Ever since its cinematic debut three years ago, the white, English-style, open kitchen—airy, feminine and generous—that belonged to Diane Keaton's character in the midlife romance Something's Gotta Give, has been a blockbuster. It's the No. 1 requested style, said Lee J. Stahl, president of the Renovated Home, a design-and-build company serving Manhattan's toniest ZIP codes.
Everyone thought it was ours, said Christopher Peacock. The handmade English cabinets from his company, Christopher Peacock Cabinetry, line kitchens from Greenwich, Conn., to Sydney, Australia. They're still asking for it. (The kitchen, like the rest of the house's echt-Hamptons interiors, was built on a soundstage in Culver City, Calif. Its set decorator, Beth Rubino, used to spray the air of the set with suntan lotion every morning, for olfactory verisimilitude.)
Even last week, people posting to home and garden chat rooms like gardenweb.com, part of iVillage, were chewing over the kitchen's counters (they're plywood, painted to look like slate) and creamy finishes, its Restoration Hardware-style fittings and pendant lamps, and its sturdy Wolf stove.
It got to the point where I started to resent the whole house, said Nancy Meyers, the film's director. It seemed like people were giving it more attention than the movie.
Ms. Meyers drew from her own life to create an environment for a successful woman whose reward to herself was the house she built after her divorce. It was a cook's kitchen, a bountiful kitchen. Yet hers is not the only kitchen paradigm rattling around people's heads these days.
At the other extreme is a very different model: the latest evolution of the slick European kitchen that luxury condo developers are so fond of. Call it the disappearing kitchen, a now you see it, now you don't riff on the empty, minimalist kitchen that reads more like a bar than a place to roast a chicken, designed for those who regard the telephone as the only piece of kitchen equipment of practical use.
Defined by these poles, the kitchen tells more than one story. While everyone agrees that it remains the hub of the American home, at least symbolically, what is still under discussion is how much time people are actually spending there and just what, exactly, they are doing. Some designers create more and more work stations, for home offices, schoolwork, hobbies, games and more, imagining a space crowded with an extended family that never leaves the kitchen; others look toward the day when refrigerators will be able to order food for their owners, anticipating that humans are too busy elsewhere to do so.