The Guardian Weekly - 2021-11-26


A kitchen cabinet on wheels is more versatile and less wasteful



As usual, I was putting off the moment when I settled down to write, by browsing property porn – and that’s when I found my dream barn. It was everything I ever wanted, in just the right part of the Yorkshire Dales. Some deft person had made it over with utmost care. I liked the bedrooms. I adored the garden. But most of all I loved the kitchen, which consisted only of a huge stove and a couple of waisthigh cabinets on casters, to move as and when the fancy takes. Is the fitted kitchen on its way out? I’m beginning to think it might be. Space inside is at an ever greater premium, and as we grow more concerned about waste and the politics of owning stuff, the fashion for massed ranks of gleaming cupboards is diminishing – one symptom of which is a reduction in our hunger to own kitchen kit. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity that campaigns to cut waste by keeping products in use, 80% of household items are used less than once a month. The cost of lockdown “regret purchases” in the UK is said to stand at £6bn ($8bn). My own kitchen is very small, completely out of proportion to the size of the house – and for this reason, some of its cupboards are fitted; it’s the only way to make the space work. But I have open shelves rather than wall cupboards. The spot where I cook is only an adjunct to the main event, which is the room where not only the dining table stands, but two armchairs and lamps for reading. It’s nice, if you’re stirring a pot, for someone to be able to sit close by and chat with you. But still, I fantasise about having something at once bigger and even more pared down – those cupboards on wheels, I guess – and I’m not the only one. The future is beginning to look more like the past. Well into the 1930s, most homes were still being constructed without a purpose-built kitchen – people made do with what was known as a kitchen cabinet, which typically came with a meat safe, a pull-out work surface and a flour hopper (a funnel-shaped thing that dispensed the self-raising Be-Ro straight into a mixing bowl). I think the time may be approaching when a freestanding cabinet seems not only ample for most people’s needs, but a useful brake on our tendency to buy too much. In all sorts of small ways, our kitchen lives are changing, and I’m glad, though as much for aesthetic reasons as for green ones. What? You want to know about the barn? Well, I couldn’t afford it in a month of Sundays. But I’ll always think of that kitchen, n, with its whizzy mobile cupboards ards and their myriad possibilities.


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