The fitted "continuous kitchen", with base cabinets separate from wall cabinets and a continuous horizontal plane between for counter, range and sink, has been the standard since the mid thirties. No matter that 36" counters might work for average height people and not for others, or that it isn't really a good height for stoves. (the tops of tall pots can be too high). Now, after 80 years, the kitchen appears to be devolving into what Dinah Hall of High50 calls "loose-fitted", like a pair of Obama jeans from the Gap. Is this a good thing?
I saw this trend popping up at ICFF earlier this year, with this concept kitchen from NABER. I wrote:
A hundred years ago, all kitchens were made as independent units; then the fitted kitchen was developed a hundred years ago and took over completely. (see Counter Space: How The Modern Kitchen Evolved) Now it appears that the idea of kitchen-as-furniture is returning.
But Hall says, no, that would be the "unfitted" country kitchen of the eighties. She writes:
The look that everyone lusts after now is what you might call the "loose fit" kitchen - casual and artfully relaxed, rather than cosy. Clever old Bulthaup saw the reaction coming a while back and introduced the B2, which consists simply of a 'workbench' with integral hob and sink and two large full-height cupboards for crockery and tools. It is, they say, for "pioneers in the art of thinking and living". In other words, really cool people.
Cooktops [gas, induction, or teppanyaki], sinks, chopping blocks, and myriad storage options--on casters or fixed legs--can be hooked together or stationed separately. Side panels are available in a variety of woods, Corian or stainless. This is the best-looking freestanding kitchen system I've seen to date; perhaps it's an idea whose time has finally come?
There is a lot to love about this idea. It frees us from the tyranny of the 36" countertop and can put everything at the appropriate height, covered with an appropriate material. One could say that it is greener because you don't have to buy your whole kitchen at once, but can build it incrementally according to need and budget. You can move things around and even outside in summer.
On the other hand, one is now paying for fancy materials for the sides as well as tops and fronts, so it is going to cost more. There are are so many more places for gunk to get caught in, so much more surface area to clean.
The units shown here are all top of the line and expensive; Dinah Hall notes that "loose fit says 'loadsamoney'".
But it doesn't have to; in Is It Time To Rethink the Built-In Kitchen?, while discussing camping kitchens as prototype for home kitchens, I wrote:
But one has to consider whether this kind of kitchen design doesn't make sense all the time, whether we haven't got carried away with our built-in kitchens. There is something appealing about a kitchen design that just folds up when you don't need it, and doesn't take up a lot of space.
What do you think?