“…it seems the truest words I ever heard from you
were said at kitchen tables we have known
’cause somehow, in that warm room, with coffee on the stove
our hearts were really most at home.”
-Kate Wolf “The Trumpet Vine”

TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURAL WISDOM TEACHES US that the heart of an Arts and Crafts home is the warm, inviting hearth, and bungalows were originally designed with exactly that idea in mind. The rustic inglenook was intended to be the center of home life, where one could relax and enjoy cordial conversation or escape with a good book. All activities of lesser importance would radiate out from there like the heat from the fire itself.

Those who actually live in bungalows— or almost any kind of house for that matter—know that the real center of living is not the fireplace, but the kitchen. That fact was driven home for me when I started making plans to move into American Bungalow’s former office, Twycross House, the 1914 airplane bungalow that inspired the magazine, and I found myself inexplicably resisting the move. Surprisingly, great as the house is, I discovered I don’t really want to live there, in part because of the kitchen.

Now, Gustav Stickley would have had no problem at all with the Twycross kitchen. It is clean and space-efficient —spartan, really. It’s mostly original, too, with tin-lined drawer bins and a California cooler that still works. It’s a fine place to prepare food for the table in the formal dining room or snacks for an editorial staff—but it was never designed as a place to hang out. There’s no place to sit, and the vision of myself dawdling over breakfast at the table in that big dining room, in full view of passersby, is embarrassing.

No, my bungalow childhood and pleasant memories of time spent in old European farmhouses make me demand more of a kitchen. With a few notable exceptions, it’s where all the good things happen, so it should be a relaxing place to spend lots of time even when no impressive feast is being prepared. Seating should be out of the way, in a corner or built-in nook, but still clearly part of the kitchen itself, where the communal domestic routines of cooking, eating and visiting can coexist easily and naturally. A small window over the table can look out onto the private garden at the side or back of the house where there is no possibility of eye contact with pedestrians, trash collectors or people who don’t want to see you with your morning hair.

For me, a kitchen is a place of the morning, and if I could I would turn my entire house around so that the first light of day pours into the room at low, defining angles, lifting dawn’s darkness with a wedge of warm, cheerful light. Unfortunately, the Twycross kitchen faces north, so if I were to live there I’d have to content myself with a panoramic view of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains, brightening in the light I want for myself—not all that bad a prospect, but just not right.

With kitchens, as with the houses in which they are found, one size doesn’t fit all. Different owners want different size kitchens, and the same is true for style. Maybe that’s why the first room a new owner remodels is usually the kitchen or bath. Both are such intensely personal spaces. For the last 16 years I’ve witnessed or read about the transformation of countless kitchens to meet the needs and wants of new owners. Now I seem to be teetering on the edge of the frying pan, myself.

Looking forward to hearing from you,





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