Cooking up kitchen comforts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 January, 2011, 12:00am

More homeowners these days prefer an open, modern kitchen. In the studio of Walter Kei Hiu-wah, a celebrity chef and interior design consultant, you will find the kitchen at the heart of his living and work space.

'More people are showing interest in the merging of space in home design. They don't want to go to the kitchen just to cook or to the living room just to watch TV,' he says. That means a more organic design, breaking down barriers and merging functions of spaces. The 'kitchen island' is a popular concept to help break the ice.

Kei's studio is a case in point. 'Imagine having friends over and you prepare tea and snacks while your friends hang around the kitchen island. They can lend a hand or sneak a bite. It is a fantastic ice-breaker,' he says.

At parties in the studio, he has kept a few curry dishes warm on the stove for guests to eat with bread. Guests can move around for food and drinks and mingle with others. Before long, everybody is relaxed and enjoying themselves.

Kei designed his 1,500 sqft studio and named it The Playground. He made the kitchen island a centrepiece, with stoves lining up on the sides and a home theatre at one end.

'It is not just a beautiful kitchen but one that contributes to the whole design,' Kei says. He adapted the colourful geometrical design of artist Piet Mondrian and turned it into black, white and grey in the kitchen island. Placed against the backdrop of a black dot on the wall, the rows of stoves and kitchenware by Valcucine and Miele complete his representation of the classic Chinese symbol of tai chi.

As laid-back as the kitchen island may seem, it is quite serious in terms of technology. For example, the freezer by Sub Zero from America uses Nasa's photocatalysis technology for sterilisation every 20 minutes. It eliminates odour, bacteria, viruses and ether, which can cause fruit and vegetables to rot. The Miele steam oven can cook food at a low temperature of 40 degrees Celsius.

Ken Fung, design director of APAC Interior DesignArchitecture, also believes an open kitchen can make a home warmer and cosier. 'The management of space can influence the homeowner's lifestyle. The living room, the dining room and the kitchen are equally important in home design,' he says.

An open or semi-open kitchen can brighten up the place and you can prepare food and enjoy a conversation at the same time. 'Besides, breaking down the walls can bring in more natural light, fresh air and a better view from the windows. It is healthier and saves energy.'

He stresses that an open kitchen or a kitchen island is not for everyone, even though most of his clients demand one. Fung also offers options such as sliding doors, frosted glass, Japanese Wagami paper or even cabinets as dividers to keep the kitchen partly closed. He also recommends keeping the kitchen intact and adding a simple bar in the living room.

How should one decide whether to go for a kitchen island or a traditional kitchen? It all depends on your personality and lifestyle, Fung says. 'The challenge of design is to break down barriers and make the best out of the space.'