We tend to spend our happiest moments around a table. It is the focal point for cozy gatherings and intimate conversations among family and friends. Dreams are expressed, plans debated, secrets revealed. And this happens at tables both in our homes and out at restaurants and bars. Without doubt food has become a major focal point in many parts of our lives, and interior design has been reacting to it. A good example is how at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan this past April, a considerable proportion of the exhibitions are involved in food one way or another. But designers aren’t necessarily approaching all food spaces in the same ways.

In modern residential design, kitchens are no longer merely “a room in which food is cooked” (as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts it), and instead the space around which home life revolves. High-end kitchen systems companies like Bulthaup and Scavolini have completely eliminated the pretense of a boundary between kitchen and living areas, and are now presenting systems based on the idea of creating a kitchen that is truly the hub of the home. In designing Foodshelf, one of Scavolini’s most popular offerings last year, designer and wunderkind Ora-ïto strove, in his own words, “to give continuity to the home’s aesthetics, which can be found in the living room, the dining room and, why not, even other domestic environments.”

In these new designs, the living room enters the kitchen, influencing it not only through compositional patterns and materials, but also stuff: TVs, armchairs, bookshelves and cabinets containing objects d’art instead of cooking utensils are now commonplace.

But in terms of restaurant design, the focus is still on creating “experiences” that are different from our typical day-to-day ones. Exposed brick walls, raw steel panels, and decorative metal ceiling tiles are very popular because they bring out a sense of antiquity and rustic charm, but certainly not ones we recall from our home lives. Instead, designers are creating unique eating spaces whose purpose is to take us out of our normal experiences and into decidedly different ones: a sports bar that resembles a locker room; an Asian seafood joint that feels like a fish market; a resto evokes an avant-garde art gallery; or a bakery that feels like you stepped into a cupcake (these last two are featured in this issue). While we all ingest food the same way, we don’t experience it the same way, and maybe one day my kitchen will feel like a Roman café background set in a Fellini film, but I’m not sure I’ll ever want my local canteen to imitate a romper room.

Peter Sobchak