Liraz Margalit Ph.D.

Behind Online Behavior

How Does a Kitchen Island Strengthen Family Bonds?

Neuroarchitecture is about creating a design that fulfills human needs.

Posted May 09, 2020

Recently, we've heard about emerging research fields such as "neuromarketing," "neuroaesthetics," or "neuroeducation." Since the field of neuroscience has become a practical area that allows us to better understand how we process information and make decisions, as well as what affects our cognitive system, stakeholders have begun to add the neuro prefix to different fields to assign scientific credibility to them. One other example is neuroarchitecture. You probably wonder how neuroscience and architecture are related but the practice behind this concept has a significant impact on our lives.

Neuroarchitecture is a field of research that examines how to design spaces and interfaces that affect the mental, physical and emotional health of the people interacting with them. This field of research explores how to optimally tailor a space to the psychological needs of employees, residents, or consumers. By utilizing psychological models, we can significantly improve the experience, what we remember from the experience, and therefore our psychological well-being.

A great example is the effects that the kitchen island has had on the relationships and interactions between family members and the nature of these interactions. The kitchen island has become a "must-have" item in recent years, but beyond its aesthetic and design quality, it has far-reaching effects on the quality of life of the family members.

Its unique design invites people to sit next to it, and so it encourages interactions that would not necessarily have taken place without it. Also, if you have guests over and one of the hosts is too busy making last-minute preparations in the kitchen, rather than standing next to him or waiting in the living room, the guests tend to sit comfortably with a glass of red wine next to it.

A kitchen island is not just an eating surface; it can also serve as a cooking surface. If you're the one cooking, it allows you to face the people who are sitting rather than turn your back on them. Therefore, you can develop a dialogue while preparing the food. The island makes the kitchen the preferred seating area for both family members and guests.

In the same way, a family room has become a must-have space in recent years. Unlike the formal living room which imparts formality, the family room is a space for informal family gatherings. Family rooms create an inviting ambiance and were found to deepen the relationship between family members. While the children play or watch TV, we can fold laundry, read, or be on a tablet.

Design influences our experience

One popular trend that has been seen in restaurants in recent years is the "transparent kitchen" or the "open kitchen," which enables the guests to view the cooking process. This trend reflects a perceptual change in the way we think of restaurants. Moving from a concept where the preparation of the dishes is done behind "closed-doors," as if the kitchen and all that happens in it is the chef's sole possession, it instead emphasizes the preparation process which then becomes part of the experience.

The transparent kitchen delivers a message: The experience no longer begins with serving the dish to the table. The experience begins as soon as the foot is set in the restaurant. This trend was influenced by reality shows that mesmerize viewers who enjoy watching the culinary design process.

However, this is not just a design trend. Restaurants with transparent kitchens also help their visitors feel a deep sense of connection to the place. The kitchen that was once viewed as a closed, smelly, hot, and sweaty space with dishwashers and potato peels has now become a design element that delivers a message of sincerity and raises awareness of food quality and freshness.

Despite the high hopes—the "open space" trend did the opposite

In recent years, open space has become a trend that businesses quickly jumped on. Many large corporations redid their office designs just to accommodate the newly desired open workspaces. Despite the thorough thinking process that underpinned the design, the open space trend did not produce the desired results. Instead, it did the opposite: It was found that the quality of social interactions in open space is poor. Ironically, compared to open space workers, those who work from home are able to maintain better social relationships with their co-workers.

The idea behind the open space was that removing partitions would encourage employees’ interaction and collaboration, as well as convey a message of equality between employees and managers. However, even though physical proximity encourages friendships, too much proximity causes damage.

The lack of privacy triggered a boomerang effect. The result was that workers began to shut themselves off and ignore their surroundings, most of them sitting with headphones without even playing music. Establishing friendships starts with mutual trust that creates intimacy but it’s not possible when you are constantly surrounded by your colleagues.

Our brain is heavily influenced by environmental cues. One study found that rounded decor encouraged more brain activity compared to a room with boxy furniture. The rounded decor is also perceived as more friendly, whereas modern clean-lined furniture evokes feelings of negativity. Neuroarchitecture is about creating a design that fulfills human needs, encourages creativity, and create social bonds.