A clearer view for chef and guests
From interior design journalist Barbara Friedrich
The kitchen is simply homelier without an extractor hood above the cooktop. But as interior design journalist Barbara Friedrich points out, there are many more advantages to an ‘extractorless’ kitchen.
There has been a trend towards homely kitchens for several years now. Kitchens with cooking islands and adjoining dining areas, perhaps a long table, preferably made of wood. Even cosy corner benches are making a comeback – a trend which hasn’t gone unnoticed by modern upholstered furniture manufacturers. Gone are the days when walls were simply used for hanging built-in cupboards. An inherited antique cabinet now fits perfectly into an otherwise cool kitchen ambiance. As does a glass
cabinet featuring Granny’s Meissen porcelain. An expensive wine cabinet should obviously not be concealed by a kitchen unit panel, but showcased together with its valuable contents. It’s also fine for the odd sculpture or picture to decorate the kitchen area. Open-plan kitchens with cooking islands are popular because they make you want to cook, enjoy food and entertain guests. Who would actually choose to slave away facing the wall, occasionally banging their head on an extractor hood, while their friends and guests watch them cook? My husband and I indulged in a large eat-in kitchen, with an extractor hood above the cooking island. A high-tech device made of stainless steel. The best one on the market, according to the kitchen designer. That was over eight years ago.
This mighty and powerful extraction machine is suspended 75 cm above the cooktop, as prescribed. That’s not a problem for my husband and me, as we aren’t very tall. But we love cooking with friends, and one of them is 6’ 3”. His head gets in the way and he has to bend his neck. Neither the kitchen designer nor us had heard of an alternative solution when we had our kitchen installed in late 2008. Unfortunately, the ingenious cooktop extractor system located right by the hob that draws vapours downwards wasn’t very well known back then. Especially not in Piedmont, where the aforementioned stainless steel hood hangs over the kitchen cooktop in our second home. Our ‘extraction monster’ makes a whole hullabaloo when inhaling odours, and yet plenty of stenches still escape its steel jaws and billow up the open staircase. Alas, the bedroom doors aren’t always closed. As a result, we get to ‘savour’ the lingering aroma of our dinner – whether a succulent leg of lamb, hearty Ossobuco or steamed cod – during the night. Anyway, we live with our hood now. But it totally makes sense that steam and cooking vapours go astray, because our extractor hangs from the ceiling 75 cm above the roasters, pots and pans. A much more effective solution would be a system that works laterally, according to the principle of fluid mechanics, by suctioning away vapours at the precise point that they are created and guiding them straight down to a filter system beneath the cooking surface.
This system also seems much easier and more practical to clean than trying to remove the many parts of the filter plates in a hood. You end up having to use a ladder, and of course there’s always the risk of an accident. But those are functional aspects that I don’t want to overestimate here. Otherwise I’m being ‘typically German’ again. Always thinking ‘Form follows function’. And yet, this suction function actually allows design freedom for kitchen architecture and interior design. It better emphasises the individual design style, elegant front panels and work surfaces that, after all, cost a tidy sum. Not to mention the personal decoration. Your eye isn’t distracted by a dominant stainless steel hood. As the suction system is embedded almost invisibly into the work surface, you get a complete overview of the kitchen, making it look larger and wider. And as the ceiling above the cooktop is not cluttered with an extractor, you can even hang up stylish lights that functionally illuminate the kitchen and add decorative touches.
It’s lovely to be able to chat with your guests over an aperitif at the cooking island. It’s even better when there’s no extractor to disrupt the conversation (and bang your head on).
Barbara Friedrich, chief editor and most recently publisher of A&W Architektur&Wohnen magazine (1999 to 2016), has 30 years’ experience in the (interior) design sector. She is an author, presenter and member of many design panels.
Photography kitchens: Josefine Unterhauser
Photography B. Friedrich: Giovanni Castel