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The idea of actually creating an unfitted kitchen is not new; recently, however, and possibly in reaction to the unbroken but rather anonymous lines of units typical of the 1960s and 1970s, unfitted kitchen designs have begun to re-establish itself as more than a viable alternative – both with regard to function and aesthetics.
By having kitchen furniture as opposed to built-in units you change the whole character of the space, making it more of a room than a work station. If your aim is to create an entertaining and relaxed living area, rather than keeping cooking and dining areas more formally separated, you will find that unfitted pieces will sit more happily-alongside bookcases, desks and sofas than any of their fitted counterparts – of whatever material.
But unfitted furniture has other advantages too. You can take it with you should you decide to change home; just as well because a solid wood food cupboard made from quality timber will be expensive, the sort of long-term investment that you would not want to leave behind. You can also vary the height of unfitted furniture so that your work surfaces can vary in height to suit a range of functions: it is, for instance, easy to arrange for a long table with a sink and draining board built into it to be higher than one intended for chopping vegetables; or surfaces at varying levels might be incorporated into a single, movable piece.
Traditional natural materials spring to mind – natural woods with maple, teak, granite or slate work surfaces – in rooms inspired by the simple but exquisite interiors of the American Shaker communities or the vast echoing kitchens of eighteenth-century English country houses. Beautifully made work tables fitted with draining boards and deep butler’s sinks, vast larder cupboards with woven vegetable baskets on runners and built-in spice racks, and contemporary interpretations of country dressers all serve to create a traditional farmhouse feel, with all the modern appliances hidden carefully in cupboards to maintain the appropriate atmosphere. You could equally easily, however, use lacquered fiberboard, opaque or clear glass or brushed metal for a more contemporary feel.