I was recently in Boston on a book launch. My book shows how Julia Child’s ideas can be relevant today in modern kitchens, with an emphasis on cooking and sit down dining and a de-emphasis on lounging, snacking and TV watching.
I was lucky to be hosted by a couple who had a beautiful kitchen that could easily have been in the book. The lady of the house, who did most of the cooking, said she hated barstools, so none encircled the space. She favored sit down dining, so a dining room was reached from one door, a breakfast room from another. The TV was in the cozy library, remote from the kitchen.
Her appliances were cunningly concealed. The microwave oven was under the counter. The refrigerator is a new “refrigerator column” or “integrated refrigerator”. It basically looks like a cupboard. She also had two “drawer freezers.” They are convenient 2’ deep drawers, and avoid a lot of that rummaging we hate. Her designer was Paul Reidt from Kochman, Reidt and Haig in Stoughton, Mass.
Designers have always had a problem with the bulky refrigerator. The refrigerator in Julia’s French Chef TV show was recessed in an arched niche, making it much more presentable. We architects and designers were happy when “counter depth” refrigerators arrived on the scene a generation ago. Actually 27” deep, the door sticks out past the counter. Now, the “new kids on the block” are the integrated refrigerators. They are designed to sit flush in a 24” cabinet. They also have varying widths, from 18” to 36”. Thermador and Subzero are the leading manufacturers. Some of these models qualify as “energy star”. This means that they exceed federal energy standards.
Interestingly, Julia Child and Paul Child had tried to make the old fashioned refrigerator in their Cambridge kitchen less visible. Designer Paul painted it black and nestled it in bookcases. During my original interview with Julia she had asked me, “It’s more chic, don’t you think?” She also had small freezers under the counter. All these elements are now preserved at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. That Cambridge kitchen has been enshrined behind glass walls, viewed by millions every year.
In Julia’s day, climate change was not as critical an issue as it is now. Beyond looks, we want kitchen appliances and equipment that help us reduce our carbon footprint. If one decides to purchase a new refrigerator, the government recommends against putting the old one in the garage. It becomes an “energy hog”, can cost the homeowner hundreds of dollars a year to use, and certainly does not help the environment.
Pamela Heyne, AIA has a design studio in Saint Michaels, Md. email@example.com. She will give a slide presentation on the relevance of Julia Child’s design and lifestyle ideas at the Saint Michaels Library Dec. 1 at 5:30 pm. The book, In Julia’s Kitchen, practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child will be available for purchase.