''The kitchen is the new living room,'' says Gwyneth Paltrow's designer, according to a recent article about the actress' new $12.5 million home in Los Angeles.
While Paltrow - who has published a cookbook and regularly dishes out recipes on her website - has a bigger budget than most, her kitchen still looks convivial.
To begin with, it's not open plan. It's a separate room - spacious and casual with lovely windows framing the garden. The huge kitchen table in the middle is used for cooking and eating.
In a way, it has a lot in common with my mother's kitchen. Her kitchen is not as glamorous as Paltrow's, but it's still the hub of activity.
The table, which belonged to my grandmother, is at the centre of it. The jug is endlessly boiling, people come and go, vegetables are peeled and household matters attended to.
The kitchen table is almost a museum item these days. It has lost out to the island bench and open plan living. As much as I admire the way open plan kitchens ''communicate'' with the family room, I lament the loss of this trusty piece of furniture.
A kitchen table brings people together. It's also a comfortable place to do your own thing. There is nothing nicer than sitting in the heart of a kitchen, whether it's to have a cup of tea and read the paper or have a glass of wine and talk to the cook.
Many contemporary kitchens are too clinical and too sleek - full of white polyurethane and white reconstituted stone. And islands make me think of separation. They can look and feel a bit unapproachable.
But I know in many homes, especially apartments, the island provides much-needed storage and bench space.
So if you have one, humanise it. Treat this item of joinery as a piece of furniture by designing it to look free-standing.
I often use a solid timber or a timber veneer for warmth and texture and to differentiate it from the rest of the kitchen. Make it generous in width so you can eat there.
Top it with something special like zinc, Stone Italiana's Jaipur anis or marble. It is good for storing books and wine. I'm not talking about country style.
A kitchen can be contemporary and still be welcoming.
Try some open shelves for cookbooks, vases, bowls and plates. Use muted mid tones instead of white and handmade Moroccan mosaics for the splashback from Insite.
Make yours a kitchen that will be remembered with love.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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