Every pot has its particular shape and function. Their forms are so beautiful, why hide them in a cupboard?” asked Davide Rampello, president of the Triennale contemporary art and design museum in Milan.
An avid cook and devotee of Italian culinary history, Rampello has a professional kitchen in his country villa about an hour east of Milan. In addition to heavy-duty appliances and a restaurant-grade range, he keeps 18th-century pudding moulds, a 19th-century meat braising pot, and a vast collection of other specialised and antique tools out where he can admire – and grab – them while inventing elaborate meals for intimates.
“I like to eat where I cook,” Rampello says, “the kitchen fire is symbolic.”
For all the clever kitchen cabinetry available to tuck wares behind tidy doors, serious cooks and interior design aficionados often prefer to leave theirs on view. Gleaming copper pots, crockery stacked on open shelves, and mighty appliances make aesthetic statements of their own. They also speak of a deep affinity between old style, family-friendly hearths and high performance meal preparation.
“I think that kitchen appliances, kitchen tools, and ... dishes, cups, saucers, etc. are actually beautiful objects and don’t need to be hidden away,” remarked Martha Stewart, doyenne of US homemaking and head of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “It saves a lot of time to use open storage, and it forces the homemaker to be a little more creative and definitely more organised in his or her display.”
London-based interior designer Charlotte Crosland, whose family often cooks, eats and hangs out in the kitchen, opted for a design with retro touches, open dish storage and an old fashioned, walk-in larder.
“Large kitchens with endless cupboards can make the room cold and uninviting,” she says. “Having open shelves makes it easier to grab things and gives a cosier look.”
Kitchens of celebrity chefs like Julia Child and Mario Batali also share nearly nothing with minimalist chic. Child’s kitchen, now property of the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC, features peg-board walls lined with dozens of pots, rustic cabinetry, and a restaurant gas range that served as her workhorse for 45 years.
Serious chefs show a penchant for old, heavy-duty technology, says Edward Semmelroth, owner of a Michigan store called Antique Stoves. “The older stoves were built before planned obsolescence,” he says. “A revamped antique stove is good to go for another 50 years.”
An old Chambers gas range, long out of production, inspired Fred Carl Jr to found the Viking Range Corporation in 1980. Viking’s rustic, professional grade appliances have since found their way into premium kitchen interiors, including many by Los Angeles-based interior designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard.
Bullard’s designs, which have appeared in over 70 publications and in the homes of Elton John and Cher, among others, juxtapose big steel appliances with visible crockery, cookware and ethnic architectural details.
His design for the kitchen of TV star Ellen Pompeo is in the contemporary Tuscan style, with open shelves and terracotta floors. “Her home was built in the 1920s in the Mediterranean style, and we wanted it to flow with the original architecture yet be updated and easy to use,” says Bullard. Most of Pompeo’s cabinetry is stainless steel to complement the open appliances and cookware.
However beautiful putting it all on show can be, it does require self-awareness, designers warn. Using pots as tools, not trophies, wards off dust. Ruthless, regular editing avoids the creep of clutter. The high-performance hearth requires a relentless taskmaster at the helm.