The LUXURY KITCHEN.
Kitchens are a hot topic. Not just because stovetops are getting bigger, and burners are growing in size and number (which they are), but more precisely, because the concept of the kitchen has changed in the last decade. The kitchen is taking up more space in the luxury home (and in the budget--homebuilders today devote seven percent of the entire construction budget to the kitchen, about double what they spend on the master bedroom) because the kitchen is taking up more space in our lives. It serves as a retreat, a lavish place to entertain, a favorite family gathering spot, and--oh, yes, a room where we prepare everyday meals and whip up culinary surprises.
Trisha Coats of Kitchens By Design goes right to the heart of the matter when she observes, "The kitchen is the living room of today's homes." She should know. Since 1983, Coats has been styling custom kitchens and dispensing practical advice about designing for how people really live. Lately, she has been recording her observations and experiences in a lifestyle book she intends to publish.
"One of the things I always stress when advising clients on kitchen furniture is comfort," she says. "Why save your big, comfortable upholstered pieces of furniture for a living room that you rarely use? Put your budget into a plush love seat for the kitchen. Make sure your kitchen chairs are roomy and luxurious. Mix poetry and fiction books in with your cookbooks and make yourself a cozy spot to read. Have lamps scattered throughout the room. Believe me, you are going to spend time in the kitchen. So make it comfortable right from the start, and you will never regret it." The designer also knows that each family wants their kitchen to be like no other.
"Clients in the luxury home market today demand a lot of personality in their kitchens as well as all the up-to-the-minute conveniences," she says. "For the design professional, that means carefully surveying tastes and individual needs of the homeowners and blending all their desires into a kitchen that harmonizes with the overall design of the rest of the home." Because of the Florida style of open floor plans, today's kitchens don't stop where the cabinetry ends. Consequently, says Coats, "the themes, colors and attitude of the kitchen should flow into the rest of the rooms as part of a whole picture."
Coats says that two major looks are popular in kitchen design today. One is the theme look--the farmhouse kitchen, the Tuscan kitchen, the Craftsman look, etc. The other is the contemporary, streamlined, pared-down, high-tech kitchen that started in restaurant commercial cooking areas and was quickly appropriated by homeowners who were serious about food preparation and appreciated industrial design.
The commercial look calls for lots of practical metal (stainless steel and copper rule), open storage, built-ins and an absence of fancy trim such as moldings. Modern furniture, reflective surfaces and innovative lighting solutions are all part of this look. Islands are apt to be on wheels, and abstract art hangs on the walls. Usually, these kitchens are done in monochrome with flashes of primary colors. These kitchens were popular in Italy and Germany long before they caught on in America, and a lot of local styling draws inspiration from industrial European sources.
In the theme kitchen, anything goes as long as the style coordinates with the rooms that the kitchen flows into and from. Ron Cook of Cook's Custom Cabinetry (he's currently working on 17 different residential kitchens) says the Mediterranean style is strong in this part of Florida. "I am also seeing a trend toward darker woods," he says. "My clients want a warm, rich look, and cherry is their choice. To make the cabinetry look especially dramatic and more like fine furniture, we use a thin black line for detailing." Glass-front cabinets are usual, as is a big, decorative hood for the range. In fact, the range most commonly sits in a niche with the hood and pilasters framing the stove area. Decorative tiles, ornate molding, granite counter tops and faux painting are all part of the look, which is beautiful and effectively hides all the functioning aspects of the kitchen. "It's sometimes hard to discover the refrigerator or the dishwasher in this kind of kitchen, they are so artfully concealed," he says.
Ana Bain of Village Woodworking reports that the Tuscan kitchen is popular right now. Inspired by rooms in old Italian villas and farmhouses, the Tuscan kitchen often features tumbled stone, tile, an island or big wooden table, open and glass-front cabinetry to display pottery and cabinets in an antique glazed finish. An imposing hearth area around the stove is usually the focal point. Concealed within all this European rustic charm, of course, is a full complement of up-to-the-minute appliances and conveniences, including this year's hot feature--freezer and refrigerator drawers installed at different places within a kitchen. This way you can store salad fixings near the prep sink and ice cream in the freezer drawer nearest to the hot fudge sundae dishes.
Kerry Bay Hillmyer, who was responsible for the redo of Jay Foley's luxurious Orange Blossom kitchen for the ASID Showhouse this year, reminds us that great-looking kitchens fail unless they function with the utmost convenience and efficiency. Designers must balance beauty and function. "Homeowners are so sophisticated today," she says. "They read, research and travel. Consequently, they have a pretty good idea of what they want in a kitchen by the time they build or remodel. It seems to me they want a lot more surfaces that work--chopping blocks, pull-out shelving for efficient storage. Drawers for pots and pans are also high on clients' lists." Deep double sinks at the main cooking triangle and an additional deep (18-inch) sink at the prep area are essential in the luxury kitchen. State-of-the-art lighting with all lights on dimmers is also in demand, and most homeowners also want a kitchen with a pleasant view that admits lots of natural light.
Hillmyer says that for the surface we walk on in the kitchen, porcelain tile is the newest craze. "In terms of price, it is between ceramic tile and marble, and it is quite beautiful. Additionally, porcelain is harder than tile and virtually stain-free. The tiles can be butted up against one another so tightly that you can't see the grout, and the look is like marble." Many clients want wood throughout the kitchen, with maple and cherry continuing to be strong and birch on the rise in contemporary kitchens.
Bill Mullet Jr. of Mullet's Appliances predicts that a New Zealand-manufactured dishwasher will soon start showing up in local luxury homes. The unit consists of two dishwashing drawers stacked one on top the other. They operate independently. Put your fine china in one and set the dial accordingly. Put your pots and pans in the other and set it, too.
"I would say that in homes of $1 million and up, 60 percent of the homeowners want two dishwashers," Mullet says. "Kitchens are so huge today that having one on each side of the room saves walking. Two sink areas are common; and gas ranges are getting larger, some of them up to 60 inches. This means you need a huge hood for exhaust, and the hood is now a major design feature of the room. Homeowners want most all of their appliances integrated into the cabinetry so the room has a furnished look."
Mullet, who has been in business in Sarasota for 25 years, agrees with kitchen designers that a room once reserved for domestic chores and informal family meals is now the design heart of the home. Only the best will do for the kitchens of today, because practical homeowners have decided to put the bulk of their budget into rooms they enjoy the most.
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|Date:||Apr 1, 2000|
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