Essentials of urban kitchens

Modern kitchens of course look just right in contemporary urban settings; that much is taken for granted. However, some of the most on-trend designs are so pared down that there is an element of ‘where is the kitchen’ involved; therefore it becomes even more important that the details, accessories and appliances work hard to create an exciting and visually impactful kitchen environment.

Materials used for the cabinetry can include the ubiquitous and beautiful matt and glossy lacquers, and exotic wood (or wood-look) veneers. Textures are important – where surface details, such as panels, moldings, handles and so on, are minimal and colour and texture take on a bigger role. Work surfaces also play a huge part in the overall look of the kitchen, adding texture (in the case of stone and concrete options) and colour and ultimately influencing the whole scheme.

Use of Space

The urban kitchen seems to swing between a vast open-plan family/living space, which may accommodate a large kitchen arena with centerpiece island or it may be a single row of cabinets and work surface along one wall, in an open-plan apartment. The variations between the two mean that in many cases the kitchen has to blend with living room-style furniture and upholstery, and perhaps audio-visual cabinetry. The result is that the space can become almost office-like in its simplicity and approach, with much of its functionality hidden from view. In fact, with some cases it seems rather a shame that the beautiful (and it has to be said, costly) appliances that make up a considerable part of any kitchen budget, are all too often completely hidden from view, with an increase in popularity of the concept of the ‘hidden’ kitchen. If a sophisticated urban kitchen is on the menu, then it’s perfectly possible to only have the hob and sink on view. Remember that kitchen cupboards don’t just have to house the groceries and gadgets, where there is ample storage space, such as in a new extension. Allocate some cabinets to be used for the ‘home office’ or the homework station or for AV equipment and so on.

Down Below

The design of many contemporary urban kitchens involves stairs, glass and basement positioning. The surge of the below-ground design concept is becoming a viable option when space is at a premium and the family has expanded but the rest of the house is still perfect. A basement development can transform an existing, small, shaft cellar into a whole new floor, often with additional space for laundry, utility, shower room, wine cave, etc. Of course, such a project is a considerable investment, and there has recently been discussion about limiting the scope of basement development, but it’s an approach worth investigating, as it does suit the concept of the urban kitchen literally, down to the ground.

Under Glass

Many urban kitchens involve large expanses of glass – whether it’s used for the roof, in a conservatory-style extension, or simply for floor-to-ceiling folding/sliding glazed doors. Either way it has an effect on various aspects of the design process (apart from the obvious involvement of various other professionals apart from the kitchen designer). The use of lots of glass changes the acoustics in the room, and as a result it’s often a good approach to include upholstery and perhaps one or two large, soft, textural rugs to help absorb clatter and noise. Lighting is also hugely important in a glass environment – there’s little shortage of it during the day, but nighttime brings the problems of endless reflections and a wall of blackness where the garden used to be. It’s a worthwhile project to install decorative outdoor lighting at the same time as the door/terrace construction work is going on, so that the garden can be viewed from the kitchen space.

Practical Points

While much of the practicality of the urban kitchen may be hidden, there are perfect opportunities for display space as well – pocket, folding and sliding cabinet doors can be opened when the kitchen is ‘in use’, revealing sleek shelves that can hold neatly stacked china and glassware. The larder cupboard concept need not be restricted to country or classic kitchens, it works just as well in a contemporary urban space, so think about including one – it can work as neatly with sleek wenge or lacquered cabinetry as with traditional oak or painted designs. Wall hung cabinetry is also a strong trend at the moment – with the illusion of ‘floating’ islands so the look is less blocky and overwhelming. The idea also runs through to open-sided islands, and even table-style islands, with a far more slender profile than we’re used to seeing – the furniture is still totally practical and user-friendly, but with a much lighter and more airy look.

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