February 22, 2020

Why would you want to be seen making sausage?

This co-op in the west 60s is attractive and, below $600,000, pretty well priced. But notice the kitchen’s placement next to the entrance and essentially in the living room.


Some time ago, perhaps years, I wrote that kitchen trends inevitably change.

We can walk into a property and immediately classify that room as a product of the 60s, 70s, 80s and so on. I predicted that the era of stainless steel and granite soon would end.

Apparently, I made the suggestion prematurely, though I am certain that, in time, I will be correct. You know, like a stopped clock.

I also believe that open kitchens will become a thing of the past.

As for as I know, they had their start when SoHo lofts became popular in the 70s among artistic types. In subsequent years, three other phenomena fueled the trend: 1. exotic, complex food preparations were embraced at home; 2. entertaining became more casual; and 3. chefs themselves opened up their kitchens in a chicken-and-egg process that transformed them into celebrities.

I’m here to say that open kitchens do not belong in every setting. Many pre-war apartments and 18th- or 19th-century townhouses do not gracefully accommodate them, especially smaller condos and co-ops. And it’s hard enough to concoct an admirable repast without also feeling compelled to maintain the pristine appearance of one’s kitchen. (Visit definition of “kitchen” to see what few consumers and even brokers know what to call different spaces.)

Why would the family who lives here want to diminish the appearance of expensive living room furniture with the sight of workaday appliances in the kitchen?


Although there is a spirit of conviviality that can spring from guests gathered around a kitchen island, how many of them might be repulsed were they to see sausage being made, gobs of butter added to a saute pan or a meatloaf kneaded by hand? Okay, some things are prepared in advance, but cooking for a crowd can be distracting when concentration is the key to a good meal.

Another problem with open kitchens is the areas to which they are open. Do you want guests to wander through or even by your kitchen immediately upon entering your home? Do you want them to be transfixed by your knife skills while trying to converse with other guests in your living room?

When kitchens were banished to the basements of townhouses and the back rooms of other higher-end properties decades ago, one reason was that cooks were to be neither seen nor heard. Another was the clatter, commotion and clean-up of a kitchen were considered impolite to impose on guests and family alike. Finally, the consumption of food was esteemed far more than the way it was cooked.

The trend of open kitchens has to fade, and eventually I’ll get it right–emphasis on “eventually.”


  1. Once again Malcolm, another well written, well thought out post. New York City is really its own beast however apartments vs houses are also a big shift in thinking. You really are an expert in NYC apartments. I learn things every time I read your posts. Thanks for sharing your knowledge man. It makes everyone think.

  2. The open floor plan is the latest housing fetish, and it will be as much of a period piece as the harvest gold appliances from the 1970’s at some point. The good news is that it doesn’t cost much to put up a wall.

    It does have a utilitarian use, however: with the kitchen open to the living room a husband and wife can multi task: she can yell at him as he prepares dinner.