I have been a month in Italy visiting my family and friends and suddenly I noticed something about the kitchen space that should have been very familiar to me, as I had seen it for most of my adult life living in Italy.
Kitchens in Italy are purely functional, no frills, no granite counters, no luxury, only essentials; they are used for cooking only and in some cases to eat in. Casual entertaining happens in the living room, dining with friends or co-workers happens in the dining room and only close friends get invited to sit in the kitchen. Yes, kitchens are the center of the home life as a concept and it is true that most family problems are resolved around the kitchen table and this does happen in Italy too, but Italian kitchens are not conceived as the space in the center of the home. They are located as far as possible from the living quarters enclosed with doors to keep the guests out, or to hide a kitchen not totally made up or clean yet, which by the way, it isn’t a very common scene to find in Italy. Italian kitchens are always spotless, even after an army of family has eaten there. The idea of the kitchen not being in the center of the house is also to keep cooking aromas, odors and vapors away from the rest of the house.
Laundry is often located in the kitchen or near by in the corridor, or on the balcony/terrace where it is easy to just turn around and hang the clothes to dry on the balcony line. It is easier to hang the clothes to dry in the sun and wind, other than being a natural process, as no chemical softener goes into the clothes and saves on electricity. I hang my clothes to dry in the sun even now living in California, where I could have the comfort of all the technology available, but I choose to stay as natural as possible in my house chores.
Taking a closer look at the function of the kitchen in a different country brings me to the observation I had. Due to the location of the kitchen, as I said far from the living quarters and not made in an open floor plan as it is done in America, it is very difficult to snack mindlessly. In Italy when people are finished with their evening meal, they move to a room dedicated to watch T.V., reading, or playing music usually not close to the kitchen.
In America the kitchen is conceived as a great room, where cooking, living, family activities and entertainment share the same space. Slouching down on the sofa to watch T.V. and snack on poor, processed or boxed food is so much easier because kitchen cabinets and refrigerator are looking smack at you and they are in a few steps of reach. Also it is easy to have a late snack before going to bed, just because the kitchen is located conveniently in the middle of the house, something that doesn’t even cross people’s mind in Italy. Once the evening meal is finished, all the eating activities are also completed.
Although I like the open floor plan, I don’t find it particularly warm or private. Often I go into people’s home and I can see a messy kitchen from the entry in plain open view. I must say that when I lived in Italy never paid attention to the functionality, because every kitchen was made with the same simple principal, but now as an interior designer and living in California, I do notice the difference and it would be really hard to propose something different that would bring an entire new concept of living, one of which would be to get rid of snacking, get rid of gracing all day long and late night snack. It might seem strange to hear that the farthest from reach the kitchen is, the easier it is to keep slim. Italian kitchens other than being very modern, also serve that purpose and I like that.
If you need help with planning your kitchen space, please do not hesitate to contact me, I am here to help. Ciao,
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. Valentina is also the author of two published books on Italian regional cuisine. Her books are available on her books’ website