Kitchen Design Ideas: An Interview With Johnny Grey
Find out about the latest trends in kitchen designfrom soft geometry to the sociable kitchen in this interview with a designer great.
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Johnny Grey is one of the most unique and influential kitchen designers in the world. He has been heralded as both "The World’s Best Kitchen Designer" by Metropolitan Home magazine and "The Kitchen Designer’s Designer" by the British publication Earlier this year I gave a talk in Winchester, England, at a conference titled "Space, Architecture and the Brain." I attempt to apply the ideas from conferences such as this to increase the sense of wellbeing in the home. We term this type of design "Active Living Spaces."
Inspired by his aunt, the late cookery writer Elizabeth David, he sees the kitchen as much more than a room in which to prepare meals; it represents the sociable heart of the modern home and is the inspiration for his books and original ideas about homes of the future.
What changes in kitchen design have you seen over the past decade?
Our latest progression in kitchen design incorporates brain research, which is revealing how — in emotional terms — we work. We look at how the brain is affected by space, by all the various "hard-wired" needs of humans.
How would this new type of design, Active Living Spaces, relate to kitchen design?
First, you realize that the kitchen is not really a room, but rather a zone within a large living space. It’s gone much further than when we were talking about "The Sociable Kitchen" 10 years ago. Now we incorporate new technologies, such as Pet Scans, to look at the architecture of the brain as it relates to kitchen design.
I have been working with this concept of the kitchen melding itself right into the fabric of everyday life within the home. For example, I now try to incorporate a standing or buffet bar area, or what I call a food bar, in kitchens for dining. As with my family, many people stand while they eat today, and people have changed the way in which they eat, particularly at lunch times. It’s almost like serving ourselves.
This is what I think is the biggest change in central island design: We’ve taken this desire of people to eat as they choose, while standing; right into the home’s kitchen design. Therefore we serve a small variety of food that each person enjoys and, instead of losing the comfort of dining formally in a dining room or more casually at, say, a dinette table, we still keep the family together for eating. However, today, people often eat while standing. It works quite well, actually. I think the most important thing is to eat together, not necessarily to be seated at a table.
In what other ways is the concept of The Sociable Kitchen expanding?
Kitchen design now embraces air circulation, natural lighting and cabinetry, rather like the arts and crafts movement did. Also kitchen design is merging much more with the outside. People now see the garden as a part of the kitchen. I often advise clients to have a small garden within the kitchen itself, or in the area immediately outside the kitchen.
How important is social interaction in the kitchen?
What is very clear to me is that when you are prepping or cooking you should face into the room. Any kitchen that does not have that is, in my opinion, disobeying the core laws of human emotional needs.
A lot of our work now is about sight lines, about getting people, through kitchen design, to face each other in the room. Not so much the washing up, because that, in a way, you want a little wall space to put dishwashers and cupboards.
However the cooking part of the process should be done facing into the room. I always try to do that, to start when designing a kitchen, from the spatial point of view. So, start with the space and don’t think about the cabinets until you have some of the basic ideas right.
The next most important thing I feel is access to gardens, some way if possible, or to access the outside. This can be done via a door, window or balcony for both view and natural light. Then you come back to make the cabinetry work around these several key elements of the space.
Earlier this year I gave a talk in Winchester, England, at a conference titled "Space, Architecture and the Brain." I attempt to apply the ideas from conferences such as this to increase the sense of wellbeing in the home. We term this type of design "Active Living Spaces."
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