Arts and crafts or avant garde |

Arts and crafts or avant garde

The Union StaffToday's kitchens, both contemporary (above), as well as traditional, boast a healthy supply of personality along with clean lines and sleek stainless steel appliances.
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Today’s homeowners want their kitchens to fit their lifestyles. Whether they prefer a traditional look with a nod to the past or a more cutting-edge style, it’s really all about creating a personal space.

Today’s kitchens have to be efficient – both in time and energy – multifunctional, and most importantly, a personal reflection of the homeowners’ tastes and interests.

We are spending more time in our kitchens than ever before, cooking and entertaining and just being together, as general trends continue to refocus on home and family. Open spaces zoned by function reflect the growing trend toward comfort and informality over formal spaces such as separate dining and living rooms.

The great room concept is alive and well – merging the kitchen and family room spaces together – requiring the kitchen to be just as handsome as the rest of the home’s public spaces.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the average price of a kitchen remodel is $36,200 – including design, appliances, cabinets, material and installation. Today?s savvy homeowner – whether remodeling or building a new home – is well informed and knowledgeable, demanding cabinetry with high quality hardware and lots of storage features; elegant, easily maintained countertops; and appliances featuring the latest technology.


Consumers realize appliances play a huge role in the look of a kitchen. Sometimes this translates into blending the appliances into the cabinetry with matching panels.

More often, though, homeowners are choosing to making a bold design statement with stainless steel, achieving a more professional look. Designers are calling stainless steel the new neutral because of its unique ability to look great with almost any style or theme.

Not only are we demanding energy efficiency and a distinctive look from our appliances, we want them big enough for our needs as well as being useful in multiple ways. To save both space and time, for example, several manufacturers offer a full size microwave oven that conveniently doubles as a convection oven.

Distinctive hoods clad in stainless steel, or even glass, operate as functional art in upscale kitchens. Televisions and computer stations are becoming increasingly common in the kitchen area, appealing to our current multi-tasking mindset.

Wine coolers, appliances in drawers, and multiple appliances (two dishwashers or two microwaves) encourage designers to take a fresh look at appliance placement.


The simple lines of the Shaker door continues to be the style of choice across the board. Placed within the cabinet frame to form an inset door is the more traditional application, but the Shaker style is also commonly found in a full overlay, or European style, lending itself to a more modern feel.

Handle choices and exterior hardware go a long way in defining the character and personality of the kitchen.

Light-toned wood such as maple and cherry remain dominant, but more exotic woods are making important inroads. Mahogany is growing in popularity, as well as pear wood and anigre, a creamy colored hardwood from Africa.

The direction is toward natural or clear finishes, but mixing stained and painted cabinetry together is another growing trend.

Glass-fronted cabinets and open shelves that lighten up wall space are being seen more and more. Wood dovetail drawers and sophisticated organizational storage aids are becoming an industry standard in the high-end sector.


Our love affair with granite slab counters continues, but some exciting new choices are in the forefront. Engineered stone is a new product that literally combines the best of natural stone and solid surface.

The product is made of over 90 percent quartz particles blended with an acrylic or epoxy binder. This creates a beautiful countertop that is heat- and stain-resistant, and carries a 10-year warranty.

It offers a wide variety of a light colors (difficult to find in granite), with more uniformity and more options for edge detailing, and requires much less maintenance than granite. Some brand names to watch for are Zodiac, Caesarstone and Silestone.

Concrete counters are also increasing in demand, but with limited fabricators available and maintenance issues, it is not expected to reach the mainstream anytime soon.

Karen Austin, home economist and independent certified kitchen designer, has been designing area kitchens since 1983. Reach her at Creative Kitchens and Baths, 272-4963 or e-mail her at

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