Utopia    Guest Blog 19 Mar 2015

Creative Director of Development Direct Colin Wong tells all on how to find the right kitchen for you


Colin Wong, creative director, Development Direct asks are you an ‘eat to live’ or a ‘live to eat’ sort of person? Why? Because your kitchen needs to reflect this…

Colin Wong

Kitchens come in many forms, as do the clients that grace my Edinburgh studio bringing with them all manner of interesting requests (perhaps a blog for another day!). I like to draw comparisons between early meetings with clients and intensive speed dating sessions; both parties are working out if we can make design love together or perhaps the beginnings of another Colin Wong voodoo doll – and there are few of them out there!

Of course, I must respect the lifestyles of all my clients and whilst I may try to encourage good habits, it is very clear that clients fall into two distinct categories: ‘live to eat’ and ‘eat to live’.

Let’s start with my clients who live to eat. These clients are close to my heart; food is my love and I relate to this rationale. However, these clients can become focused on function alone and neglect the aesthetic form of their new kitchen. I’ve also found that many live-to-eaters are somewhat messy individuals with an inevitable collection of apparatus and ingredients, which can be problematic in today’s open-plan living spaces.

I like to compare them to mad scientists, blinkered by the magical concoction in front of them and oblivious to the voice of their understanding partner who, whilst loving their partner’s heavenly food, would like a little organisation and sanity in their new space.

Live to eat

Live to eat: In this kitchen by Development Direct there’s a perfect working triangle and an intermediate wall that allows a pantry, big sink and so on to hide all the mess. Also the sliding breakfast bar slides shut James Bond style to hide all the mess!

So, my key tips for these live to eat clients are based on the classic working triangle. There must be ample workspace beside key elements like the sink and hob but you must also make this working triangle a tight one to avoid the unnecessary spread of mayhem! Where an island is possible, consider split-level units (with lots of drawers), carefully planned to conceal the majority of the mess that can accumulate around the sink and hob areas. Also buy the largest, deepest sink around so you can dump the multitude of pans and accessories out of sight from others trying to enjoy ‘your’ space. Even better, introduce an intermediate wall that shields a large pantry and giant Belfast sink behind the main kitchen, relieving pressure and mess from your workstations. All in all, I am not trying to get you to be less messy but bringing a balance of form and function to enable others to also embrace and enjoy the space.

Eat to live

Eat to live: this kitchen by Development Direct is all about minimalism and how good this space looks. However, it’s not terribly practical but perfect for a reheater and socialiser!

It’s a little different with my eat-to-live clients as unfortunately many of these are serial ‘dingers’. They arrive home from work with ready-meal in hand, grab a fork to prod the plastic film and stuff it in the microwave. They then run upstairs to get out of their work gear and are prompted to rush back down as soon as the ‘ding’ of the microwave goes! Throughout my 18 years of kitchen design, this breed has remained alive and kicking and today shows no sign of extinction. So it is not a coincidence that these clients are often very focused on the aesthetic form of their new kitchen when they arrive at my studio. Function is far down the list of priorities. They strive for and demand aesthetically impressive kitchens that make them feel good when they come home from work.  There is nothing at all wrong with this and some of my most impressive and memorable kitchen designs have been for the eat-to-live contingent! Cooking is just a necessary evil for them and they inevitably have much less kitchen paraphernalia to clutter up the space.

Of recent years I have started to worry about the welfare of these clients. You develop a close bond with many clients and I realised that they are gaining very little nutrition from their microwaved daily meal. It is well documented that a microwave blitzing at 900watts or above will destroy 95% of nutrients in a bag of vitamin-rich spinach! Therefore whilst satisfying all their aesthetic requirements, I encourage them to reheat using other forms like steam combinations ovens. If they batch cook large pots of basic staples that can be easily frozen and then reheated in a steam combi, this wouldn’t alter their daily routine to any great affect. If batch cooking is a step too far then they can buy ‘fresh’ ready meals from small bespoke retailers which when heated in a steam combi would immediately improve their nutritional daily intake.

Your designer

The blend: This kitchen by Development Direct shows a good working triangle with drop dead good looks yet having the practicality of closing off the breakfast bar ends to conceal all the mess

Inevitably, it is the job of your kitchen designer not to simply sell you a kitchen but to understand your lifestyle and then try address the habits that you had grown accustomed to. Great kitchen design is about the balance between both form and function to improve health and mood. In my opinion, if your kitchen designer is arguing with you rather than just nodding to your every whim then that is a good sign. These are an uncommon breed; so your only pressure is to hunt down the right kitchen designer with this skill set to create the perfect kitchen balance for you.