Based upon fieldwork done in the projects of the Minguettes (Vénissieux), this article shows how the lower middle classes experience a novel architectural arrangement for social housing. Adopted by the “new middle classes” in the 1980s, the open kitchen is today introduced in these neighborhoods by the promoters of a policy of urban renovation. They see it as a modern and attractive form of habitat that is supposed to generate social diversity. Yet, inhabitants overwhelmingly reject this arrangement, which is fundamentally at odds with their lifestyles, characterized in particular by a specific understanding of cleanliness and dirtiness and by the distinction between personal spaces and spaces dedicated to gendered sociability. Some households that belong to the stable fractions of the lower middle classes nonetheless move into new housing with an open kitchen, and consider it as the symbolic manifestation of a minor upward mobility. In such cases, they appropriate the open kitchen in unorthodox ways that depart from those envisioned by its early proponents and allow them to limit the impact it has on their lifestyle.
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