Building Design magazine ran a story recently about a new development in Roehampton (South West London) by Assael architects for some flats.  I phoned Wandsworth council to try and find out more and this is what I discovered.

Type in the planning reference 2009/4199

Land at Highcliffe Drive, Clarence Lane SW15

No single aspect flats that I could see from a cursory glance but no kitchens either.  The kitchen seems to be a vanishing room in modern developments and in this development appears only as a corner unit in the living rooms. No view from the sink, no isolation of smells from the living room.  Too bad if you’re boiling cabbage or cooking curry.

I’d like to say that I don’t understand why modern developments have done away with separate kitchens but the sadness is that I do understand and I don’t like it.  If you look back at the history of housing from year dot through to the present there was no doubt a time when families shared a kitchen as in tenement blocks, or all lived in one room where the range provided the warmth, and variations on that theme.

There were reasons why the kitchen became a separate room, not least the steam, condensation and smells resulting from cooking that would otherwise spread throughout the house.  This has never been a hard and fast rule of course.  In the 1960s, within my own experience “open plan living” was one such idea that embraced the idea of tearing down the walls, and no doubt where there is well ventilated and ample living space this is a workable idea.

Within my own experience at Aragon Tower I have seen a kitchen given a sliding partition wall (the dotted line between LR and K above) which offered the choice between open and closed but at least one had the choice.  It worked very well.  There was a conventional door into the kitchen on one side such that when both were closed the kitchen was an enclosed space, as it should be when cooking.

Image above taken from

Looking at these proposed flats from the plans though one doesn’t get the idea that these are large airy open plan spaces but rather a modest living room with a couple of kitchen units stuck in the corner.  All the steam and smells from cooking will be in the living room, not to mention the mess when a pan or container is knocked over.  The floor surfaces often used in living rooms, i.e. carpet, are not conducive to easy cleaning or hygiene, and the linoleum floor that one would put in a kitchen is not everybodys’ taste for a living room.

Again, this time at Wivenhoe near Colchester in Essex.  Taylor Wimpey, they of Academy Central and the North facing single aspect flats, have done away with a separate kitchen in this flat; part of a development at the former Cook’s Shipyard.  Credit where credit’s due.  At least the person at the sink has a view out of the window.  So many of these blessed things are internal.

I won’t go on, but to me this is one more example of the poor design element to add to the growing list of reasons not to buy a modern flat.  Space standards, poor outlooks with single aspect dwellings, internal bathrooms and kitchens and now no separate kitchen.

This is not progress.


It’s not just me either.  Reading through Inside Housing I came across this article:-

and these comments which accord very closely to my own instinctive reaction to some of the plans outlined above.

Stephanie Al-Wahid | 11/08/2009 11:32 am

The majority of new build flats that are considered ‘affordable’ have one space allocated to kitchen, living and dining. This space is by no means generous open plan as depicted in Ideal Home etc but a totally inadequate space for normal living. To be able to cook, eat and relax or allow a small child to play in such a space is fraught at the best of times and hell to live in for anyone who is not a passionate housekeeper constantly washing up and tidying away . . .

. . . These totally unsuitable homes are usually single aspect arranged around a single long corridor with no windows with just enough space for two anorexics to pass each other, heaven help you if you are in a wheelchair or pushing a buggy or using a Zimmer frame . . .

and again.

regenerator | 12/08/2009 8:14 pm

We should not be surprised by the CABE findings. Minimum standards have become the norm, with developers and their architects finding ways of pushing the minimum accommodation in to the minimum space.
Look on the Planning Portal and see the designs that are still be submitted for planning. Bathroom doors that open outwards as there is no space inside. Doors in halls at an angle so that there is minimum hall space and my pet hate – the kitchen-dining-living room. Storage? A bicycle shed space in the common car parking area. Balconies that count as amenity space.

Parker-Morris standards were much better than what building regulations allow today.

It is time to get back to building homes, rather than rather than allowing “tick the box” numbers of “units” to meet Government targets!

The fight goes on.  I’ve written to architects and developers asking them why their plans are as above, and they don’t reply.  I presume this is because they can sell these inadequate buildings and therefore don’t care.

UPDATE: They read my articles and still go on designing horrible kitchen/living/dining areas.

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UPDATE: Taylor Wimpey aren’t the only ones.  Read my post on Kidbrooke Village – Phase One or Pepys Estate and what you find is that Berkeley Homes also regard it as acceptable not in include a separate kitchen in either their new developments or their redevelopments.  They are not even pretending to approach the idea of open plan, they are just dumping a line of units along the wall in a room as an apology for a kitchen.

UPDATE: 22/9/11 Now this from the RIBA and their excellent Case for Space publication

8 sqm is the single bedroom you’re missing. It’s the space for a new arrival to the family, the space that means the kids have a room of their own or a spare room for a guest to stay over. It’s the space that could take the kitchen out of the lounge and the sounds and smells that go with it.

One Response to “Where has the kitchen gone?”

  1. andy Says:

    social housing is shit ive lost my design job now
    i have t live in social housing its to small and soon as yu cook a meal the flat reeks of food.
    really the government should build cheap modern affordable housing as for the people who live around the area the level of intelligence is sub nvq and im not a snob but discussing the latest sun newspaper article hardly graduate conversation.
    come on cameron there is a housing shortage and you should not need loaddsa money to invest in it
    i feel we are under thatcher all over again

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