquette/nooks. They're small, but they were mainly used for breakfast and keeping kids out of the way, in the kitchen.

As Mamattorney mentioned above...most kids played outside as much as possible. We don't do that as much these least my nieces and nephews don't seem to...and I think that's kind of sad.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 7:56PM
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I must admit I don't feel the need to have my child in the same room as me. Until now our kitchen was closed (and now it's only a little more open). When our son was a baby, he would often be in a bassinet or later a high chair in the kitchen while cooking or sometimes amusing himself in the next room. Once older he was playing in the next room and I or my wife would just pop out every few minutes (or if it was suspiciously quiet) to check. Once he was walking the problem was keeping him out of the kitchen. We put up a gate to prevent him from entering while we were cooking.

I suppose children are different (some get themselves into trouble a lot more than others) and there are different parenting styles, but my wife and I are in the camp where we don't see the need to always have them next to us 24/7. Both my wife and I spent a fair bit of time cooking alone in the house with our son and it never seemed like a problem.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 8:31PM
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I am having such a hard time getting my layout right for ONE kitchen that I would pull the rest of my hair out if I had to plan two kitchens.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 8:56PM
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My neighbors across the street have a wok kitchen ... it's called the garage. : )

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 6:54PM
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I think I'd have to ask my servants if they'd prefer their own kitchen in the back of the house. I simply could not abide by seeing the mess of meal preparation in my pretty kitchen! I mean, really! Food! In a kitchen!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:08PM
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Anenemity- LOL!

Well, I'm back to my small kitchen and there's no way I can fit everything into a 13' x 10' it's been suggested (on Smaller Homes forum) that I open up the old porch, with a pass through. I really like this idea, as it makes more structural sense, than trying to take down the wall, for one big space.

MamaGoose posted this scullery link...originally from the kitchen forum. I really like the idea and think it makes a lot of sense for people not able to build new...but wanting more storage and counter space than they can easily fit into their current kitchen.

Plus, I love the beadboard...and all that shelving for jars, baskets and books :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to scullery kitchen

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 12:47AM
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I am plannng something similar for my retirement house, though I think of it as working pantry . . .

Right now I have a large kitchen, loads of counterspace and cabinets, but it doesn't work. All my appliances are shoved in the back of dark cabinets, hard to access, easy to ignore because of the out of sight, out of mind concept. I'd love to change my old, ratty cabinets, but changing the miles and miles that I have is expensive. I am certain that my new space will function much more efficiently.

My new kitchen will be small in size, but it'll only hold my everyday cookware -- my small, go-to pots and pans and so forth. I want NO clutter in my kitchen.

My pantry will be 8x12 and will be the connector to the garage. It will contain

- a 4 foot counter for dropping /sorting groceries (they'll never come into the kitchen 'til it's time to cook them)
- sturdy floor to ceiling shelves for food, home canned goods, small appliances, paper products
- storage space for bulk purchased items
- storage space for seldom used items like large turkey platters, cake stands, etc
- a tall, thin shelf that'll serve as broom closet / cleaning supplies

I can foresee using the workspace as a staging spot for desserts at a party, or as a place to stash dirty roasting pans when company comes over, or as an out of the way spot to let a couple crockpots simmer . . . But I don't plan any built in appliances on my pantry.

As for canning, I'm considering buying an electric canner and keeping it in our outdoor kitchen. I could do the prep work indoors, but keep the heat of all that hot water outside. If we go with a pass-through window to the kitchen, this seems very workable.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:56AM
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I will end up with a working pantry/canning kitchen. I was originally going to put the canning kitchen in the shed behind the house, but with the new kitchen, I gain an entire old kitchen worth of space. It's not a large area, but will house my coil top and a sink, a few feet of countertop and some floor to ceiling cabinets on one side for canning, canning supplies, and small appliances that are not used often, as well as some hefty ventilation. The other side, closest to the kitchen will have floor to ceiling shelving for food storage and our deep freezer. Ceiling is only 7.5' +/-, so reach shouldn't be much of a problem. Having the extra range in the pantry will also be nice for holiday baking and family events. Canning in the pantry area will prevent my everyday kitchen from becoming non-functional during peak canning months.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 12:20AM
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Interesting thread! We have two children (~4, ~7) and our current house has an open kitchen into the family room. We all love to cook and my husband and I loathe the open concept. Actually, my Mom complains about it too. The kitchen does have a table and my kids can draw while I'm cooking and help out with smaller tasks. But if they, or my husband, choose to watch TV I notice the TV volume starts increasing the further I get into the meal. If my husband decides to do one of his marathon stews and soups weekends, I find myself reaching for the volume on the remote too. I also find that I will get to a point where I want everyone to leave so I can focus and get stuff done. This is when I tell everyone to go outside and play (including my husband) :) We now eat all dinners in the dining room. I'm one of those people who just can't relax and enjoy the meal when I'm staring at the mess we have to clean up, but this came more from my son, not me. One day he just said, "Why don't we eat in here every day?" and now we do.
We're finally breaking ground on a new build next month and have been planning our new house and kitchen for a year and a half. In that time the kitchen has become closed off, the pantry was enlarged, and we got rid of a breakfast room, replacing it with a nook. Like LL pointed out, it was redundant to have a large eating space off the kitchen, island with seating, and dining room - especially since we now use the dining room. We also got rid of our upper cabinets because I want to able to see into the backyard and watch the kids run around while I cook, do dishes, or whatever else it is that seems to keep me in our kitchen more than any other room.

Shannonaz: the one thing I've noticed while planning our build, and having it take for freaking ever, is we've been watching things change while they grow. We can ask them to watch a TV show when we're trying to get dinner finished and just need some space. They set the table for us so that keeps them occupied too. Two years ago, was a different story. Since they both have an interest in cooking, I also imagine they will become more involved in the actually preparation as they get older. So my point is, while it's hard to imagine your kids a few years from now, it's better to plan for the future abilities bc the toddler years fly by, and way too fast!

Lastly, if I could have a "second kitchen" it would be sound proof so I could hear nothing else in the house, would lock from the inside, have a comfy chair, a toaster oven, coffee maker, small fridge with sparkling water, wine, assorted cheeses, and I'd lock myself in there and "cook" with a book once a day! :)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:50AM
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We had close to what you are talking about at a house we had many years ago. Link below. Pictures 28 30 and 31 also show more of the room. It really is a laundry room pantry. There is also a small clothes closet right across from the sink.Does not show in any pictures. I always thought would be nice with more shelves in it for kitchen things but when you go look at all the kitchen cabinets 17 foot of them along one wall was more than I needed.

The deep laundry sink area was my milking kitchen when the cow was fresh. Was wonderful to keep all of that mess out of the main kitchen. Stored milking buckets strainers and what nots in cabinet under deep sink. I also used that deep sink to soak the turkey pan and anything else when we had the big dinners. Also to wash veggies when I brought them in by the lug for canning.

In picture 31 the cabinet to the left of the hoosier is deep storage and water heater on bottom section.

Picture 10 shows doorway into back kitchen to get an idea of relation to the main kitchen.

Some might think this is a frivolous idea but I REALLY miss my back kitchen. That room was really used.

Here is a link that might be useful: Working hidden kitchen

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Just wanted to add this extra laundry room turned extra kitchen is in an 1140 SQ FT house. The main kitchen was open to living room by large arch way. I also processed game cut and wrapping elk and deer all by myself. I would come in that door by sink from garage where meat was hanging with a quarter or whatever I could chop off and do some clean up in that sink area them move meat into the main kitchen where we had so much counter space. A stove could have been added where the computer table was.Or where the hoosier was. The previous owner had a freezer and fridge in that room. I would have loved that too to help keep some of the heat out of the house when canning.

I am not at all fussy or showman ship about the way I cook or who sees me cook. There are just some times a second kitchen is so nice. Even in smaller home. We also live in the middle of nowhere and buy in bulk. Again I do miss that second kitchen.

Heck I even set up a canning kitchen on our back porch at another house to help keep the heat out of the house.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 4:10PM
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