When Heritage Meets Kitchen

The styles of yesterday inevitably become styles of today.  As with the fashion industry, kitchen styles adapt to the times, to people’s habits and are in constant evolution.  They make a comeback and are renewed. They become an ode to our history, homage to our traditions…

Seemingly going against the flow of our progressively ephemeral and disposable culture, our society is increasingly in search of solutions that can slow down our fast-paced rhythm. We are in search of our roots, of our essence, in search of meaning in our everyday choices in order to ultimately attain a better quality of life through small changes.

Slow Design

Inspired by the Slow Food movement, Slow Design’s approach aims to incorporate a softer, more in-depth and more intuitive approach to design. This holistic and democratic approach aims to offer solutions that are long term and are adapted to the well being of people as well as the well being of the planet. As a result, Slow Design also celebrates diversity and products that are locally made, adding depth and interest to a project.

In the kitchen, this translates into a space that has practical and spacious work surfaces and ample storage as well as noble and durable materials that limit our ecological footprint. Slow Design in the kitchen promotes useful and personalized solutions that are adapted according to individual needs. In essence, it is a kitchen that is practical, timeless, comfortable…and one that lasts a very long time!

A look Into The Past

To better understand our current relationship with kitchens and to find ways to improve on them, we turned to the past for insight and inspiration.

A general characteristic that stems from kitchens from the turn of the century, often called victorian kitchen, is one where distinct zones are organized according to a specific task. These independent zones have no link between them, making them seem like freestanding pieces of furniture. In the middle of the space, a large wooden table generally offers a surface to prepare and serve meals. It is, above all, a functional space.

In contrast, a modern kitchen is composed of contemporary materials, hidden storage and high performance appliances. A space that is adapted to today’s reality, which ties together ergonomics and technology.

Through our research, we have deciphered 4 principles that characterize the main differences between a kitchen of the past and a kitchen of today:

1. Closed or Open

One of the main differences between a modern kitchen and a victorian kitchen is the orientation. Older kitchens were rudimentary, small in size and closed off from the other rooms of the house. A sink, a stove and a few storage modules usually made up the perimeter of the room. In the center of the space, a large wooden table was placed and most of the tasks were performed around this table, becoming the heart of the kitchen for the family to congregate.


Older kitchens

Today, the kitchen is open to the rest of the house. This opening up of the space allows for a harmonious communication between the rooms as well as continuity with the outdoors. The island has replaced the large kitchen table, adding counter space and storage. The multitude of appliances is generally placed along the perimeter of the room and a larger circulation space between work surfaces creates a flow that welcomes several cooks and helpers.

2. Furnished or Built-in

The absence of built-in cabinetry is another characteristic that distinguishes yesterday’s kitchen with today’s kitchen. In the past, kitchens were furnished. They were fitted with freestanding and mobile stations, made of robust materials, as well as armoires for storage, open shelving and hooks on the wall. Present day kitchens are composed of closed cabinetry, fitted to the space and made to hide appliances and accessories.


Freestanding and mobile stations

3. Improvised or planned

In the past, the kitchen layout and workstations were not planned out but rather improvised. The layout was a function of what was readily available and was dictated by the function of the tasks at hand. The arrival of the modern kitchen was brought about by a thought process centered around the well-being of the person working in the space, most often the woman of the household. Steps were counted, tasks were monitored and research was done in order to ease the workload and make the movements in the space more fluid. The study of ergonomics was born and, as a result, the modern kitchen became a more enjoyable place to spend time in.

Anne of Green Gable's kitchen
Anne of Green Gable's kitchen

4. Wood or laminate

Kitchen furniture was almost always exclusively made out of solid wood. A mortise and tenon assembly, a classic woodworking technique, allowed for pieces that were sturdy and long lasting.


Tenon & Mortise

Industrialization brought with it many new innovations and paved the way for the many materials that are found in today’s modern kitchen; melamine and laminate are but a few examples. These new materials are readily used and have certain advantages but, some may say, lack the charm and resilience of solid wood.

In our opinion, today’s kitchen, although highly functional and ultra efficient in many ways, has lost a little bit of soul along the way. New kitchens nowadays tend to be completely integrated, almost invisible, and the allure is one of spotless perfection. Perhaps this may have its advantages in certain respects but in our view, there is something appealing and compelling about kitchens of yesteryear that shiny new kitchens have lost sight of. However imperfect they may be, older kitchens exude a sense of comfort and cosiness. A purely functional space that is happy to be perfectly imperfect. A space where stations are relatively flexible and can be moved around according to specific needs. A space where we can take our time…to take our time.

How does one transpose such an atmosphere, keep the essence of these olden day kitchens without renouncing the advantages that a modern kitchen brings…all the while applying the principles of Slow Design? Therein lies the exciting challenge for us, this is exactly what coquo strives to accomplish.


The modular kitchen stands the test of time: Coquo emerges

In rethinking the kitchen, by zones or stations as in the kitchen of yesteryear, we can build a space that is adapted and personalized according to our needs. The integration of one or several zones, planned out in an opportune way, allows for the kitchen to take form. This type of modular kitchen allows for a marriage of styles and materials and offers a way to allow the kitchen the possibility of evolving over time and taking on different personalities.

By favouring durable materials like solid wood and metal, as well as classic woodworking techniques, a Coquo kitchen rivals the solidity of an antique. Its contemporary and timeless design allows it to blend into our modern homes and brings with it the intrinsic warmth of a natural wood grain. It is a modular kitchen reinvented; modernised and adapted to our lives of today and our lives of tomorrow. It is a kitchen that can take on many lives, many functions and many generations.


Furniture and food are ways that people define their attitude toward life. They’ll buy better stuff if it’s offered to them.

Sir Terence Conran

In a way, this is the motto that inspired the creative approach behind coquo. The need to create kitchens that are linked to our values; with sensitivity to the artisanal, to the handmade. The idea that we can offer convivial kitchen solutions that are practical, authentic, made in solid wood and using materials of the highest quality.

Modern standards for modern times, with a respectful nod to the past.

To learn more about our process, discover our story.

If you would like to read up on the story behind modern kitchens : Juliet Kinchin; Aidan O’Connor, 2011, Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen, New York, The Museum Of Modern Art, 88p.