Here’s a Western Living drinking game you should never play: take a shot every time we quote someone saying the kitchen is “the heart of the home.”
But even with the frequency this phrase shows up in our interviews with designers, homeowners and architects, it never feels cliché or forced. It’s just the truth—the kitchen is at the centre of it all. It’s the place we entertain, where the kids do homework at the island, where we gather at the beginning and end of our days apart, share a glass of wine or a meal or a long conversation. No wonder this is where we see the most exciting, inviting renovations and innovations, year after year. To so many of us, the kitchen is home.
A maple butcher block is the centrepiece of this Terry Tanner–designed kitchen.
This hasn’t always been the case. Up until the 1920s, most middle-class homes would have the kitchen tucked out of sight; interior design of previous decades focused on formal dining rooms instead as the place for entertaining or dining (and showing off your social status). These were veritable trophy rooms, a place where homeowners would display fine china and decor in special cabinetry, and put special emphasis on intricate place settings and tablescapes.
Jeremy Sturgess eschewed a family room in favour of an open-concept kitchen in this renovation.
But once electric appliances started hitting the market after the First World War, the kitchen had new appeal. Sweaty cast-iron stoves were replaced with sleek modern units that homeowners were excited to show off. By the 1940s and ’50s, homes were being designed with “eat-in” kitchens, and dinner and hosting habits started to shift. Entertaining manuals began to promote more casual ways to host, suggesting buffet service instead of intricate, multi-course meals. The kitchen, once relegated to the back of the home, was now the hub of it all: a nucleus for all of life’s comings and goings.
This fresh Andrea Rodman kitchen blends seamlessly into the dining and living space.
From Western Living’s earliest days, the magazine celebrated this shift to open-concept layouts, and we’ve never looked back. Our Kitchens issues over the years may have featured a variety of aesthetic choices—hello, 1980s oak shaker cabinets—but the one constant is an embrace of layouts and features that encourage togetherness. Think roomy islands, plentiful storage, welcoming lighting and joy-sparking finishes (even if they are oh-so-’80s oak!) that make it a place you love to return to, again and again. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the beat has stayed strong.