The Unfitted Kitchen: Throw Back to a Simpler Time

10 years ago
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I love looking at photos of other people's kitchens and reading about how they renovated them. It is funny because I don't actually enjoy cooking, but still on any given night my entire family will be in the kitchen with me as I try to prepare dinner. It really is the heart of the home, as tired and worn out that cliche might be.

A new trend in kitchen design is actually a throw back to the way kitchens used to be. The Unfitted kitchen. In the unfitted kitchen you will not see walls of matching upper and lower cabinets or vast expanses of counter top. The unfitted kitchen uses separate individual pieces of furniture for storage, adding a more "homey" feel to the kitchen.

According to Delia Flores of Chicago Home and Garden:

An unfitted kitchen also generally includes a plate rack-the venerable European solution to drying dishes-as well as a rack for hanging pots and pans. A freestanding stove is also often incorporated, ideally an English Aga or other large multiburner and oven unit. The refrigerator, while likely housed in gorgeous cabinetry, doesn't necessarily sit flush against any other piece in these kitchens. The end result is a seductively homey space, not just a task-oriented scullery.

This article in the Telegraph ask, Has the Fitted Kitchen Had Its Day?

The layout of the modern kitchen dates back to when middle class housewives started having to run their own homes without the help of servants, says Professor Witold Rybczynski, author of Home: a Short History of an Idea. In those days, the domestic burden of the housewife was several times that of today - she had to do all the laundry by hand, clean without the help of modern appliances and detergents, and cook most meals from scratch including probably baking her own bread, plucking poultry and making soup by forcing cooked vegetables through a muslin rag rather than using a blender. "The built-in kitchen with its continuous worksurface was designed to lessen at least the cleaning jobs of the new housewife, and to make the number of steps between workbench, sink and cooker as small as possible," says Prof Rybczynski.

On the article, The Unfitted Kitchen :Why Bother? David Beer examines why the unfitted kitchen is making a comeback.

Now, current planning has opened up the kitchen to incorporate the social rooms again. New homes almost always have a breakfast/family room completely in view of the kitchen. The Great Room concept is simply a large social room with a kitchen in it. Walls between the kitchen and other rooms are being torn down in older homes in the effort to create multi-task, live-in kitchens. We have actually gone full circle, in a little over 100 years, by creating a modern version of a pre-electricity social/working kitchen.

I know from my own kitchen remodel experience that this is exactly what we have done. The kitchen was an isolated room, perfect if you wanted to be in there all alone and spend your days cooking not interacting with anyone. We knocked out one entire wall, replaced windows with modern ones so that we could change the floor plan and run cabinets underneath them.

We are using traditional cabinets on two of our walls so that we can have a long expanse of counter top. I dream about having the uninterrupted counter space. but we have also opted to make the cabinetry more furniture-like with large crown molding on the tops of the cabinets and feet on the lower cabinets. The island will be a large professional style butcherblock. For a third wall we are hoping to find an interesting hutch of some sort. I wanted to make a huge chalkboard wall, but the very thought of chalk dust and the messy writing on the wall was enough to send my anal retentive husband into cardiac arrest.

Here are some examples (all have photos so be sure and click the links if you are into kitchen porn) of people doing their own unfitted kitchens by injecting their personality: modern, country and eclectic. Proving that a one size fits all kitchen really doesn't. Don't be afraid to mix things up and add unique touches. To quote Martha, "It's a good thing."

Crazy Stable, a house and soul under sporadic repair in Flatbush, NY, writes about her kitchen:

Every freelancer has some particular reason for chancing life outside The Office. Having breakfast here, instead of at my desk in a fluouescent-lit cubicle, is one of mine.

She shows the before and after photos of her warm, inviting country kitchen. You can almost imagine yourself sitting at her kitchen table enjoying a cup of coffee.

Goddess of 4 also has an unfitted kitchen. Using vintage appliances, a vintage porcelain sink with attached drainboards, and hand painted cabinets makes her kitchen one of a kind.


Door Sixteen
chose freestanding IKEA cabinets initially as a temporary measure but then realized that they loved the look and was perfect for their crooked floors.


When she isn't busy blogging about her life at Notes from the Trenches, Chris is busy rescuing her house from a century of neglect and bad taste.