The Closed Separate Kitchen Makes a Comeback

credit: Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt Kitchen 1926

The New York Times real estate section says the closed kitchen is making a comeback. After a couple of decades where every new apartment had big open kitchens,

Kitchen size aside, the pendulum has started to swing back toward enclosed kitchens. Several new residential buildings in Manhattan have offered separated kitchens — a nod to prewar apartment design, but also to the growing demand from potential buyers looking for separate cooking and entertaining spaces.

Being the New York Times, they are showing very high end stuff for very rich people.

Closed kitchens also work well for those who entertain a lot and hire caterers and private chefs. “You don’t want your dinner party guests to walk through the kitchen and see what’s being served.”
Leroy plan

© 160 Leroy

In fact, the really really rich are buying two kitchens, a "chef kitchen" and a "social kitchen."

Ian Schrager, a developer who recently broke ground on 160 Leroy, said all of the 49 condo units will have two fully equipped kitchens. The 300-square-foot enclosed chef’s kitchen can be closed off by a sliding door, while the adjacent open “social kitchen” is anchored by a large marble island and countertop. He said he took the idea from his own home, where he custom-installed a second, “dirty” kitchen. “I personally don’t mind when people cook and wash dishes in front of me,” Mr. Schrager said. “I like the social aspect of an open kitchen. But some people don’t like that.”

Now while two kitchens is a bit ridiculous, there are lots of good reasons to go back to separate kitchens.

Green Kitchen

© Williamson Chong

It's healthier

As Ellen Himelfarb noted in her article on eat-in kitchens, quoted in TreeHugger:

Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, argues that our eating habits are much more influenced by our surroundings than our appetite, and some modern kitchen comforts are the biggest culprits. Families with comfortable seating and TVs in the kitchen tend to snack more...“The first thing I suggest if you’re giving your kitchen a makeover – make it less loungeable,” he says. “Recent research shows that one of the biggest determinants of low BMI in children is sitting at a table with the TV off.”

In a separate, closed off kitchen, the food is out of sight and out of mind.

china kitchen

© In China, even open kitchens are closed because of air quality

The air quality is better

In "Worrying about kitchen fans is exhausting," I quote engineer Robert Bean:

Since there are no environmental protection regulations governing indoor residential kitchens, your lungs, skin and digestive systems have become the de facto filter for a soufflé of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehydes, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, fine and ultra fine particles and other pollutants associated with meal preparation. Toss in the exposed interior design features and what is left behind is an accumulation of contaminants in the form of chemical films, soot and odours on surfaces, similar in affect to what one finds in the homes of smokers.

A closed kitchen can keep all that stuff in the closed kitchen and can design the appropriate ventilation system that doesn't have to change all the air in the house or apartment.


Wolf/ There is no way that range hood is going to anything. /Promo image

You don't get those silly giant islands with useless hanging exhaust hoods

These just don't work. A stove should be against a wall, an exhaust hood should be not much more than 30 inches from the range, and properly sized for the appliance. Read more in "Hyperventilation about kitchen ventilation," where I learned that there is no real consensus on this issue. But in the absence of one, it still makes sense that a big stove should be in its own space.