Kitchens play hide and sleek
High-end appliances go behind closed doors, making room for art and Web surfing.
After Lisa Gilmore, 50, and her husband, Merle, became empty-nesters, the North Barrington, Ill., couple decided to renovate their kitchen and tailor it for two.
Working with Chicago kitchen designer Mick de Giulio last spring, they knocked down the wall that separated the kitchen and dining room. De Giulio concealed the dishwashers with cabinetry and encased the refrigerator in a wooden armoire with art hanging from the back. And they added a "keeping room," an area adjacent to the kitchen with comfortable couches and a fireplace. The name refers to a cozy parlor near the hearth in Colonial-era houses.
That seating area is "where we have our meaningful conversations," Lisa Gilmore says. "We do pretty much everything in there."
For years, kitchen designers have been treating high-end appliances like trophies, making a stainless-steel and glass refrigerator, or a range in a shiny color finish, the room's focal point. Now, more homeowners are veering in the opposite direction, hiding kitchen bling behind wood panels or underneath countertops. The resulting look — streamlined, uncluttered, often with LED lighting and a mix of stone and wood finishes — marks the next phase in the kitchen's evolution from cooking and eating hub to flexible multitasking space.
Many new kitchen designs feature adjacent seating areas with sofas or armchairs, instead of a kitchen table or high counter with chairs. The designs build in more storage and keep countertops empty, with sliding panels or doors hiding equipment.
Many incorporate fireplaces and TVs, emphasizing the kitchen's increasingly important role in entertaining, lounging, homework and media surfing. In June, Samsung Electronics will launch a refrigerator, priced at $3,499, with an LCD touch screen with Wi-Fi connectivity on the door, which the household cook can use to access applications such as Pandora, Twitter and Epicurious.
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According to the company's research, 59% of consumers consider the kitchen the hub of the home.
"Refrigerators have been sort of the bulletin board," says James Politeski, senior vice president of home-appliance sales and marketing at Samsung.
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Disguising appliances helps contribute to a clean, airy, sleek feel. Stoves, ovens and hoods can't be completely covered up, though, because wood panels wouldn't be able to withstand the heat.
"Microwaves are one of the most aesthetically challenged of all the appliances," de Giulio says. "We try to hide them."
Hidden or "integrated" appliances are becoming a hallmark of the luxury kitchen, says de Giulio, author of the book "Kitchen Centric" and principal of the Chicago firm de Giulio Kitchen Design.
"Every great kitchen has a hook," he says, a visual element that draws you in. The new hook in many high-end designs isn't an appliance but a piece of antique furniture, a decorative hood or a special sink.
In Europe, kitchen designs were integrating appliances as far back as the 1970s. The look is becoming more common in the U.S. as remodeling starts to pick up. In a recent survey of 150 kitchen and bath dealers by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, 79% expect an increase in showroom visits in the first quarter of 2011 and 82% expect a boost in sales volume because of kitchen remodels.
"There is a little bit of pent-up demand, where people have been holding off and now are saying, 'This is the time to do it,'" says David Alderman, association president and a kitchen and bath designer in Chesapeake, Va. "What people are trying to do is make the kitchen a more functional room."
Appliance makers have noticed.
"People are gravitating toward a more simplistic or minimalist look," says Paul Leuthe, corporate marketing manager for Sub-Zero. "I think a clean kitchen is more pleasing to the eye. It makes you feel calmer."
Sub-Zero is developing its "panel-ready" refrigerators in new sizes to help them blend seamlessly with cabinetry. "We're hearing demand for more sizes and more flexibility," he says.
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But wait — isn't it a little crazy to spend thousands of dollars on a refrigerator only to cover it up?
"Some people feel, 'I have to shout it out that I have a $10,000 refrigerator,'" Leuthe says. "There are some people who probably take delight in the fact that people can't find their refrigerator in their home."
Whirlpool last year released a clear-glass and stainless-steel canopy for over the cooktop priced at $949; the company says it offers a lighter look than traditional stainless steel. And it launched new built-in refrigerators under the Jenn-Air brand that it says "virtually disappear into any kitchen décor." People who entertain at home a lot "might just feel like too many appliances distract from their decorating," says Deborah O'Connor, senior marketing manager for the KitchenAid and Jenn-Air lines.
Katherine Huge, a 46-year-old stay-home mother, hid her appliances as part of the $97,000 kitchen renovation in her Cumming, Ga., home. Attached dark-wood panels conceal two dishwashers and a refrigerator; the microwave, toaster and coffee maker are kept on shelves in the "breakfast garage," which has retractable doors. The designer, Matthew Quinn, created a custom range hood — he calls it a "slice" of stainless steel — which is also a shelf to hold Huge's vases.
"No matter what you do, the kitchen always ends up being where everyone gathers," Huge says. "We wanted to make the kitchen the centerpiece of the house."
Penny Hecktman and her husband, Jeffrey, chairman and chief executive of Hilco Trading, a Chicago financial services firm, made a 17-foot-long painting by New York artist Alex Katz the center of the kitchen in their second home, in Miami.
"The concept of this kitchen was that it didn't look like you were coming to a suburban home kitchen," Penny Hecktman says.
There's ample storage for small appliances; big appliances are concealed. The stove is an induction model, so there are no gas or electric burners. "What looks like a backsplash is a deep storage system," she says. That's where she keeps her dishes and coffee maker.
The Hecktmans opted for a sleeker look because they do a lot of entertaining at home, for both friends and business. "It always felt like we were having guests over," Penny Hecktman says. The painting, which shows individuals moving around at a gathering, helped set the tone, she says. "It was like a party."
We read continually about redecorating, rehabbing and/or creating a new kitchen. The most important issue is flow and least steps to cook.
Case in point is stainless steel over other faces for the appliances. Cabinetry such as stain, or glaze. countertops be they granite or other.
The most important thing to consider is "do you cook in this kitchen or do you spend a fortune to look at it"?
Our kitchen is 38X24 feet. The island is 12X4.5 feet with a single 12 inch deep sink that handles our largest pans to wash along with a one horsepower garbage disposal. We opted for stainless steel appliances with separate refrigerator and freezer along with a 45 bottle wine cooler. Dish washer to right of huge sink that washes everything with double size drawers to accommodate everything washable. Double oven with warming draw and a 6 burner 45 inch wide stove top as well as a convection oven microwave. We have neptune granite on the countertops as well as the backsplash behind the stovetop. The cabinetry is glazed butterscotch that can be cleaned with any mild detergent. The stove top and microwave are vented to the outside through the roof of the home. We have a serving bar with 4 barstools in the family room facing the kitchen that swivel if you want to watch tv in the family room. The kitchen is eat-in with a table and 4 chairs.
This was a remodel gutted to the 2 by's. Materials and labor 54,000.00. 37 days from tear down to finish.
Lastly we cook up a storm at least twice a month and have as many as 50 people over for dinner.
As was said either build it to use it or build it to stare at it. We cook...nuff said.