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Cooking Up Togetherness

The oven timer dings, ice clinks at the bottom of glasses and laughter abounds from one of the most popular rooms of any home, the kitchen. Today, they are often designed with both functionality and entertaining in mind. Chopping vegetables while chatting with guests and serving beverages is made easier in kitchens that are created with multitasking in mind.

Homeowners now work with design professionals and contractors to develop spaces that can serve as hubs for their homes. Kitchens are built for both everyday life and large dinner parties. Considerations for new kitchens and remodeled spaces include items such as appliances, seating, counter space and technology integration.

Latest in layouts

“The current trend is to design kitchens with entertaining in mind. Layouts are open with large islands and room for guests to be in the kitchen with the hosts,” says Amy Gartzke of Gerhards in Appleton. Gartzke adds, “Islands are in demand and if space allows, some homeowners are incorporating two islands.”

Islands enhance the functionality of a kitchen by serving as both a food preparation area and a space to dine. “More people are interested in how their kitchen functions for their family not just how it looks,” shares Gary Fassbender of Distinctive Renovations in Appleton.

According to Ali Fagerlind of Mosquito Creek Home Renovations and Outdoor Living in Appleton, today’s kitchens and dining spaces are all-in-one. “Many homeowners are choosing to have a large kitchen and entertaining space instead of having a formal dining room.”

Nancy Nygaard of Studio Kitchens in Appleton shares that it also is possible to achieve the desired open concept when renovating a home with an existing dining room. “Kitchens are definitely being designed with entertaining in mind. We often take down walls between the kitchen and dining spaces to open up the area. People are finding they no longer need a formal dining room.”

Homeowners are placing a priority on having large open kitchen spaces. Gartzke says, “Even if homes are getting smaller, kitchen are not.” She is finding that homeowners are allocating more square footage space toward kitchens even if it means compromising space in other rooms.

Maximizing appliances

Placement of appliances is a key consideration in kitchen design to maximize the cooking and preparation work efficiency of the space. “Appliance placement tends to stay with the traditional work triangle of the refrigerator, stove and sink,” shares Fagerlind. She adds, “People are also adding secondary sinks in kitchens for prep work purposes.”

While the cook triangle includes the appliances primarily used for cooking, additional appliances also are being added to the mix. “In appliance trends, people are choosing double ovens often with a separate cooktop. We are also seeing more appliances being incorporated such as microwave drawers and wine refrigerators,” says Gartzke.

Fagerlind concurs, “There is a big demand for double ovens and larger, almost commercial size appliances.” She shares, “Like most appliances, refrigerators are increasing in size. The style trend is large french doors with bottom drawer-style freezers.”

Nygaard is seeing more people choosing to incorporate convection steam ovens into their kitchens. She adds, “The steam oven steams food while it cooks. This is a healthier way to cook and works great for tasks such as reheating leftover food. It cooks faster than a traditional oven, but slower than a microwave.”

There is no question appliance colors have a big impact on the overall look of a kitchen. Who can forget the avocado green and harvest gold shades of the 1980s? Currently, there is one appliance finish trending. “Stainless steel is still the most popular finish for appliances,” adds Gartzke.

Though Fagerlind says there is another on the rise lately, “We have been placing GE slate finish appliances in a lot of homes.”

Beverage breakaway

“Minibars with a small, beverage-only refrigerator are also popular to keep drink preparation apart from the cooking,” says Fagerlind.

A similar setup can be done to provide quick refreshments for kids. Separate from the main cook space, a small refrigerator can be stocked with water, juice and snacks.

Nygaard adds that she works to design kitchens with three zones in mind:
• A food cleanup area
• A food preparation/cooking area
• A beverage area

“The beverage center is set up so people don’t need to cross over to the cooking zone in order to get a drink,” shares Nygaard.

Top it off

Kitchen countertops are an eye catching and important component to any kitchen design. Homeowners are leaning toward solid surface countertops when selecting materials for their new kitchen.

“People are liking solid surface countertops such as corian, quartz and granite. We are currently seeing quartz being chosen a lot,” shares Fassbender.

Gartzke agrees, “Quartz countertops are gaining popularity. It is a surface that is nonporous, has consistent patterns and comes in a variety of colors.”

“Granite still tends to catch people’s eye with its natural beauty,” adds Nygaard. She concurs that all three solid surface materials are being chosen based on the homeowners’ style preference. Corian is especially popular in more contemporary kitchen designs.

Cook tablet

Electronics such as mobile phones and tablet devices have revolutionized communication and have become an integral part of the daily lives of most people. These devices have made their way into kitchens to serve purposes such as recipe organizers or food blog tools. Kitchen designers now take these electronics into consideration when developing plans.

“Hidden charging stations are being integrated into kitchen countertops, they pop up and contain outlets and USB ports for electronics,” says Gartzke.

Fagerlind adds, “Outlets with USB ports are frequently being incorporated. Technology in the kitchen is definitely growing, it is something we always speak to homeowners about.”

Gartzke shares how times have changed, “Kitchens used to be designed with under cabinet shelves that flipped down to hold cookbooks, now people use iPads for recipe storage and need stands for their tablets.”

“More and more people are using iPads or laptops for recipe references and their countertop space concerns are something we always work to accommodate,” says Fassbender.

Have a seat

Kitchens serve as a gathering space both for entertaining guests and for everyday family life. The latest trends in seating rise to the challenge of accommodating people in bustling kitchens through counter-height stool seating.

“Seating is often designed to help busy families have together time. A lot of people like to have seats around a central island so everyone can visit while still cooking or preparing the next day’s lunches,” shares Fagerlind.

Nygaard agrees, “People want to be as close as possible to the cook to converse and help.” She adds that she always tries to incorporate one or two soft chairs into kitchens. A variety of people gather in kitchens, each with different seating needs and preferences.

Dazzling details

From lighting to backsplashes, no detail is overlooked in modern kitchen design.

“Homeowners are taking great pride in the materials used for their kitchen backsplash. Many people view it as the signature look for their kitchen,” says Fassbender. He adds that the popular materials he finds are being used for backsplashes are natural stone, glass and metal.

Gartzke shares that open shelving storage is an alternative being used to decrease the amount of upper cabinets in kitchens.

“We are seeing fewer upper cabinets being used to create room for more windows in the kitchen,” says Gartzke. The windows allow for more natural light and a view of the outdoors.

To provide task and ambient light, Fassbender recommends LED tape lighting.

“LED tape lighting is small and inconspicuous for under cabinet lighting, it is also very efficient to operate,” shares Fassbender.

Focus on functionality

Whether a kitchen is being designed in a new construction home or a remodel is taking place in an existing home, having a focus on the functionality of the space is important.

Fassbender says, “Kitchen remodels are about making the best use of the kitchen space that exists.” He adds, “How you utilize the space of the kitchen is essential for functionality.”

—FC

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