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Trends in Kitchens
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Dawn on the 21st century wakes up to a kitchen with growing pains.

"A lot of people want computers in their kitchen," says Sharon Flatley, certified kitchen designer, ASID. "They want phone and fax machine. They want space for the children to sit, space for entertaining, incorporation of wine coolers and that sort of refrigeration, and more of a social area." In fact, converting the out-grown kitchen into workable, livable space constitutes most of Flatley's remodeling projects.

New appliances are tremendous forces driving kitchen design, according to Rex DeWald, co-owner of Redstone Kitchens. The latest innovation, the Kohler pro cookcenter, performs all functions of a standard sink, plus it steams, boils, poaches, blanches, and drains a separate cooking vessel. Costing $2500 to $3000, the pro cookcenter exemplifies the current trend in integrative cookware because it adds a heating element to sinks, already equipped with instant hot water from tanks under the sink. More than any other kitchen process, heating stations are scattered throughout the kitchen on stoves, in ovens, and in microwaves, the most frequently used cooking element, according to DeWald, who suggests placing the microwave near the refrigerator for convenience.

Since the introduction of the Fisher and Paykel dish drawers (dishwasher drawers), two small dishwashers can now be stacked into standard dishwasher space or fitted separately on either side of the sink. Available at EXPO Design Center, dishwasher drawers accommodate small loads, crystal/fine china, and are useful outside the kitchen, such as in a wet bar.

The custom in refrigeration still remains one large refrigerator, according to Flatley. But, add on several specialty Sub Zero refrigerated deli-drawers with microprocessor control panels that program temperatures for specific foods and wine storage.

"We're designing a lot of primary and secondary work triangles," says DeWald. Flatley recommends a minimum of two work triangles to accommodate two separate cooks. With more cooks in the kitchen, walk space has widened from 36" to 42" for traffic flow and clearance of large appliance doors. Larger appliances look more industrialized, especially stainless steel commercial sized stoves, sinks, and heavy-duty faucets. On the other hand, cabinet furniture can transform the kitchen into family room appeal with decor resembling the country French and old world look, two popular choices in Dallas, or perhaps a modern European look.

Regardless of style, kitchen decor has taken on the "unfitted furniture look," which translates into the break up of ceiling-to-floor cabinet symmetry by the mixing of cabinet moldings, colors, sizing, and materials, thus introducing the idea of furniture in the kitchen. In fact, YesterTec ( manufacturers have gone one step further and created several lines of furniture to accommodate kitchen appliances. A monogram pantry series combines the refrigerator and a food/dish storage cabinet in one large piece of furniture, and a large working pantry accommodates an off center mounted sink.

Very popular, when space allows, is the central island, which today has almost evolved into an accent piece with legs, claw feet, or contrasting colors to stand apart from the wall cabinetry. Previously built for stove or sink, the island now can be equipped for storage, under-counter refrigeration, and counter top work space. And like wall cabinetry, island cabinetry can come from one of thousands of manufactured cabinet makers, according to Flatley.

Manufactured cabinetry is becoming the trend in place of job built cabinetry. Slow to reach Dallas, manufactured cabinetry has been popular in other areas of the country for style, fine craftsmanship, and durability.

"Most of the customer stocked cabinetry have a lifetime warranty on their hardware and hinges," said Flatley, who cautions against spray painting over hinges, which does void the warranty. However, many new home builders still use job built cabinetry, or they may install custom built cabinetry and, sometimes, paint over everything.

Before embarking on a remodeled kitchen, a costly project roughly between $40,000 to $50,000, according to DeWald, make note of a few guidelines. Most remodeled kitchens remain close to the original design, in part, because of cost restraints, especially in slab foundation homes, where breaking up the concrete can be cost prohibitive. Also, gas stoves can go only against a wall in a slab foundation home, not in a center island, because gas lines cannot run through concrete. Aside from these limitations, remodeling kitchens corrects existing dysfunction, improves home value, and creates new looks.

"People are looking for more earthy feeling of textures, whether it's the texture of tumble marble back splash or stone mixed with formal wood," says Flatley. Textured surfaces in stone, cement, or kirkstone make popular counter tops. Granite is quite popular, having dropped to $50 - $60 per square foot because of the availability of local stone workers, says DeWald.

The trend in wood is to lighter woods, almost natural maple and cherry, says Flatley. And glazes are now covering wood and painted finishes, according to DeWald, with the most popular being white giving a white washed or pickled look. Chocolate glazes on maple and oak impart an antique look, says Christy Bowen, designer at The Kitchen Source.

"Stains and finishes will mellow in time," said Bowen, like cherry finish, which mellows in six months from pink to red. Maple also mellows from creamy white to yellow. Not always, cautions Bowen, for much depends on how wood is treated.

Feng Shui is another motivational force in kitchen design, says Bowen, who has had customers request colors and designs in line with Feng Shui. But a lot about Feng Shui is common sense, which means placing for flow and color compatibility. Feng Shui translates to "the wind and the water," and its practitioners believe arranging furnishing and decor in alignment with nature creates harmony and good health in our lives.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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