POSTED ON FEBRUARY 15, 2012:
Taking the Heat
The kitchen serves as the go-to space in a well-designed home
No room in the home is more used, more loved, more chaotic or more life sustaining than today's family kitchen. As the heart of the home, it has become the center of our domestic lives.
What was once considered a strictly utilitarian space, closed off and hidden in the back of houses and apartments has, in modern life, become the center of culinary creation, the dining room, the party place, the technology hub, the home office, and the homework station. It is the organ that feeds all others.
As a result, we have high expectations for these once humble spaces. Not only must our kitchens function with ease, efficiency and durability, they must accomplish these functional feats with style.
This has not been without its design challenges.
Due to the fact that kitchens serve as activity centers, thoughtful design and layout are imperative for maximizing the potential of the square footage, proactively dictating the flow of activity and ease of function within the space and creating an atmosphere that contributes to the beauty of your home.
As a mother of a 6 year old and someone who likes to entertain guests, Sherri Duvall of Duvall Architects knows all too well the chaos and congestion that a busy family with an active social life can bring to a kitchen.
She advises organizing the kitchen into strategically designated zones of function that allow for everyone to do their individual activities simultaneously.
"I find it to be very effective to place the appliances and stations in the kitchen that everyone needs access to at the perimeter, while still keeping key proximity to central cooking zone. This (layout) keeps traffic flow out of the central cooking zone and keeps stress levels down for everyone.
"Space permitting, if you have children in your family, it's incredibly helpful to provide for a separate snack and beverage undercounter refrigerator or refrigerator drawers and an additional trash area that is a satellite to the primary cooking zone," Duvall said.
"For the purpose of entertaining, I like to design the cooking/prep zone so it accommodates multiple cooks and even allows guests to join in when entertaining. That makes kitchens come alive and is much more fun for all!"
For a room that must fill a multitude of purposes, Duvall advises that a center island can serve as the anchor of the room.
"I love my kitchen with its nearly 11 foot long island of white marble. It is a place where my son and his friends gather to eat, it is where we share breakfast or quick meals together and it is a great place to share cooking parties with my friends and doubles as a serving bar for large parties or buffet meals."
Christopher Murphy of Christopher Murphy Designs shares Duvall's fondness for the functionality of center islands and likes to find ways to incorporate a bit of the unexpected into this popular design element.
Courtesy of Duvall Architects
"If space permits, I try to allow for a pair of islands. One can serve as the functional island. And the other can be the entertaining island. They can be different shapes as well. I've done some fantastic round islands that are really conducive to having people around and participating. There's a certain element of theater to a round island. It lends itself to the performance that is the kitchen," Murphy said.
With cooking, eating and entertaining needs provided for, it's a good design decision to plan for some administrative infrastructure.
"Always in the forefront of my mind when designing kitchens with computer areas or nearby home offices is to bear in mind the need for essential organization. This can be for storage of belongings, housewares, paperwork/bills, children's artwork/homework, etc, all of which can be easily managed and processed into intended places or thrown out/recycled making it easy to keep a clean (or more clean) house. Setting up a system reduces stress and helps to provide that sanctuary we all long for in our homes," Duvall said.
And with all this talk of function, we mustn't forget the form. If form is to follow function, it is most certainly following right on its heels.
As Duvall points out, "The color and materials palette of the room play a huge role in emotions and stress-reduction." Duvall's aesthetic preference tends toward traditionally used materials incorporated in contemporary applications. "I like to use the classics -- marble, natural rich woods, stainless steel, stones and tiles -- in modern ways with clean lines. This is always timeless and never grows old."
Murphy, however, has been incorporating some alternative materials to achieve the touch of glam aesthetic that is his signature.
"Many of my clients are requesting more contemporary and sleeker kitchens. There is an increase in people who are wanting to simplify the aesthetic with more simple cabinetry, with cleaner lines. There's growing popularity for the flat cabinet fronts and smooth and reflective finishes such as lacquer, high gloss laminates, very sophisticated veneers, glass fronts. Cabinet hardware is becoming more linear and continuous and is incorporated into the drawer or door design as opposed to applied to the surface. Traditional upper cabinets are often forgoed for open shelves or garage door type upper cabinets," Murphy said.
Although granite and marble countertops are sure to always continue to be popular options due to their beauty and durability, Murphy points out that, "Granite is almost expected these days. It's become the standard. One can distinguish themselves by an interesting edge detail or a mixing of stones. I'm seeing more use of the man made materials. Quartzite and Corian have evolved to be more durable and offer a more smooth and consistent looking surface."
Although appliances are not to be overlooked in your design planning, both Duvall and Murphy agree that built in and cabinet concealed appliances are becoming more prevalent. Murphy has also noticed a preference for utilizing a key appliance as an accent piece.
"Stainless steel has been predominant for almost 20 years but we're seeing the advent of more color being put back into appliances. My clients are incorporating brightly colored ovens and stoves but keeping dishwashers hidden. The overall aesthetic is simplified but still very interesting with the pop of color of one stand out piece."
Whether your kitchen is to be used for Sunday morning pancake breakfasts with the kids, cocktail parties into the wee hours with the neighbors, or perhaps a bit of both, with a well-designed kitchen, it seems it's possible to have it all. The options are truly endless. The heart of your home is yours for the shaping.
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