I was at a friend’s home in Lekki for a potluck over the Easter period. She had a cute open kitchen cut out of the living area and I remember thinking to myself how nice and different the concept was for Nigeria. It got me thinking deeper as to if and how this concept is perceived in this country. So for the sake of argument I decided to consider the pros and cons of both kitchen concepts especially here in Lagos and perhaps in Nigeria as a whole.
The Open Kitchen:
- Space Efficiency and Reduced Cost:
The open kitchen concept definitely promotes the more efficient use of space as the kitchen forms part of the living area and is not provided for separately. In addition it provides a sense of volume to the living area especially in smaller apartment units. It also helps in reducing the cost of construction as less building materials are employed in walling off the kitchen separately.
- Family Interaction & Multitasking:
The open kitchen encourages more interaction with the family and even guests, not just at meal times but also during meal preparation. Wives are able to watch their favorite TV shows with their husbands while whipping up their signature meals. Mothers and fathers can also keep an eye on the little ones while they play in the living room as they cook in the kitchen. Multitasking just got easier?
- Natural Light:
The openness of the kitchen ensures that there is more natural light flowing through the home and the kitchen in turn. This makes the home warmer for residents and inviting for visitors. Gone are the days of images of the kitchen dungeon or prison where one slaves over a hot stove. Instead, light images of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or a bed and breakfast emerge.
The idea here is that if your kitchen is open and part of the living area which means that it is easier to be seen by visitors or guests, then it is more likely to be kept clean and tidy to avoid the embarrassment of a tardy and unkempt kitchen.
The Separate Kitchen:
This appears to be the single most important advantage of this concept. The kitchen is often seen as private and having the traditional notion of “the sacred territory of the woman of the house”. However in modern day Nigeria both men and women and even children appreciate the privacy the kitchen provides for intimate family settings. Kitchens such as these are equipped with mini dining facilities or simple counter tops and bar stools to allow for a more informal gathering. Let us not forget also that historically, the kitchen used to be a separate building well away from the main housing unit. All indications point to the fact that for the most part, the kitchen is still considered a private place in the home.
- Odour of Nigerian Foods:
I have personally witnessed my mother pretty much smoke up the entire home while making her favorite Onubu Stew. I have also smelt what some of our local fish and vegetable items are like even before they are transformed into delicious delicacies. Needless to say, one has to be creative in these matters.
The separate kitchen offers more safety from hazards such as fires, spillages and numerous potentially dangerous kitchen utensils by forming a wall away from the rest of the home. This will allow for control measures to take place before the fire spreads. Sometimes it is just better to have these separated from the living area for safety reasons especially in a country where you don’t have readily available emergency services.
- Cultural & Traditional Issues:
A large part of our culture and traditions regard the cooking and dining experience as very formal. Not only do Nigerians have separate kitchen areas but some homes take things a step further to provide separate dining areas. This room is reserved for formal celebrations such as engagement parties, baptism, naming ceremonies or for Eid celebrations. Many Nigerian families enjoy a proper Sunday lunch after church for Christians.
The above mentioned only begin to provide an exhaustive list of all things to be considered for both kitchen concepts and there will always be those who prefer one over the other. I think it is very interesting and refreshing the different design options available for various parts of the home. From all indications, this is far from the end of the debate and new ideas and concepts will continue to be formed daily.
Contributing Author: Timi Adesanya