Kitchens from around the world
No two kitchens are the same. Even if you get a standard, off-the-shelf, Ikea style kitchen there will be items unique to you that make the kitchen your own. However, most kitchens in the UK will share similar attributes to each other in the way they are styled and what is considered the “Best approach” to design/manufacturing. Designers have to utilise what materials they have available to them and this means manufacturers have a big part to play in determining the style of a kitchen, based on what is available in the country. If you watch a TV programme you can get an idea of the country it is set in by the style of kitchen, you may not know what attributes make it specific to that country but you can usually tell whether it is in your own country or not. In the images below from a quick glance you can deduce the first is typically American and the one below is more traditionally British – but why?
Blum, a components manufacturer, for example, has warehouses in both Europe and America which produce different items based on the cultural and style differences. Face fix hinges are a big part of American kitchen design and therefore are readily available in the USA. Though we are able to acquire them in the UK, because it can sometimes be difficult or take time to receive, designers tend to stick with what is the norm for the country they are in.
In terms of culture and style, North America follows the “Big is better” approach. They use this model with cars, roads, buildings and of course in the kitchen. There is more land available in the US than there is in the UK and other European countries meaning bigger houses. Bigger houses inevitably have bigger kitchens which is why you will see many American homes having islands, two door fridge/freezers and an abundance or worktop surfaces. The Americanisation era in the UK is still in full flow however, with an increase in US style restaurants, coffee houses and retail stores. This has also crossed over to kitchens with an increase in coffee machines, two door fridges and islands over the past decade. Even food seems to come in larger packages meaning more storage is necessary in America, with many having a separate chest freezer.
In terms of design, handleless doors are nowhere near as popular in the US and designs tend to stick to white or wood with stainless steel being a popular choice for appliances. Speaking of appliances in the UK, you tend to find the washing machine in the kitchen whereas in the US you will nearly always find it in either the basement or a separate laundry room, along with a tumble dryer which isn’t as popular in Europe. Interestingly, in the US, induction hobs are a novelty and you may well see the hob in a separate location to the oven which could be embedded into the cabinets.
If we look at Asian culture, Japanese kitchens tend to be very wood heavy and use a minimalist approach to kitchen design, sometimes focusing on a single “Island style” platform which holds all the essentials needed. Emphasis is placed less on the oven as typically Japanese culture dictates a greater use of the hob for frying/boiling foods. Efficiency is also important with organisation of pots/pans, cleaning supplies, food/oils and dishes/plates to a very high standard with eco-friendly products selling really well. You will also find many Japanese families eating meals on their knees on pillows round a small table.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding Chinese cuisine but it is still one of the ‘go to’ food options in Britain, even CNN voted it the 2nd best country for food in the world (behind Italy of course)*. Similarly to the Japanese, Chinese kitchens tend to focus around the wok. Kitchens are more compact and tend to be more basic, as cities like Shanghai are more crowded and rural communities less developed.
In South America, especially places like Brazil, cookers may be hooked up to an external gas canister as opposed to being connected to a main gas line. Using a cooking pot over a wooden fire is also another popular method, as Rio in particular is famous for their stews, though rice and beans is probably the most common meal. In other less developed countries, kitchens are more of the makeshift variety and may double as accommodation. In India they tend to use a lot of wide metal pans and spread out all over the floor mixing and preparing a selection of spices and ingredients.
Influences from around the world can be seen in every UK kitchen but UK country style kitchens are quite distinctive and easy to recognise with overhanging pans on beams, sculpted wooden doors and large Aga style ovens. Though we are becoming heavily influenced by our European counterparts which manufacture a lot of the materials and internals of the kitchens, we still tend to opt for the quintessentially English look.
* Li, Zoe. (2013). Which country has the best food?. Available: http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/eat/worlds-best-food-cultures-453528/. Last accessed 19/04/16.