Liv­ing

We meet there, we make there – a kitchen is one room in the house that’s al­ways on the boil

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - Neale Whi­taker is ed­i­tor-at-large of Vogue Liv­ing.

Neale Whi­taker on the joys of a but­ler’s pantry.

I “t’s a truth uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged that a sin­gle man in pos­ses­sion of a good for­tune, must be in want of a but­ler’s pantry.” Stu­dents of lit­er­a­ture and Net­flix will, of course, recog­nise those as words Jane Austen never wrote. But the fa­mous author and chron­i­cler of early 19th-cen­tury so­ci­ety might have been amused by our early 21st-cen­tury ob­ses­sion with kitchens.

Kitchens cer­tainly loom large in my life. My roles on two ren­o­va­tion-based tele­vi­sion shows en­sure that I’m ei­ther in­stalling kitchens or judg­ing them. And at home – like most of us – my life re­volves around the kitchen bench, whether I’m eat­ing, chat­ting, en­joy­ing a glass of wine, surf­ing the net or pay­ing bills.

An­other uni­ver­sal tru­ism is that kitchens sell houses. Real-es­tate ex­perts have been telling us that for years, but the goal­posts are con­stantly mov­ing. The kitchen that might have sold an apart­ment or house back in 2008 would barely cut it in 2018.

Take but­ler’s pantries. Just a few years ago they were con­sid­ered an en­vi­able lux­ury where space and bud­get per­mit­ted. Now they’re an es­sen­tial – and the ques­tion is not whether to in­clude a but­ler’s pantry, but how big it should be and which gad­gets it should house. Where once no more than con­ve­nient ex­tra stor­age, mod­ern but­ler’s pantries are be­com­ing the en­gine rooms, with the main, frontof-house kitchen kept free to ex­hibit highly de­sir­able (yet rarely used) ap­pli­ances, cab­i­netry and bench­tops.

As the ed­i­tor of in­te­rior-de­sign mag­a­zines – and long be­fore my TV days – I was aware of the alchemy of good kitchen de­sign. At one time, the room’s func­tion­al­ity was lim­ited to the “kitchen tri­an­gle”, the all-im­por­tant prox­im­ity of cook­top, fridge and sink.

The tri­an­gle has since mor­phed into some­thing more closely re­sem­bling an oc­tagon, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion our ap­petite for at least two sinks and twin dish­wash­ers; wall-mounted steam and combi ovens ( sous vide func­tion, please); in­duc­tion cook­tops and gas hobs; in­te­grated garbage bins; cof­fee mak­ers and ice dis­pensers; wine fridges; tep­pa­nyaki and ro­bata grills. And when an in­te­rior-de­signer friend de­scribed down­draft range­hoods as kitchen “nos­trils”, I laughed.

But nos­tril or not, the work top-in­te­grated down­draft sys­tem is a sine qua non in the con­tem­po­rary kitchen, along with con­trast cab­i­netry ( dix points for matte black), and free­stand­ing benches that are more con­ti­nent than is­land. Oh, and any de­vice that al­lows you to bark com­mands at it. That would once have been a but­ler, but to­day it’s Google.

“The ques­tion is not whether to in­clude a but­ler’s pantry, but how big it should be”

EAT­ING IN (clock­wise from top) Kitchens still sell houses and need to be more de­sign savvy than ever, such as this one with bronze sink and tap; “front-of-house” kitchens are kept min­i­mal; but­ler’s pantries have be­come the home’s main en­gine room, a...

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