Kitchens making a comeback

Pandemic upends kitchen and cooking trends

Once touted as the “heart of the home”, the humble kitchen has undergone a transformation in recent years.

Open-plan living repurposed the kitchen as a family space and some homeowners ditched full stovetops, ovens and fridges for space-saving kitchenettes – Ikea Australia even predicted the kitchen would disappear from homes completely.

Now COVID-19 has given Australians a new appreciation for a well-stocked kitchen.

University of NSW Built Environment interior architect Dr Sing D’Arcy said pandemic has led to a resurgence in importance of domestic cooking spaces.

“When we look at the pressures from developers and (lifestyle) changes, these things point towards our home spaces getting smaller,” Dr D’Arcy said.

“With COVID-19 and lockdowns … it has completely changed things.

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“All of a sudden we’re in a situation where a basic necessity such as preparing food can really only be accommodated in the home.”

Dr D’Arcy said the trend for smaller kitchens had been primarily driven by property developers.

“It’s often seen the smaller the kitchen, the more money the developer can make because they’re costly to put in and they take away space from what could be living space … or another apartment that could be sold,” he said.

“Now what we see in places like inner-city Melbourne, where there isn’t a minimum size apartment, is a lot of tiny apartments, in some cases without light, nestled in the middle of the city.”

Despite the de-prioritisation of the kitchen, Dr D’Arcy said resurgence of activities like home baking during the pandemic had given renewed value to the kitchen as an in-home space.

“These activities that people are doing during lockdown like baking, you can’t do if you don’t have the room,” he said. 

“Maybe we do want – and need – a discreet and separate kitchen, for our sanity and our mental health … we just needed reminding.”

Dr D’Arcy said the need for a separate cooking area increased as more people settled into working from home long-term.

“We now find that you can’t actually have a meeting when someone is trying to prepare a meal, for example,” he said. 

“We might need to start putting the walls back up.”

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