By Marcy Chapman
Free and enlightened design trends are now restoring the kitchen’s rightful role as the heart of the home. During the past couple of decades American women have been liberated …..and so too has the kitchen. The kitchens of the past, often located in remote corners of the house or wedged into long, narrow, dark galleys, have been lightened up and liberated, replaced with expansive views, high ceilings, and cabinets galore. This new age workplace has propelled its way into the 21st century.
Today’s open-plan kitchen model is a prominent “high voltage” spot, an area of visual interest as well as togetherness. David Johnson, publisher of Kitchen Trends magazine remarks on this movement in a recent issue, “In days gone by, when kitchens were hidden in the back of the house, function and cleanliness were the only criteria that mattered. Now, the kitchen is front and center – it’s often part of the main living and entertaining space – and we want it to reflect our personality and complement the overall décor of our home.”
With the kitchen’s new role on center stage, it presents enormous potential for adding lots of pizzazz to your home. A chic partnering of furnishings that reflect your personal style, whether contemporary or traditional, integrated with the elements needed for preparing fine cuisine, create the perfect recipe for highly livable designs. The space may set the tone, with an urban statement through its use of sleek marble surfaces and polished chrome fixtures, or may emanate a “been here forever” feel, with soaring crossbeams and expansive views extending natural light with transom and high-arched windows. Warm, honey-finished planked wood flooring unifies the living area and continues under a formal dining table. The kitchen merges into the mix via a vintage furniture cabinet adapted for an island. Traditional….kicked up a notch!
Irrespective of the design statement, the current kitchen storage solutions are found in many cabinet options; those with glass doors are especially nice as they assist family and guests in finding things easily. Custom cabinets are often cleverly masked as furniture pieces in the kitchen and their finishes may take on many faces besides furniture styles, some offering unique or brilliant pops of color that effectively define spaces or create a focal point for the room. Dark wood finishes offer wonderfully rich ambiance, and of course, white cabinets are always a brilliant choice. Renowned designer Bunny Williams remarked in a recent discussion of cabinet finishes, that we don’t seem to ever get tired of a white kitchen. Of all the kitchens she has had through the years, she has been happiest when they are fairly neutral. All bets are on – personal taste gets free rein for this selection.
Today’s kitchen will most likely offer an island (or two). Islands can support both action and ambiance. The chef, no longer relegated to a separate out-of-the-way place to cook, now has the opportunity to be part of the scene. This innovative “hub-of-the-home” links the kitchen with adjacent living spaces and fulfills a range of functions: an extra prep or clean-up station, bar or a buffet for entertaining, homework or craft station and an opportunity for a welcoming space with the feel of a cozy kitchen table. If it is the site of the cooktop, it has the perk of providing loads of generous storage with deep drawers to keep pots and pans right where they’re needed.
Whether you desire old world charm or modern sleek surrounds, islands are carefully designed to marry with the décor of their surroundings. Located front and center, they are frequently presented as an inspiration piece highlighting exclusive cabinetry in finished woods with outstanding details – equivalent to any fine piece of furniture. Island end caps provide opportunity for display space… shelves for treasured collections, pottery, or possibly a cookbook library. When powered with the latest in technology, an island now affords a place to recharge your computer and smart phone.
Many of these rapid technological advances have driven kitchen functions and design, which have swung like a pendulum. It has been the “in” and the “out” room, both literally and figuratively, its evolution fueled by available sources of energy. Descriptions of our earliest ancestors picture them cooking around a fire pit (some of us still do, but for fun). With the advent of the chimney, cooking and congregating moved indoors. By the time America was being homesteaded the family gathered in a cabin (remember “Little House on the Prairie”) around the “island” of the hearth.
By the early 1900’s the carte du jour of American kitchen design had shifted and the kitchen became a separate room that often took a back seat in the home. The availability of convenience foods (say “hello” to Bisquick and Spam) made “cooking everything from scratch” optional. The kitchen found itself again in “lock-up” mode as “packaged meals” and a large menu of eating out options screamed “freedom” for the cook. “Sweating over a hot stove all day” became more of an expression than a requirement….and that trend has had a long run!
The kitchen of 2012 – supporting the creation of healthy fare and fulfilling a renewed desire to “nest” – is free at last. Tapping into current upscale real estate portfolios we find residences with open, user- friendly kitchens equipped to fulfill our active Florida lifestyle requirements, both culinary and social. Whether we are dedicated chefs or professional “warmer-uppers” we all love these elements of convenience and style.
While a sleek environ is the perfect cup of tea for many, traditional styling remains the most popular design clients select. A timeless design, when tweaked with a one-off twist of integrated wood finishes, seasons a kitchen area with a zing that carries it into “today.” A mix of white or neutral cabinetry paired with dark woods or a combination that features a splash of custom color can be sensational. Pair this new variation with wood-planked floors and a sleek textural element of natural stone countertops and a balanced aesthetic is assured.
For some, an “Old World” aura remains their preference and there is no shortage of period design – a grand traditional space. But we’re not talking Granny’s kitchen. The impact of great architecture – hand-embellished overhead beams of precious wood and majestic stone columns – in the company of hand-painted tiles, a gooseneck faucet (reminiscent of early plumbing), a well-used free-standing butcher block, pot racks and ambient lighting all capture the spirit of early homes. Cloaked in this cozy and inviting naturally open floor plan, are highly-engineered appliances and a plethora of contemporary conveniences, just touching a panel or pushing a button is all that’s required.
Its five o’clock…time to set the stage for the evening. Martinis or merlot? What’s for dinner? As mealtime approaches, even though a relaxing seat on the lanai has been offered to guests, the buzz of activity and conversation begins to circle around the kitchen island….the setting for a wonderful coming-together under the glow of a tangerine-colored Florida sunset.