The Kitchen is the Heart and Soul of the Home

As part of his enduring love of all things Terence Conran (the English designer and restauranteur) Maxwell recently brought home a tattered old copy of Conran's now out-of-print Kitchen Book and we have barely put it down. It's the best resource I've ever seen for making beautiful and functional rooms for cooking.

It doesn't just show pretty kitchens — though it does do that — it also helps the reader understand how and why kitchens keep the spirit of the home alive.

It's the book I've always wanted to write. (Oops, Conran beat me to it. Twenty years ago.) Here is the first sentence:

A kitchen provides physical and spiritual nourishment, and for many homes is now the heart and soul of family life.

You see why I'm in love with this book, don't you?

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The book covers everything you would ever need to know about kitchens, and nothing extra. The first chapter offers a rich history of kitchens going back to the Roman kitchens of Pompeii. There is a section on small kitchens loaded with clever design solutions for people who actually cook out of their small kitchens. The Kitchen Design section at the end is jam-packed with thoughtful ideas and advice on how to make the kitchen the beating heart of the home. Even the lists of types of tiles seem to point to a shared goal of creating a kitchen that not only work and is beautiful, but has the right energy for cooking well.

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Even though the volume is twenty years old, very little of it feels dated, save for the yellow pages. Though styles change in terms of interior design (some of the textiles and artwork in people's homes have a definite 1980s feel to them) mostly this book is filled with timeless ideas: what works and what doesn't; what to consider when designing from scratch; what to consider when renovating; detailed descriptions of materials from flooring and countertops to shelving and lighting.

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What was so exciting about this discovery is that this is the very same thing we're trying to do now on The Kitchn and Apartment Therapy with our tours and other posts about design, materials and organization. Conran's work reminds both Maxwell and me of what our goals are at Apartment Therapy, almost twenty years on.

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The Kitchen Book also inspired me to go through the last year of our Kitchen Tours and see if I could pull together my own collection of kitchens we've shown on TheKitchn.com that follow this same spirit of the kitchen being the heart and soul of the home. Here are ten of my favorite tours, each of which illustrates the spirit of how the kitchen really is the heart and soul of the home.

Adrian and Gregg's Pacific Northwest Kitchen

Jennifer and Jason's Earthy Kitchen

Chef Laurent Tourondel's Country Kitchen

Wes and Brianne's Adorable Kitchen

Gluten-Free Girl's Warm Kitchen

Lupine & Dan's Joyful, Organized Kitchen

Paule Caillat's Splendid Paris Kitchen

A Gentleman's Working Kitchen

Frank's Swift & Stunning IKEA Remodel

Matt and Blair's Fresh Retro Kitchen

(Try to) Buy the out-of-print but still available book: Terence Conran's Kitchen Book by Terence Conran

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.