Kitchens: the heart of the home, once again

Look back to the cookery shows of the late 1990s and early 2000s and you can see exactly where our kitchen inspiration came from - the anodyne, sleek, chrome-clad kitchens of professional chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal.

All of a sudden the warm, cosy kitchens of our parents, the kind of kitchen which Grand Dame of home cookery Delia Smith would have prepared a roast chicken dinner in - wooden cabinets, tiled floors and floral curtains - were out.

Instead, we were pouring concrete, installing stainless steel ranges and finding new and ingenious ways to open cupboards without using anything as unsightly as handles.

The home kitchen became as close to the galley of a top London restaurant's backroom as it was possible to get: a functional space in which to create corden-bleu spagbol and show off our collection of vintage Burgundies in the sleek built-in wine rack.

But unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few years you can't have failed to notice a change. Yes, many of us are still looking to Poggenpohl and Tecnocucina for sleek lines and white, white, white, but even more are putting the heart back in to the kitchen.

It's been happening for a while. Cath Kidston and Emma Bridgewater have been tempting us with spotty egg cups and cutesy 1950s inspired cutlery; Nigella Lawson has been extolling the virtues of her Kitchen Aid mixer as she licks yet another mixing bowl clean; and Nigel Slater has made the move from print to television, picking ingredients from his allotment garden to make cosy suppers in his homely TV kitchen - which might have the limited colour palette of the 1990s cookery show kitchen but which exudes welcoming warmth with bare wood and earth tones.

It's a fair bet to make that even Heston Blumenthal might have been swayed to adding a little splash of colour back at his home where nobody can see it.

Once again an Aga is the top of the kitchen wishlist. In every colour going it's almost a shame not to buy one in bright red or retro yellow - even Ms Bridgewater has designed one in her trademark country kitchen-esque primary colour spot.

A cast iron range is undoubtedly the central feature in any family kitchen worth its salt, but if you can't afford one (and they are ludicrously expensive) adding heartfelt character to your kitchen is simple.

Patterns such as spots, stripes, hearts and stars are cute and colourful whether on crockery, cutlery or just your tea towels. Attaching a devil-may-care attitude to tidiness is a must too, within reason ... open shelving filled with colourful bits and bobs, pretty bottles, cookbooks and retro finds look great while hanging your utensils above the stove or even pans from a ceiling rack has an olde worlde vibe and makes everything easy to find.

There are endless ways to bring your kitchen into the 2010s - but the most important thing is to make it a living space once again.


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