Ideas

Mus­ings on a Kitchen Island

Through the Plug-hole

January 2016


The kitchen island rep­re­sents on the one hand a great love for cook­ing, gath­er­ing and eat­ing. In the pri­vate envi­ron­ment its per­fec­tion lends some cachet to the home and there­fore its own­ers, per­haps, a sense of con­trol. How­ev­er, on the oth­er hand the pris­tine clean­li­ness of the island rais­es ques­tions about its main­te­nance and the space it occupies.

It takes a good amount of clean­ing and tidy­ing up to keep up appear­ances. The big­ger the island, the more there is to become dirty, but also the more space it occu­pies; as much as a medi­um to large sized room. Where­as this amount of stor­age space makes it eas­i­er to keep the mod­ern inte­ri­or clean and clut­ter-less, the island itself becomes pop­u­lat­ed with the clut­ter that is now out of sight. Does the island become a Pandora’s Box con­tain­ing harm­ful clut­ter and unwant­ed imper­fec­tions? Or can it be used in a more con­struc­tive manner?

The Kitchen Island and its pres­ence in the mid­dle of a room is per­haps to the 21st cen­tu­ry what the four poster bed must have been to the 17th cen­tu­ry. Both define through their pres­ence the sur­round­ing space in the room and both rep­re­sent a mix­ture of sta­tus, a need to dis­play and a prac­ti­cal use. The largest dif­fer­ence between the two is that the kitchen island is used for its exte­ri­or and the four poster bed was used for its interior. 

The writer Wal­ter Ben­jamin crit­i­cized the bour­geois indi­vid­ual in Berlin and Paris, at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry. This bour­geois indi­vid­ual could only relax and be con­tent, be him­self, in his own inte­ri­or among his beloved objects in which he saw him-self reflected.

Cush­ioned by his objects, and there­fore pro­tect­ed from the real world out­side his room he was, ef- fec­tive­ly, shut­ting it out. The inte­ri­or and all its nos­tal­gic objects were seen, by Ben­jamin, to keep the bour­geois indi­vid­ual cap­tive among his pos­ses­sions, pre­vent­ing him from engag­ing with the real world and its peo­ple with its prob­lems and chal­lenges. The 21st cen­tu­ry bour­geois indi­vid­ual, now per­haps part of the mid­dle class­es, inhab­its a pris­tine and clut­ter-less inte­ri­or that reflects the per­fec­tion of the life of its own­ers. Again the indi­vid­ual escapes from an engage­ment with the real world and the prob­lems fac­ing the earth and soci­ety ‑even though these enter his world on a con­tin­u­ous basis through hand­held de- vices- hid­ing all clut­ter and waste inside a kitchen island. In fact, the kitchen island grows at the expense of the world out­side it and becomes a sym­bol of out­wards per­fec­tion only.