In the 21st-century kitchen, when your oven texts you, don’t ignore it

Universal UclickJune 20, 2014 

  • Color comes home

    Even though neutrals – particularly shades of gray, from dove to milky cappuccino to taupes and blue-grays – are huge, that doesn’t mean color is absent. That’s especially true in Europe, where design is bolder. So there you’re as likely to see an orange range as a Ferrari red cabinet. But Radiant Orchid, this year’s Pantone Color of the Year, turned up not in Milan at Eurocucina, but at the Architectural Digest Show in New York.

  • A quick change

    Changing hardware is a quick way to add personality, color, sparkle and texture to your kitchen. Some options echo current trends in fashion, such as animal prints or quilting. Others are even eco-friendly, like the Polycor handles made from a mix of raw materials that include recycled glass.

When it comes to kitchen design, generation gaps seem narrower than ever.

That’s because modern notes are sounding – mirroring trends in home furnishings – with simpler cabinet fronts, minimal hardware and clean, sleek lines in appliances and faucets. Modern is the fastest-growing category, according to a survey by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, also known as NKBA.

“We see kitchen design trending more contemporary this year,” says John Petrie, a kitchen and bath designer who is president of the trade group. That means “clean, simple lines, less clutter and little ornamentation.”

And technology is being embraced by all, with more efficient products that are smarter, faster and more stylish.

Connectivity, particularly, struck a chord at the recent 2014 Kitchen and Bath Show in Las Vegas. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that the latest data on the Internet of Everything (IoE) points to a growth from 10 billion to 30 billion devices in 2020, according to Allied Business Intelligence Inc. That means more network connectivity for everyday objects, allowing them to send and receive data.

How does that affect your roast? One buzzworthy introduction from Dacor is its first Droid-controlled wall oven, with a generous 4.7-cubic-foot capacity and Wi-Fi connectivity that will text you when dinner’s ready.

Already on the market is a refrigerator from LG (Smart ThinQ) equipped with an LCD screen that tells you what’s inside, which food is about to expire and even ingredients you need to buy – all accessible through a smartphone app.

Other appliance-smart features have to do with function. For wine enthusiasts, Dacor’s new built-in Discovery WineStation dispenses and preserves wines, keeping contents “as the vintner intended” for up to 60 days.

A high level of sophistication, especially with multiple functions, is further distinguishing the more commercial-style ranges. Viking’s impressive Turbo oven is speedy and versatile: It roasts, broils, toasts, dehydrates and turns out fab pizza in minutes – plus it has a microwave mode. A whole chicken can be roasted in 14 minutes; 48 minutes for a 14-pound turkey.

Healthy eating also is feeding continued interest in steam and convection functions, and Thermador’s 48-inch Pro Grand Steam range offers a combined steam and convection oven, in addition to a large-capacity convection oven, six burner gas cooktop (with one high-power, 22,000 BTU burner) and electric grill/griddle as well as a warming drawer.

Easier access matters

In addition to the way things cook, appliance manufacturers also are looking at accessibility – both for its convenience and for universal design. So one of the new Viking wall ovens actually borrows from the concept of the popular French door-style refrigerators. The way its two-door oven operates is with a single touch, which opens both sides. It’s not only a feature that speaks to an aging population or the vertically challenged, it’s one that appeals to anyone handling a casserole.

Space-saving and organizational efficiency is one more hot button for manufacturers. Microwave drawers such as Thermador’s flush mount MicroDrawer are offering new flexibility and function (1.2 cubic feet and 10 cooking modes) for standard-depth cabinets. A 24-inch European-style all-freezer or all-fridge from Liebherr is three inches slimmer than Sub-Zero’s slimmest.

And Frigidaire’s new freezer is a chameleon: It converts to a refrigerator at the flip of a switch. A company spokesman said the idea is for an extra appliance to blend in (it was shown in a laundry room, in a steely gray painted finish to match a washer and dryer).

An NKBA survey of kitchen designers revealed that the features most in demand are induction cooktops, steam ovens, French door refrigerators, bottom-freezer refrigerators, touch-activated faucets, electronic (no-touch faucets) and LED lighting.

Going with the grain

Furniture-style cabinets still are dominating kitchen design, and along with the trend for cleaner lines, there is declining interest in highly ornamented Tuscan and Provincial looks as well as distressed finishes.

That said, showing off grain is riding a new wave of popularity – in traditional and modern styles. And if there is a color story in cabinetry designs, it’s gray – both in kitchens and baths. It ranges from richer brown-based cappuccino to almost blue-gray, in matte finishes in stains and paints, as well as high gloss. Going-with-the-grain looks range from quarter-sawn oak to ash to walnut. Some reclaimed looks were described by one company as a “Restoration Hardware style.”

Espresso hues have all but disappeared, according to a spokesman from KraftMaid. This parallels what’s happening in interior design, except for gilt and silver finishes, which are unlikely to be translated to the kitchen.

Shiny finishes have opened the door to high-style European looks. Elmwood Cabinetry introduced furniture-like resin panels with 3-D effects, such as foil metallic substrates that appear to be backlit. Other looks include wavy, stripy veneers for both counters and cabinets, some with a hint of metallic sparkle, all mirroring trends at Maison & Objet in Paris.

Horizontal striping also is trending in cabinetry, again – a look that’s not uncommon in Europe, as evidenced in Poggenpohl collections in walnut and ash. In addition, plank looks, riffing on those in flooring, as well as bead board turned on its side are fresh ideas.

Embrace eclectic synergy

What’s especially apparent is a fresh eclecticism where weathered plank floors, linen-y upholstery, minimal cabinetry and crystal chandeliers seamlessly cohabit.

Cabinet interiors are equally important, again with soft, close mechanisms that are practically a standard option and pull-down options as well as cubby drawer dividers, which organize everything from spices to spatulas.

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