Style, lighting, efficiency and health both in terms of eco-friendly materials and in appliances with features that promote healthy eating are feeding the most dominant trends of kitchen design.
As with home furnishings, the new and shiny products usually grab attention. But besides the latest in appliances, color, materials and finishes storage, organization and functionality are as important as ever, especially since kitchens open to other spaces, such as family rooms, which has made us fussier about how design flows and eliminating clutter.
Its about flexible living, said kitchen designer Susan Serra, who also writes several popular blogs on the subject and has her own line of Scandinavian-influenced cabinetry called Bornholm. And its also a response to open floor plans. The thinking is to integrate into surrounding rooms, to take away a little bit of the strictly utilitarian kitchen feeling. Ultimately, (its about) bringing in comfort.
Some high-end ranges cost as much as an SUV, but simple updates may not require a huge cash outlay and they can make a considerable impact. So while you study the latest trends, consider which small-scale improvements can be achieved.
Lighting: An upgrade of lighting, of course, enhances the cooking and prep experience. Task lighting is especially important for aging eyes. Some of the new LEDs (light emitting diodes) are battery operated and even have motion sensors. In addition, there are flexible strips of lights (Hafele is one manufacturer), which can be installed inside cabinets both for decorative and functional purposes.
Overhead, even fans of halogen are becoming converts to LEDs as the warm hue can be replicated without the heat. Although the bulbs cost more up front, they are far more efficient (lowering your electric bill) and last much longer, some even more than 50,000 hours. Most important, unlike CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), the actual quality in terms of color is better, and there isnt the danger of mercury spillage if a bulb breaks.
Islands: Most kitchens today are equipped with islands. But the vocabulary of freestanding islands is expanding in a range of styles and budgets. Furniture manufacturers like Habersham (which also has a full kitchen cabinet line), GuildMaster and French Heritage are among those who thoughtfully design islands, some of which are on lockable casters. The beauty of these standalone pieces is that they can complement other cabinetry.
Weve always done very eclectic pieces, said Henessy Wayser of High Point-based French Heritage. In the kitchen you want a working counter, but then other functions to go with it a wine bar, shelving, storage. Their islands, which come in a range of natural and painted, finishes, also include such niceties as beautifully constructed removable trays, cutting boards with brass fittings, pull-out tables and towel bars. Its a compact multifunctional piece that goes in almost any kitchen, she said.
Cabinets: Cabinetry can be a huge aesthetic game changer, as it takes up so much real estate on a kitchen footprint. Thats one reason that many designers like to vary finishes, to break up wide expanses. With considerable range in style covering traditional, transitional and contemporary, other factors such as wood choice, color and finish especially stand out. Woods with nuances in grains and special paint finishes and glazes, of course, lend a more furniture-like look. The German manufacturer Poggenpohls new walnut collection (Artesio) is clean and modern, appointed with square-shaped stainless steel hardware, and transitions beautifully to living spaces. Gray and taupe painted and stained finishes, most notably from Plain and Fancy, a Pennsylvania-based custom cabinet company, Pa., echo a similar direction in interior decor.
Serras own designs, which are available in walnut or rift oak, are eco-friendly as well, as they are finished in a natural oil with no urea or formaldehyde.
In addition to what you see, cabinet manufacturers also are paying more attention to whats inside. The hardware and hinges that allow cabinets to pull up and down are a boon for aging in place as well as an ageless convenience. Smart storage cubbies, pegboards, dividers for everything from flatware, utensils and serving pieces to pots and pans is expanding, including retrofit possibilities.
Sinks and faucets: And if the retrofitting works (measure carefully, dont forget depth), replacing a sink might be an instant perk-up, especially with one like Jonathan Adlers new special edition color collection for Kohler. A farmhouse- style model now comes in yummy bright shades of green, yellow and blue.
Also extremely appealing is the sleek, all-in-one combo of sink with counter. Integrated sinks are available in solid surfacing options such as quartz (Silestone, Cambria, Zodiaq), stone or stainless steel.
All-in-one pull-down faucets that integrate sprays continue to win fans; those with motion sensors that respond to touch or the simple wave of a hand (like Moens MotionSense) make green sense. That kitchen appliance manufacturers are paying attention to fashion trends is evident from some of Delta and Brizos new offerings. Delta added a dash of color with red accents on one faucet and sophistication with matte black on others. Another wonderful decorating touch: an elegantly styled, small-scale vase and soap dispenser to coordinate with some of the faucets.
High-end cooking: While hands-free faucets that conserve water are green winners, cooking appliance manufacturers are focusing on whats good for the body. Convection steam ovens have been around at the high end, but two of the latest models from Miele and Wolf dont have to be plumbed, which makes retrofitting easier and saves on additional labor costs. Steam cooking preserves nutrients and retains color and texture, and also maintains natural juices and flavors, so use of butter and oil can be cut down or eliminated.
Motorized rotisseries also are touted as healthy options, since self-basting allows juices to cover evenly and fat and grease fall to a drip pan below. The 32-inch- square La Cornue Flamberge is the first built-in gas rotisserie designed for indoor use that requires no special ventilation. Wolf and Capital have rotisseries available within some of their ranges.
Dual fuel ranges also are firing up enthusiasm. Riding the wave of a lust for commercial ranges, Capital introduced a gas cooktop with electric convection oven, shown off in fire engine red, available in 30-, 36-, 48- and 60-inch sizes. Italian manufacturer Bertazzoni recently introduced a segmented cooktop that includes three types of heat: induction, gas and electric griddle
Whether you can afford a full-scale kitchen renovation or just enough to cover some improvements, there are many options likely to satisfy your eye for design and some will kick it up a notch for your taste buds as well.