You may not know it, but you have been sucked into a cult. The lure of stainless steel appliances, marble countertops, island bar seating, and built-in espresso machines has pulled you into The Cult of the Kitchen. Interior design shows and magazines convinced us that we all need a professional range when most of us just need a microwave and a wine fridge. Are you using your espresso machine every morning, or are you grabbing a latte to go from your local coffee shop? Be honest! The truth is that you probably don’t need a $100,000+ open-concept kitchen renovation that takes up one-third of your home’s square footage. In fact, many urbanites don’t really need a kitchen at all. My team of Austin interior designers and I are here to save you from the tyranny of the kitchen cult and show you what life can look like when you’re free from the budget-sucking, marble-clad, dusty kitchen showpiece. Imagine what it would be like to allocate your home renovation budget to the spaces that matter, like a cozy living room or a refined lounge. The role of the kitchen should be function-first. So get ready for your intervention because I’m laying out the six benefits of smaller kitchen floor plans. After all, why do you need a kitchen when there’s takeout?
“The only thing I’ve ever successfully made in the kitchen is a mess…and several little fires.” — Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
The History of Living Kitchen-free
Up until recent history, the home kitchen had been banished to outbuildings or not included in home design at all. In Medieval Italian cities, most residents relied on fast food and takeout. Italy’s rich history of street food literally dates back centuries! Medieval city dwellers lived in cramped quarters and had limited access to fire and ovens. Without a home kitchen, people went into the community to dine, similar to how many urbanites live today.
In New York City apartments, kitchens were not even a concern until the Tenement Act of 1901 created set regulations regarding ventilation and plumbing. Many apartments continued to go kitchenless through the 1950s, and even today, kitchens in New York are a secondary feature. Bodegas, restaurants, and street food rule the city. Medieval Romans and 20-something Manhattanites aren’t much different. Their apartment kitchens have nothing but leftover pizza in the fridge.
She keeps her telephone in the suitcase and her shoes in the refrigerator. — Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Testament to the Tyranny of the Kitchen: “Who Needs a Kitchen When You Live in New York?”
For city dwellers with limited space and a playground of restaurants, large apartment kitchens can be more of a hindrance than a benefit. One of our friends, a fashion editor in New York City, uses her oven as a shoe closet. “I need more closet space, not more kitchen space. As if I’m going to cook a Thanksgiving turkey in my 600 square foot loft! My oven and kitchen cabinets are reserved for my ever-expanding shoe collection,” she explains.
Why Are We Building Two Kitchens When Most of Us Don’t Even Need One?
There is a current trend of adding a secondary “dirty kitchen” to home floor plans. In other words, homeowners are expected to invest thousands of dollars in a beautiful open-concept kitchen showpiece and then build another hidden kitchen behind it where the actual cooking happens. The main kitchen is never touched, and the marble island becomes a $25,000 serving tray for guests. The kitchen has become an artificially inflated room of status when it’s actually a room for work (or takeout storage). Why are we building two kitchens when most of us don’t even use one? Since when did the kitchen become a “mess-free” still life? The Cult of the Kitchen has gone too far. It’s time to rein in the kitchen and cut it down to size.
“When it gets hot like this, you know what I do? I keep my undies in the icebox!” — Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch
Testament to the Tyranny of the Kitchen: “I Never Took the Protective Film Off My Oven.”
I went over to my friend’s home in Austin a few weeks back for a girl’s night. She renovated her kitchen over a year ago. When I went to reheat some prepared food in her oven, I saw that she still had the protective film on the glass. “I spent so much on this kitchen, and I just wanted to keep it nice! I never cook anyway,” she explained. The Cult of the Kitchen has a firm grasp on our renovation purse strings.
6 Benefits of Smaller Kitchen Floor Plans
1. Balanced Budget Allocation
If you don’t like to cook, don’t invest your entire renovation budget into your kitchen. Smaller and closed-concept kitchen floor plans allow homeowners to allocate their budgets to the spaces that they will actually enjoy. Outfit the kitchen with practical finishes and put marble around your living room fireplace instead of your counters.
2. Increased Function
Small galley kitchens are the most functional kitchen floor plan available. Why do you think they put them on ships? Stop running circles around an island and shuffling past dozens of appliances you don’t use. Small kitchen floor plans are more functional and can cut your cooking time in half.
3. Maximized Design for Your Lifestyle
Before designing a kitchen, think about your space, your location, and your lifestyle. Why spend all of your budget on a kitchen in your vacation home or city loft when you prefer to go out to eat? If you love to cook, go big. If you love to dine in restaurants, go small. Your home design should be dictated by you, not the kitchen cult leaders.
4. Opportunity for Better Entertaining
People say they love to entertain in their kitchen, but do people really enjoy hunching over a countertop watching someone else reheat a meal from the freezer aisle? Informal affairs in the kitchen are fine, but real gatherings happen in the home’s more intimate and cozy spaces. Instead of overspending in the kitchen, create a relaxing living room retreat and hire a caterer to serve you and your friends. Sorry, but no one wants to watch your pseudo cooking show.
5. Easier to Clean
Smaller kitchens are easier to clean. That should be enough incentive for anyone! Stop spending hours maintaining a room that doesn’t even like you. Close the door to the galley kitchen and get back to the party in the living room.
6. Less Food Waste
Smaller kitchens have less storage, which means you will buy less on each grocery store trip, which means you will throw less food away. Smaller kitchen floor plans have the power to keep our spending in line, which means we can invest in the more important things (like a pint of ice cream for the freezer).
It’s Time to Break Free from The Cult of the Kitchen
While we are not eliminating the home kitchen completely, I think we can all agree that it is time to break free from The Cult of the Kitchen. While massive kitchens decked out with video-enabled refrigerators and expensive marble islands will continue to grace the pages of glossy magazines, we need to find the power to resist. Cancel the kitchen performance. Your home design should be centered around you, not around creating a kitchen showpiece. Think about how you live, cook, and entertain. What rooms in your home really matter to you? What does life look like when you cancel your 24/7 cooking show?
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.