A Matter of Taste

Forget the fluff and frills, these days kitchens are sleek and sophisticated, yet still comfortable.
Today, a myriad of kitchen trends are influenced from places in every corner of the globe and by our lifestyle. With advances in technology, out-of-this-world options might include your oven being programmed – while you’re at work – to keep your food cold until it’s cooking time. Or your being able to change its cooking directions from your office computer. You can even change a fridge drawer into a freezer with a flip of a switch.

A trip can influence the design of a kitchen. The sights and smells of, say, a rustic, European city can encourage an Old World feel. An Asian-inspired kitchen, with its touches of bamboo, built-in teriyaki grill and Japanese-style sliding doors will create a Zen comfort to help one unwind.

Still the center of life in a home, some kitchens can have a living room feel. An armoire might serve as a pantry. A small lamp and use of fabric can help create a homey look.

“Kitchens are not as extravagant or as big as they used to be,” says Mike Dantas of Dantas Builders. “It’s different now.”

Rob Hall agrees. His firm, Rob Hall’s Kitchen Plus, still does a lot of mountain rustic, but finds that about 25 percent of his customers prefer a more modern look.

There are countless new options for today’s kitchens. The garbage disposals are now a button that sits flush in the counter, instead of being a switch on the wall. Built-ins are convenient and slick from professional ice machines and high-end coffeemakers to ice beds for shrimp. Glass is everywhere from recycled to opaque glass on cooktops.  Range-hoods, with customized panels, are literally works of art as well as functional. One new oven gives advanced culinary enthusiasts a setting to dehydrate.  And drawers are in vogue for almost anything to cut the clutter of appliances just sitting around on the counter.

In fact, a New Zealand company is introducing a 36-inch under-the-counter drawer that can function as a wine cooler, freezer, refrigerator or dry pantry.

Hot new backsplash ideas are back featuring bright accent colors. Even a piece of art can work.  Glass tile mixed with stone is an attractive option. The cleanest look, however, is matching the finish to the countertop.

“I think people still want a streamline integrated look, says Dianne Tappe of Tappe Design and Project Management.

Carolyn Samelson, a kitchen designer for Wm Ohs, sees a trend towards induction cooktops, which don’t actually generate heat themselves, but rather induce it to the pot or pan, which, in turn, heats the food. “Forever and ever we had gas, gas and more gas ranges, “ she sighs. “Induction cooktops are electric and use a magnetic field, so it’s a very quick on and off, and the surface stays cool.”

These days, kitchen cabinets, with their organic shape, seem to float. Forget the cold, hard edges. Leading the way are strong linear grained wood cabinets, although cherry still remains the most popular, followed closely by maple and alder wood. Exotic patterns of zebra and tiger laminate are also making dramatic appearances.

While granite and quartz are still popular choices, concrete, marble and even glass are interesting surfaces – even though they do require a bit more maintenance.

When it comes to flooring, natural stone and ceramic are popular options. However, a hardwood floor is still number one. For those who are concerned about the environment, bamboo, or Lyptus, which is grown in Brazil, are alternatives for hardwood.

Even faucet manufacturers are jumping on the green bandwagon by billing themselves as “environmentally friendly finishing processors.”

Frenchdoor and freezer-bottom continue to be the two most popular styles of refrigerators. But more designers are using under-the-counter refrigerator drawers. Still in the running for top of the line are Borsch and Sub-Zero. The latter referring to its refrigerator as “a food preservation system.” And keeping with the uncluttered look, ice water is accessible from inside the door rather than out.

“Many changes to appliances are having a positive environmental impact,” says Eric Boylan, owner of Alpine Appliance Center. “For instance, European refrigerators run all of the time, rather than kicking on and off. While that sounds contrary, these refrigerators actually use less power and save electricity.”

If remodeling is your thing, new curtains, a fresh coat of paint, new appliances and new flooring just might do it.

“Kitchens are the focal point in most of our resort homes,” says Kris Krohn, who with her husband, Mike, owns Rusty Spike Construction Company.

“Most people live in their kitchens. You can get more bang for the buck with a kitchen facelift.”
Ken Jones, a designer at Thurston Kitchen and bath recommends increasing the scale of your kitchen through its height.

“It should be like wearing stripes,” he quips. “You want vertical lines. You want to keep things light. Darker colors close in a room so, for instance, black appliances can be paneled. You can doctor up a kitchen with stainless steel and less fluff and frills. A little bit of investment brings better results.”

Updating a kitchen will help a home’s resale value even in today’s housing market. According to sources, when selling, one can expect to see 75 to 80 cents back for every dollar put into updated kitchens.

So whether you are building your new dream home with your ideal kitchen or simply updating, there’s no dearth of options.  For that reason alone, the process takes time, patience and help from a professional.

Personal preference rules above all. It’s all a matter of taste.