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The Ultimate Kitchen

Basic Design Trends

By MARILYN SOLTIS

Even just a few decades ago, kitchens were predictable work stations isolated from the rest of the house, but the recipe for good design has been rewritten. Breakthroughs in technology and materials make today's kitchen not only the epitome of functionality, but also a place at the heart of the home where families gather to socialize in otherwise frenetic lives.

Modern kitchen design evolves so rapidly that no sooner has one trend hit its peak, another one gathers steam. Avoiding a dated look involves careful research and imagination, with the goal being to create a timeless kitchen.

Ultimate Kitchen Design, published by teNeues Publishing Group, has more than 500 color photographs of kitchens, located primarily throughout Europe. The crisp images are graphic inspiration for innovative ideas.

Five Distinct Kitchen Styles

Ultimate Kitchen Design identifies five major kitchen styles: modern; country; minimalist; miniature and industrial. Within these styles, the use of vibrant color, materials and design affect perceptions of what a kitchen can be.

The industrial revolution was the seed of inspiration for the modern kitchen and was driven by the American lifestyle. Separate kitchen functions evolved into ultimate efficiency in one single unit. A continuous countertop facilitates good use of space. While finishes such as wood and marble are occasionally seen in modern kitchen design, laminates, stainless steel and acrylic resin surfaces prevail. They contrast well with bright colors and various textures.

The book brings new definition to country style, with photos showcasing sophisticated design and use of natural materials like stone and brick. Country style is a good choice for people who love to cook because integral design elements showcase utensils, dishes, appliances and even food instead of hiding them behind flush cabinetry.

The opposite of country kitchen design is minimalist style, where pure lines, a paucity of decoration and monochromatic tones create a clean form that blends seamlessly into the rest of the house. These kitchens need to be carefully designed to serve the owner's culinary requirements.

Miniature kitchens are, of course, more prevalent in urban environments, where space is at a premium. Modular kitchens are sometimes used, but custom design can utilize every inch of available space. Some miniatures have movable panels to conceal elements when not in use. Stainless steel works best for this model, as it can create an illusion of space.

The industrial kitchen evolved from restaurant kitchen design. Stainless steel kitchen fittings and appliances are used in these large workstations that are often subdivided into different workspaces, and the highest quality professional appliances are installed. These kitchens are restaurant quality and appeal to true gourmet cooks and those with very large budgets.

Smart Kitchens

New technology is driving the kitchen of the future. There's a lot to eagerly anticipate. Some of the features that may become standard in the next few years are:

  • Refrigerators with a built-in screen for watching television, looking up recipes, posting messages and storing family photographs.
  • Bedside touch screens that allow you to grind coffee beans or turn on the hot water before getting out of bed.
  • Wireless keyboards for your kitchen computer that can be washed off in the kitchen sink.
  • Oven ranges that will thaw foods and automatically switch to roasting or baking based on the time you arrive home.
  • Kitchen computer networks that will start to take some of those irritating details off your mind. They will keep track of food sell-by dates, do maintenance checks on appliances, send reminder e-mails, order food automatically online when running low and check to see if prescriptions are being refilled, reminding you along the way.

Planning

Choosing a kitchen style, of course, depends on lifestyle, needs and nature of the home. The space needs to be designed for the most efficient and thoughtful use for the people who will be enjoying it for years to come. Gather information and create a wish list and a reasonable budget. There are many things to consider when reaching for a dream kitchen.

In Creating Your Dream Kitchen, author Susan Breen illustrates step-by-step what it takes to plan out the best kitchen given personal taste, space and budget. Paying attention to surfaces is essential when creating a kitchen. Variety of surfaces and texture allows for contrast to keep the space visually intriguing, while some continuity of surfaces enhances the harmony of the room.

Walls

Paint affects the entire room, so choose color carefully. Earth tones convey warmth and comfort, while high-energy colors like orange and purple can be invigorating but overpowering. Acrylic paints in satin or gloss finishes can be wiped down with soapy water, making it a good choice for higher traffic areas or where children gather. Wallpaper can hide flawed or uneven surfaces, but can be more difficult to clean. Stencils add a bit of character and can be easily painted over. Tile accents add dramatic texture, and wood, such as classic bead board, is a great design element. Floors

A fascinating design method is to integrate reclaimed materials, items such as vintage wood, stone and tiles removed from demolished buildings. By utilizing salvaged materials you support the environment and create a unique design.

Hardwood floors add warmth and texture and can be matched to other floors in the home. They are, however, prone to water damage so must be properly sealed. Remember, the more intricate the hardwood design, the more costly the installation.

Oddly enough, linoleum is composed of all natural materials and often improves with age. It is conducive to custom design because it is installed in sheets or squares. A linoleum floor can last up to 50 years with periodic application of commercial grade floor wax.

Tile is extremely durable and easy to customize to many designs. Harder to stand on than hardwood or linoleum, tile can be very cold, depending on the climate. Grout lines can stain and require some maintenance, and non-glazed tile can stain due to its porosity.

Laminates are also a superb option. Laminate is made of a solid core under a photograph of wood or stone and covered with a clear plastic layer. These floors are very durable and easy to clean. Leaks or standing water can cause warping, however.

Environmentally friendly bamboo is is a great choice. Plants take only three years to mature. Bamboo is harder than oak and easy to work with. Always buy bamboo from a reputable dealer, however, with at least a 15-year warranty.

Countertops

There is no shortage of countertop options today. Even laminates have gone upscale and come in a wide variety of textures. Breen suggests mixing and matching surfaces such as a granite island, a stainless sink surround and a butcher block preparation area. The variety of textures is visually stimulating and will continue to be interesting over time.

All of these materials have their pros and cons:

* Granite is naturally waterproof and stain resistant, although color and quality can vary dramatically. It is, however, extremely heavy and may require reinforced base cabinets. Look for smaller veins in the granite for more durability.

* Butcher block actually improves with age and adds character to the kitchen. It is ideal for chopping fruit, vegetables and meat. Don't use it for the sink surround as too much water can cause it to warp. It should be sanded and conditioned periodically to prevent the wood from drying out.

* Laminate is an affordable option and can even look like natural stone. Unlike some of the more expensive countertop options, it can easily scratch and cannot be used as a chopping surface. Hot pots and pans can also melt its surface.

* Stainless steel comes in a shiny or brushed matte finish and is easy to keep sanitary and maintain. It's strong and heatproof, but is not good for chopping and cutting. Stainless steel scratches easily and will also dull the blades of cutting knives.

* Tile is great for designing original patterns and is durable and heat resistant. Granite tiles can be used for a fraction of the price of a

one-piece slab. Unfortunately, the grout is easy to stain and crack, and the tiles may chip. Regular cleaning and sealing is required for maintenance.

* The latest craze in countertops is concrete. Concrete may be the most versatile of the options, since it can take on many looks. It can be dyed to match other room features, take on the look of polished stone or be imbedded with items like glass or shells to give it an original appearance. Countertops are poured on site, and this can be the most expensive option. It can stain and crack and requires resealing every six months

Cabinetry

When choosing cabinets, try to integrate the style you choose into other design elements of the home to connect the kitchen to the surrounding space. Mix and match woods and heights of the cabinets for more visual interest. Remember that dark colors absorb light and make the space seem smaller, while lighter shades and glass doors make the room appear larger. Also consider freestanding pieces that can be moved around the kitchen.

An average kitchen may need 40 to 50 pieces of hardware, including pulls, knobs, handles, hinges and drawer slides. This is one place where the budget can go haywire. There are thousands of styles from which to choose so try to narrow down the choices by first considering the proportion of the piece to the cabinet. Look for more rounded edges--for safety--and then match the hardware with the architectural style. For example, pewter, glass and porcelain knobs and pulls best complement traditional cabinets or a country style. Geometric shapes look great with modern style.

Storage

Breen considers efficient storage systems to be the backbone of a properly designed kitchen. First, designate specific activity zones for cooking, baking, food preparation and cleaning. Figure out which items you use most regularly and make sure all of your pieces have a storage space. Store less-used objects on the periphery of the kitchen.

Open shelving, rather than closed cabinets, not only increases storage space, but also greatly reduces the kitchen design cost. Open shelving saves time and movement. On the
downside, items are more exposed to dust and grease.

Adding a pantry solves many storage challenges. There are three types of pantries that can be added depending on the space and budget. Cupboard pantries are ideal for small kitchens and are placed within the kitchen area. The pantry can be a pull-out or fold-out unit and store cookware, utensils and dry ingredients. It's also excellent for storing glassware, canned goods, spices and linens.

Essential pantries are walk-in or step-in and usually store china, serving pieces, vegetable bins, bottled water and wines. Location is close enough for convenience, but distanced from changing temperatures. For larger budgets, the butler's pantry is a service area between the kitchen and dining room that may include a small refrigerator, dishwasher or wine cellar.

Appliances

Choosing the right range, cooktop, oven, microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator and ventilation requires careful research and close budgetary consideration. Analyze your cooking needs closely, as these are purchases that need to serve you daily for many years.

Sink

Sinks are no longer limited to stainless steel. They come in a variety of options including copper, cast-iron, solid surface and composites of natural stone with acrylic material. They can be installed as an undermount, rimmed or integrated into the countertop. Consider adding a water filtration system or a separate hot water tap. Make sure you have adequate plumbing.

Faucets add dramatic flair. If you cook large quantities of soups or pastas, consider installing a pot-filler faucet behind the stove. It allows you to fill a large stockpot of water without carrying it from kitchen sink to stove. These faucets have become fairly common in high-end kitchens.Words of Wisdom

Today's options in kitchen design are endless. Take time to explore all of the possibilities. Breen sums up the bottom line in kitchen design with a quote from the late Julia Child. "Design your kitchen right the first time, and you will never have to think about it again."

Books

Good Green Kitchens: The Ultimate Resource for Creating A Beautiful, Healthy, Eco-Friendly Kitchen
by Jennifer Roberts. (Gibbs Smith, $29.95).

What's a green kitchen? It's a kitchen that's fabulously designed in an eco-friendly way. It can be as simple as having energy- friendly appliances or as dedicated as using reclaimed wood. Somewhere in between, every kitchen can be "greened" to contribute to a healthier environment.

In Good Green Kitchens, author and green building advocate Jennifer Roberts showcases a spectrum of green cooking spaces and carefully lays out the elements and materials necessary for a healthy, well-designed workspace. When picking out cabinets and new floors, it's important to consider the melting Arctic ice fields, vanishing rainforests and declining fisheries, Roberts says. Her suggestions are practical, attractive and affordable.

The three fundamental principles behind the green concept are energy efficiency, resource conservation and health.

For an energy efficient kitchen, consider installing high performance windows with low-e coating to keep heat inside in the winter and the sun's warmth out in the summer. During remodeling, improve insulation in walls and ceilings. Weather strip to prevent air leaks. Buy energy and water efficient appliances, and find energy efficient electric lighting. If you can, plant shade trees on the west and south sides of the kitchen and install overhangs to keep sun off the kitchen windows.

Do you really need a huge kitchen? Conserve some resources and simplify both in size and number of appliances. Buy wood with Forest Stewardship Council certification or use rapidly renewable resources like bamboo and other grasses, cork, soy, hemp and cotton. Do not buy tropical hardwoods like mahogany, which is now endangered.

Evaluate your kitchen for health hazards. Make sure it has adequate ventilation. Roberts cautions against using building materials, finishes or furnishings that include noxious chemicals such as formaldehyde. Avoid PVC products. The kitchen should also have good daylight and a connection to the outdoors and be reasonably accessible for the handicapped.

This book really doesn't take the fun out of remodeling. It does, rather, make kitchen design a more philosophical and practical global endeavor while creating a soul space for your home, no matter the size.

Published: August 01, 2006
Issue: Fall 2006

Comments

Is this Chicago Life or Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?
Plutography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutography
Robin Leach, Oct-23-2009