We are enjoying our BlueStar range on a daily basis and always receive compliments on its appearance."
Steve Irey - Redding, CA
Owner of a BlueStar 48” Freestanding Gas Range with a Griddle (RNB486GSS)
Published: February 1, 2012
If you're anything like us, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. You cook here, plan here, organize here, entertain here - and of course, want this epicenter of your home to not only look good but function well - and continue to do so despite all the demands placed upon it (no small task there). And so, in the interest of keeping our kitchens - and our lives - running smoothly while looking, well, smashing, we decided to take a look at just what's cooking when it comes to kitchen trends in the coming year. So grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair: It's time to have some fun in the kitchen.
The butler did it
When the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) forecast the latest design trends culled from its 2011 Design Competition, a blast from the past was at the top of the list: walk-in pantries. It might be a working "butler's" pantry, a staging area traditionally located between the kitchen and dining room that's complete with its own sink, dish and food storage, says Gerard Ciccarello of Covenant Kitchens & Baths in Westbrook. It might be a hall pantry with its own wine refrigerator and glass-front cabinetry for storage and display, suggests Bob Blanco of Shore & Country Kitchens in Fairfield. Either way, if you have the space, a pantry is "a great way to get much of your storage out of the kitchen and keep that open feel," says Blanco. Grandma would approve.
Three cheers for the red, white and blue
We learned around the holidays (thank you, "ABC World News") that if we each spent just $64 on gifts made in the U.S.A., that would translate into 200,000 new jobs - so imagine what focusing on American-made in the kitchen could do! Indeed, the "Made in the U.S.A.' label has become more important to our clients," says Steve Hanford of Hanford Cabinet & Woodworking in Old Saybrook. Hanford gives high marks to the high-end appliances crafted here at home by Sub-Zero, Wolf and Viking. As for cabinetry, gorgeous American-made woodworks are a given. Top names to look for: Wood-Mode, made in Pennsylvania; Yorktowne Cabinetry, made in Pennsylvania and Virginia; and Crystal Cabinet Works, headquartered in Minnesota. In these trying times, "People have the desire to help those who are unemployed and hurting," says Jim Sullivan of Sullivan Bros., a kitchen remodeler in Wolcott. "We're becoming more conscious that it could be our friends and family who need these jobs - and our help."
Mine, all mine
Who wants a cookie-cutter kitchen? Not us, that's becoming increasingly clear. "Our clients want a 'statement kitchen,'" says Hanford, "one that they're not going to see at their neighbors' - and they want it designed to suit their lifestyle." That could mean having a cooktop placed in front of a window (as opposed to on an island) to take advantage of a stellar backyard view, or maybe multiple cooktops designed for a family with more than one dedicated cook. "I'm spending more time with clients on the details of the kitchen than ever before," confirms Gail Bolling of The Kitchen Company in North Haven. "People see their kitchen as a gathering place for family and friends, and they definitely want it to be their own." You heard the lady: There's cabinet hardware to choose, tile size to select, roll-out drawers to customize ... this is going to be fun!
You go, quartz
Granite, we're putting you on notice: Quartz countertops are up and coming at you full force for 2012. "I never thought anything could take market share away from natural stone countertops so quickly," says Rick Gedney of Kitchens by Gedney in Madison, yet that's exactly what quartz countertops from companies like Minnesota-based Cambria (the only American company in the quartz-surface business) have done of late. So here's your quick primer: Cambria, a "natural quartz surfacing product," is 93 percent pure quartz (that's the tough stuff), whereas granite is roughly 40 to 60 percent quartz with other minerals mixed in. Cambria takes quartz crystals and combines them with pigment and resin to produce slabs that, according to Jim Corthouts of Holland Kitchens & Baths in West Hartford, are "comparable in price to granite, but actually more durable and impervious to stain." The icing on the cake? You never need to seal Cambria, which, with the recent addition of its striking Waterstone Collection, is available in more than 100 color combinations - tough competition indeed.
Induction, duction what's your function?
Induction cooktops are, in a word, "phenomenal," says Kevin Burzycki of S.K. Lavery Appliance Co. in West Hartford and New Haven. But Burzycki, who has one at home, can't limit himself to just one word. "They're easy to clean, easy to use and have the responsiveness of gas," he enthuses. Unlike traditional gas or electric elements, induction employs magnetic energy to heat things up. Elements beneath the cooktop surface generate a magnetic field that reacts with ferrous metal cookware (iron or steel), and transform the pot or pan (not the cooking surface) into the heat source. Plus, induction cooking is said to be 94 percent efficient because the majority of the heat isn't lost - it goes right into the pan.
You're going to hear the word "transitional" a lot when it comes to kitchen design in the coming year. But what does it mean exactly? It can be "hard to put your finger on," admits Rick Gedney, but he explains, "Transitional design uses traditional materials and finishes but arranges them in a slightly different way." Think clean lines, a criper layout, a look that is "tailored but not overdone," he says. So forget the froufrou - no raised panels, less molding. "In some cases "it's more about what you leave out, not what you put in, that makes it 'transitional,'" notes Gedney. Why the, er, transition to a sleek new look? "People have begun to realize that the simpler something is, the longer it stays in style," says Dean Zinno of Zinno Woodworking & Remodeling in Prospect. Can you say, "Selling point"?
"Backsplashes are not a big percentage of the total cost of your kitchen," says Jim Sullivan, yet "when done beautifully, they can bring your kitchen to life." Of course, with all the options out there, "it can get overwhelming," cautions Bolling - especially when you want your choice to have staying power. The answer du jour for both traditional and transitional kitchens? Subway tile. Not that you have to stick to standard white 3-by-6-inch ceramic subways - boring! "Shake things up a bit" with a mini 2-by-4 or elongated 2-by-6, suggests Bob Blanco. Or choose a nontraditional material like limestone, marble, even copper or glass. Us? We've taken a shine to Bridgeport based manufacturer and distributor AKDO's latest addition to the Signature Glass collection: chocolate. Mmm ...
Time to tango?
Another trend from the National Kitchen & Bath Association competition is that nationally kitchen dwellers are "committed to color." Here in Connecticut? Not so much - at least when it comes to cabinetry, where "white is not going away," says Bolling. That said, there are creative ways to embrace color in the kitchen that require less of a commitment. Think accessories, paint, even appliances. "Color is coming back into appliances," says Ciccarello - and in a big way. Viking ranges, distributed by Delia in Wallingford, now come in finishes as varied as Pumpkin, Iridescent Blue, Sea Glass and Plum, while BlueStar ranges, available at Klaff's in South Norwalk and Danbury, come in a palette of 190 colors - we kid you not. "We wear colors that make us feel good," points out Ciccarello. "Why not bring the same emotional value into the rooms we live in?" As for which color to choose, Tangerine Tango is the Pantone Color Institute's 2012 Color of the Year, while Ciccarello predicts that, following the fashion industry, the next big color will be (drumroll, please): plum.
Build it and they will come
So you're not ready for a transition? "If you're doing 'traditional' in the kitchen, you're doing the 'furniture' look," says Corthouts - another way to meet the demand to integrate kitchen central with the overall look of your home. We're talking deco "toes" for your island or more molding to give it some depth, glass doors for cabinets that have the look of a hutch, perhaps a repurposed armoire for extra storage. The "built-in look is extremely popular," agrees Bolling. To integrate your appliances into that look, look for those that come in "cabinet" or "counter" depth (they have a 24-inch "box" rather than a 30-inch, explains Bolling - so you don't have anything sticking out beyond counter depth), add wood panels to match the rest of the kitchen (walnut is hot) and - voila! - furniture.
Yes, we know: You want an open kitchen. And, as Rick Gedney says, "Anything that puts appliances under the counter so they don't interrupt the cadence and beauty of that kitchen is a good thing. Meet the microwave drawer - the latest drawer to make life in the kitchen roll that much more smoothly. "Everyone loves these," says Bolling. "They're easy to use, sit at a great height and solve a lot of design issues." (There's that "integrated" look again.) Consider Wolf's new Drawer Microwave Oven, distributed by Clarke in South Norwalk. Both 24-inch and 30-inch models can be built in under the counter or in a wall application, can be installed in a standard or flush inset application and can accommodate a 9-by-13 pan - lasagna for everyone!
Respect your mama
Shades of green in the kitchen? Mother Earth will be pleased. Indeed, "Today's consumers are becoming green-conscious in the kitchen," says Sullivan. For example, "Instead of buying granite from Brazil, we might source it from Vermont," says Sullivan - and thus reduce our carbon footprint. And then there's energy-efficient LED lighting. "We're going to see a strong move to LED says Corthouts of Holland Kitchens, whether in recessed or under-cabinets lighting or standing alone. Hanford Cabinets carries to-die-for Vetrazzo countertops composed of recycled glass mixed with tinted cement. The glass, an impressive 85 percent of the mix, comes from everything from curbside recycling programs to decommissioned traffic lights. Eco-chic Oceanside Glasstile, carried by S.J. Masters in Canaan and Avon, is composed of up to 97 percent recycled content - and makes a killer backsplash. Cork flooring is a natural beauty that is cushy on the feet, antimicrobial, and made from bark stripped from the cork oak tree, which naturally regenerates itself ... oh, the possibilities! The best part of being green? However much you opt to do, it makes a difference.
Hardwood floors - yes, we love them, too. But "a lot of people have been through wood floors in the kitchen and seen how quickly they get damaged," says Rick Gedney. That, he believes, explains the trend back to ceramic and porcelain tile. "They've made great strides with tile," says Gedney. "It comes in a wide array of colors and wears like iron" - not to mention the fact that its tailored edges require less conspicuous grout lines than old-style, rough-edged tiles. Speaking of which, "We're not looking at the 'grids' of years past," says Sullivan. We're talking diverse patterns and variations, and certainly a move to larger sizes. "It's rare to see anything smaller than a 14-by-14," says Gedney. His only concern? Tile for the kitchen will only work if there's a "logical beginning and end" to where it meets the hardwood of the rest of the house. If that's doable for you, check out Sepulveda, an impressive reproduction of Gris Pulpis stone quarried in Spain - love it in Suede or Crema Marfil - at Ann Sacks in Greenwich, or Walker Zanger, which you can find at Connecticut Stone Supplies in Milford, which boasts new Pietre di Borgogna porcelain tile you'd swear was French limestone.
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