Stainless steel hasn’t gone out of style, exactly, say designers. But increasingly, as people are interested in making the kitchen just another room of the house, "hiding" the appliances is popular — making the appliances look like cabinets, or tucking them away in drawers, or breaking up the traditional fridge/freezer.
With all this talk about the kitchen becoming more things to everyone — whether social center or homework station — it’s becoming more important than ever to make the space work as efficiently as possible, say designers.
This will probably be your only kitchen remodel, says Howe, so she advises springing for the extras that will make your kitchen work better. Sharp, for example, makes a microwave designed to operate in a drawer, and Miele makes a high-end, wall-mounted coffeemaker.
"Cabinets account for half of the product cost of what you will spend in your kitchen," Howe says, so add space-savers such as a pull-out trash can, spice drawers, tray dividers and roll-out shelves. "Future home buyers are going to appreciate that you put that amount of detail into the cabinet design," she says.
"We’re still knocking down walls and opening things up," says designer Muenchow.
"The kitchen is definitely the hub of the house," agrees Friedman, so people "want to open the kitchen to other parts of the house." Another reason: "We entertain more casually now. And there are more people more interested in cooking."
Opening up the kitchen can be as simple — and as complicated — as removing walls to let the kitchen speak to the other areas of the house. But there are other strategies, too. "We bring the windows down to countertop level," says Muenchow, which brightens the room more. Placing a window and windowsill behind the sink also can open up more space as well as simply create the feeling of more room because the space flows into the glass.
Good lighting can give a sense openness and space, too. "Good lighting design is really, really key" as the room becomes crucial, says Friedman. "It’s all about task lighting and ambience lighting."
Green isn’t fading
"People are really looking for ways to incorporate ‘going green’ into their daily life — and believe it or not you can make that part of a kitchen remodel, even though remodeling is such a huge expense," says Natalie Howe, of Natalie Howe Design in Austin, Texas. She recently won an award for this under-$30,000 remodel of an outdated 1950s cottage kitchen, using several environmentally friendly materials. There are lots of ways to roll green into your remodel:
- Cooking: "Most of my clients now are using magnetic induction cooktops," says designer Richard Landon. Such cooktops use an electromagnetic field to cook food. "It’s 90% efficient at turning energy into heat. It doesn’t heat up your home as much and cause your air conditioning to run."
- Floors: Howe likes cork flooring — a recyclable material that’s soft on the feet.
- Glass: Howe also prefers glass tiles, like those made by Oceanside Glasstile — some of which is made from recycled glass — for areas such as kitchen backsplashes.
- Hard surfaces: There are several fine alternatives to granite and other mined products. Richlite is a resin paper product, basically pressed sawdust bonded with resins, says designer Friedman. Another company uses bamboo fiber and sawdust to create something called PaperStone.
Howe’s remodel, above, used Oceanside Glasstile for the backsplash, plank-styled cork floors and Silestone countertops.
Read more on green kitchens.
"Thankfully we’re seeing, finally, contemporary coming up," says Sandy Hayes, of Hayes Designs in Portland, Ore. What’s that mean? "Cleaner lines, not so fussy," she explains. "Five or six or eight years ago, I would have found a French country kitchen would be filled with all kinds of moldings and appliqués." Today, homeowners generally want kitchens with a sleeker look. What to do if you have an old-school kitchen that matches an old-school home? Even that can be cleaned up by removing some of the extra decoration and moldings, Hayes says.
Give it gas
"We put in gas whenever we can put it in 36-inch ranges and wider," says Sue Muenchow, designer for Remodeling Designs of Dayton, Ohio. Clients in all price ranges are interested in cooking and want high-quality stoves — and the natural-gas lines that serve them, Muenchow says. Such gas stoves can range from $2,000 to "the sky’s the limit," compared with an average slide-in range that might cost $600 or $700, she says.
There’s also a trend toward both higher BTUs, so you can sear and stir-fry, and the ability to turn down the heat and cook quite delicately, says designer Barb Friedman: "They want to be able to cook hotter and cooler." Take the Wolf stove that has two rings on a burner and that can be turned to such a low simmer that you can melt chocolate without using a double boiler, Friedman says.
Time was, men at parties would congregate in one room and women in another, says Bill Feinberg, owner of Allied Kitchen & Bath, a remodeler based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a remodeling columnist for the Palm Beach Post. Now, "it’s everyone congregating together," says Feinberg. "Kitchens to me are all about socializing." That’s why Feinberg likes islands — with seating, importantly. "We’re talking islands that are 10 feet long, six feet wide," he says, where people can sit, or a child can do homework, while a parent perhaps prepares a meal. His own house has such an island, as does the home he just remodeled for a friend.
By Christopher Solomon, MSN Real Estate