FOCUS | Multigenerational living

Fewer cabinets, more items out on display and a long, thin island that allows several people to carry out different tasks

storage, such as in a walk-in pantry. “Distributed surfaces or tables also form a key part of my vision for the future multigenerational kitchen.” Acknowledging that designers in the UK are going to have to work with small spaces a lot of the time, Grey suggests: “The core way that I manage to design sociability into small spaces is through a circular peninsula.

Eye contact

A tall presentation area allows food freshly prepared by the cook to be showcased prior to the meal starting

of Newcastle.

Grey reveals how they concluded that designing a 4G kitchen was partly about “unbundling prejudice about ageing and disability” but also discovering “how we can facilitate four or five people being able to be in the same space and use it effectively”. One of his main discoveries during the course of that project was: “Having a long, thin central island is absolutely crucial to accommodating multiple different uses, as well as having work surfaces that can rise and fall for a variety of different activities. They should be different shapes and sizes. And so there is a whole table that rises and falls and the shelf in the front offers something like a breakfast bar, or a bar that you can lean against for a drink, and even add swing-out side stools.”


Grey also likes the idea of including a Quooker tap, “because a Quooker tap is a permanent invitation to make a cup of tea or coffee and it is a great welcoming opportunity for getting people to come into the kitchen and hang around”.

If we are to make better multigene- rational kitchens, what top tips can Grey offers designers? Grey advises:“It’s very simple. We need more space. Space for two or three people to enjoy doing different things at the same time without running into each other. If you’re working from home, you can’t be doing it on a central island, where you are right next to somebody that’s cooking. “Using less cabinetry is a way of creating a sense of more space, corners left free and also separate

“This is a way of getting eye contact as much as you can. Often you can’t get it fully, but you can get it partially, so that people who are preparing and cooking face into the room. Approximate sizes I look at are between 1m and 1.2m and the bigger dimension gives you the opportunity for having a raised-height shelf.” But if you have a bigger space to work with, Grey suggests a long, thin central island. He adds: “This is an extremely good way of inviting four or five people to use the kitchen, often in different ways. Having a narrow dimension isn’t necessarily a problem, particularly if you’ve got a laptop. If you are preparing food, you don’t need to have the depth that a lot of big, square and rectangular islands have. I just don’t think they are necessary. You can make the space work for you

better by having it long and thin.” As part of a research programme Grey has been carrying out over the past three years, he has worked with the Royal Society for the Arts in London on a student design challenge, centred around social eating and its effects on mental health.

A thousand students from around the world took part. Findings include: • The offer of food or a spot for dishes that have just been made, which celebrates the cook;

• Provide displays for all types of things in the kitchen. There is nothing wrong with having things out; Grey adds: “I am slightly anti this whole experience of trying to minimise or de-clutter kitchens. I don’t mean that they need to be over-cluttered, but there is pleasure in seeing the things we surround ourselves with.” • And finally, the other social aspect that is so badly missing is perching places. We need to find a way of inviting people to feel comfortable in their kitchens. Grey says perching places can be provided by swing-out stools, and are important because we want people to spend more time there. Reflecting on their social functio-

nality, Grey concludes: “Kitchens need to be more like a pub and less like an operating theatre.”

Johnny Grey’s top 4G design tips – swing-out stools

• A long, thin central island

• [For small spaces] A circular peninsula

• Work surfaces that rise and fall

• Perching places

• Fewer cabinets • Leave corners free • Walk-in pantry for storage

• Distributed surfaces or tables

· August 2021

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