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Currently, my kitchen is home to my graduation present from my parents… a beautiful, dark wood drafting table. It sits in the corner of the kitchen where normal people would put a table and chairs. But since my husband and I (on the rare occasion I decide to cook dinner) eat in the living room, it was the only space we weren’t using that I could give up for this massive piece of furniture. Plus, it’s nice to be so close to the fridge late at night when I’m up working! But with my first child due in four months, my needs for my kitchen have already begun to change.  The idea of spooning “mushed” carrots and peas into an already slobbery, but adorable, little mouth while sitting on my living room furniture terrifies me. So the drafting table is moving out of the kitchen to make space for an actual table and chairs where we can eat together as a family.

This whole ordeal got me thinking… our age and where we are in life, whether it be newly-weds, new mommies and daddies, new grandparents, or empty-nesters, determines the needs of our kitchen.

When I was a new bride, for instance, everything in my kitchen was brand new. New Tupperware. New baking dishes. New plates and utensils. And it was a shame, because I barely used any of it! Like most young women in their twenties, I only cooked a meal when it was necessary or someone asked me. And just like most couples starting out, we lived in a TINY apartment, so we weren’t hosting family get-togethers. Therefore, we didn’t need a space for entertaining in our kitchen. What I DID find necessary for my kitchen was materials that required low maintenance. Young people in their twenties often look for kitchens (and baths) that are super easy to keep clean. After all, they’ve never had “kitchen duties” besides washing the dishes! And who wants to scrub dirty grout, anyway?  Smaller appliances are another kitchen characteristic perfect for young”kitchen-owners;” they save space, yet get the job done.

But now that my family is growing and my kitchen needs are expanding, my kitchen may begin to look like that of someone in their thirties and forties. These kitchens are the center of the home. Life suddenly revolves around the kitchen, especially for those who have children in school. Family meals become a weeknight routine instead of eating out, and therefore eat-in space is necessary. Some families in this age grouping even make space for their computers/printers in the kitchen. It’s an easy way to keep everyone together. At this stage in life, adequate storage is a necessity. Most families find they have more mouths to feed, and that means more groceries! The good news is that there are many space-saving solutions available for the kitchen today. Tall cabinets with pull-outs of varying designs serve as excellent storage space for food and even small appliances like coffee makers and crock pots.

When I think of a kitchen changing over time, I picture my mother’s kitchen and how it has evolved. As a young child, I remember her kitchen being a place where she spent a lot of time preparing meals for our family. It wasn’t always a large space she had to work with, but that was fine because that kept us close… literally. And as her family has grown, so has her kitchen. As it turns out, this is extremely common. As people age, they prefer more open floor plans, especially in their kitchens. And the reason for this may actually surprise you. Of course, hosting family functions is a major reason to desire openness, but as we age we also start to desire that extra space to accommodate our physical needs. In other words, we won’t always be as agile as we are in our youth. Think about it… did your grandmother have an island in the middle of her kitchen? Mine didn’t. Instead, an open floor plan creates easier movement throughout.

Fortunately, we live in a time that offers many kitchen solutions to meet our needs as we, and our kitchens, age. We don’t have to worry about digging to the back of our cabinets on arthritic knees to find that frying pan or straining to see to the back of the pantry if we have one can of green beans left. Gone are the days of spending all day scrubbing hard-to-clean countertops and floors only to find they look dirty the next day.

Because of these advances in the kitchen and bath industry, our kitchens, and hopefully we as well, can age gracefully…

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