Open-Kitchens are a Stupid Idea, Can Developers Abandon Them Pronto!

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Kenya has the least imaginative architects. If you have ever gone house hunting in Nairobi, you have probably encountered some really disgusting designs that only serve to milk the desperation of house seekers. I know kids in kindergarten who can do a good job.

One of the biggest horrors of adult life in Kenya is house hunting. You can never get a house that ticks all the boxes, the way you want them. Some stupid person may argue that ‘well, build your own house and customize it to the way you want’ and such stupid people are the reason so much mediocrity pervades the housing sector.

Certainly, there are some high-end apartments that have been built to international standards, but not many of us can afford them. I am talking about us, the middling guys. Those of us who search for houses in Umoja, in Donholm, Imara Daima, Embakasi, Utawala, Syokimau, Athi River et cetera.

Granted in recent times, there have been improvements, there is always something amiss. It could be the terrible toilets. It could be the size of the rooms. The most annoying thing for me are those who never factor in natural light for the sitting room. Dark and dank sitting rooms are responsible up to 69 percent mood swings of Nairobians. Because artificial light during the day, can drive you nuts.

Part of the problem of course is that much of the development in Nairobi is uncontrolled. No sooner you build your beautiful maisonette than your neighbour decides that a flat may be the most financially rewarding way of utilizing his flat. That is what happened to many homeowners in Kitengela, Syokimau, and Utawala.

But why are apartments so spectacularly ugly? Does it mean there are no developers who can reimagine spaces and do a better job? We mostly copy styles from abroad, since as Africans, we never had to imagine people living in crumpled spaces. But why is our copying so ugly?

It is awkward, if you had guests and maybe they want to smoke, and had to go wade past the kitchen, brushing the ass of your missus or house help, to get to the balcony. That is common sense.

A few years ago, Kenyan architects discovered the idea of open kitchens. It is a fancy thing and nearly all women I know always get excited when they hear about it, but have you actually visited a house with an open kitchen?

Unless, it is really a huge living room, where the kitchen is far apart from the sitting area, open kitchens make no sense. To me, it is a creative way, for developers to cut costs while trying to look fancy.

I have visited apartments where I was told, this is a one-bedroom, only to find out that it is actually a bed-sitter, just some silly wall separating the rooms. There is a tiny sink in the sitting room, that is supposed to work as a kitchen. And then you wonder is the house for some 19-year-old college girl, or it is supposed to be occupied by an adult.

Last month, I moved around inspecting various houses and then I ran into these apartments in the outskirts of Nairobi that failed an amazingly simple test. Most of them had an open kitchen, next to the balcony, and sitting room deeper into the house such that there is no natural light sipping well to the sitting room. A creative solution would have been, having a kitchen in an independent room facing the interiors of the apartment, and the living room facing the exterior part of the apartment, and next to the balcony.

It is awkward, if you had guests and maybe they want to smoke, and had to go wade past the kitchen, brushing the ass of your missus or house help, to get to the balcony. That is common sense.

Even worse for the open kitchen, is that what if you marry a coastal woman who likes using tear-inducing spices when cooking? The living room will become inhabitable, and ever realized onions only smell good when being cooked and eaten, but not when their aroma lingers in the house, attaching itself to clothes and all? Since most sitting rooms are tiny, do you know how torturous it is to sit in the living room as the onions and tomatoes sizzle, as you wait for your supper?

I also think that cooking needs some bit of privacy. Being watched as you wipe your brow, maybe pick your nose, and carry on cutting the tomatoes can be an extremely uncomfortable experience.

I have lived in America, the country that gave us the concept of open kitchens. Firstly, save for New York’s apartments that can be tiny (still large enough to accommodate a kitchen on the far corner), most houses are actually large enough to accommodate the kitchen. Besides, most Americans rarely cook at home, and when they cook, they cook enough to last week. So the kitchen merely is to warm the food, nothing much like the cooking we do here on a daily basis.

I know there are some characters who don’t value natural light or won’t raise hell about these design flaws, but they are also the sullen, annoyed guys that are easily provoked.

So, if you are an architect, reading this, let’s do it the traditional way. Let the kitchen be in its own room to afford whoever is cooking their privacy, and when designing a house, the bedroom(at least the master’s) and the sitting room should have access to all the natural light in the course of the day. Period.

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Mercy Ogato
Mercy Ogato
2 years ago

You’re right…i don’t fancy Open kitchens anymore unless it’s in a big,by big I mean hugs house.

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