Floor plan of a house on Kurhessenstrasse, Frankfurt 1928
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People say the kitchen is the most important room of the house. It serves many roles, and emits a feeling of safety, inclusivity, and community. The kitchen is one of the most intimate public spaces of a house.
Kitchens have been a focal gathering space throughout history, since we first huddled around a fire and cooked food. If you were a stranger or a guest in the house, once you were invited into the kitchen, you felt like a part of the "family". It was almost like a right of passage, to be brought into the kitchen, especially paired with the phrase "help yourself!" while you opened the refrigerator.
So, let's apply these principals to our (online) communities:
- Create a focal point. In the kitchen, the focal point is usually the island, where everyone gathers around. Make sure your community members have a place to go right away when they enter the community to get support, resources and get a feel for the place.
- Embody the "help yourself" mentality. Provide resources for your community! Can you give them swag for being active participants? Badges? What recognition and goodies can you provide to them so they feel "part of the family."
- Be welcoming. Your community, or kitchen, is a bonding area for your members. Make sure your kitchen is tidy, and is a respectful and safe environment. Don't leave a mess, or put up with a mess. Make sure you have moderators, and community guidelines in place to set expectations. "Clean the dishes, you're mother doesn't work here!"
- Get your feng shui on! A functional, aesthetically pleasing kitchen elevates your food and cooking, as well as socializing experience. The same can be said for online communities. Make sure you choose a well organized forum or platform that has the features and tools you need as well as has good design. You will want to make sure you "brand" your community and give it the look and feel you want to draw in users and keep them coming for seconds!
- A good kitchen is an investment. The kitchen is typically the most expensive space in a house. Make sure you take your time "fitting" your kitchen with the appliances, and finishes you need to keep it functioning. In community management, your online community and forum budget can be the biggest one. So make sure you understand how much budget you want dedicated to your "kitchen" as a percentage of the whole community budget. It can get expensive! Those top of the range Viking stoves don't come cheap, but can help tie in the look and feel and elevate the overall experience and functionality of the kitchen.
- If in doubt, hire an interior kitchen designer. Sometimes, you need to hire a dedicated person (or persons) to monitor and engage with your online community. This could be a community manager who's time is dedicated to one platform, or a moderator. Sometimes, you can get excited community members to volunteer their time, but other times, especially in a new community, you may need to hire a evangelist to get the party started and make sure no one burns the entrée. That person would be dedicated and knowledgeable about the specific intricacies of putting together a well functioning and beautiful "kitchen" and may save you money in the long run from "value engineering" headaches.
- Put your house up for sale! A lot of realtors can attest to this, but the kitchen sells the home. The kitchen is usually one of the biggest and most important parts of the house -- but don't forget, there is also a house that comes with it. It's important to make sure you aren't ignoring other pain points in your community. Monitor all of your social media outlets and online community presence to make sure you don't have a leaky faucet or mold growing somewhere. Use your "kitchen" as a marketing and selling aspect of your community! Make sure you talk the talk, and walk the walk. If you have a shiny kitchen, but the house structure is falling apart, it's not sustainable and one the wallpaper peels, people will see through it.
- Know your community. Figure out what part of your kitchen has the most value or importance. Make sure you cater your kitchen design to your individual community. If someone came into your kitchen looking for a garbage disposal or a pantry without luck, they may leave and think your kitchen doesn't have enough value or support their needs enough. Gather feedback, ask your members and monitor through analytics.
- Start with a welcome mat. Sometimes it's hard enough finding the house, finding parking and getting inside let along navigating the kitchen. Make sure you welcome your community, it is highly visible and easily accessible. Make it welcoming by putting some personality and warmth in your community. Create individual connections. Think about what experience you want your members to have while you host them.
- Model off of the Frankfurt Kitchen. Create and foster a space that is rational, unpretentious, and socially oriented. Promote efficiency, "hygiene", and workflow. Give careful thought the materials (platform, software) and function. A good kitchen will not only support your cooking, but help teach you about cooking and elevate your experience.
"The New Dwelling sets for its occupants the task of rethinking everything afresh, organizing a new lifestyle, and of winning freedom from the irrelevant clutter of outmoded habits of thought and old-fashioned equipment."
– Franz Schuster, Das neue Frankfurt (The New Frankfurt), 1927
I studied architecture in college, and I spend a lot of thinking about design, and truthfully, about kitchens. They have a unique value and role in the home and within the budget.
Home is where the heart is – but it’s the kitchen that is the heart of the home.