You may have bought a nice couch and coffee table thinking your friends would gather in your living room, share laughs and munch on snacks. But, it turns out, everyone gravitates toward the kitchen.
That’s where the host is usually anchored. It’s where you get a refill. And everyone likes to casually watch as the chef prepares a delightful meal or mixes a refreshing drink. So, we congregate in kitchens.
Over the past several years, interior designers have given in to the social gravity of the kitchen and come up with new designs for breakfast bars, cocktail bars and seating to accommodate a small group at the edge of the kitchen. The idea is to let the host and/or chef interact with guests in a natural way.
For those considering renovations big or small, there are hundreds of world-class gourmet kitchens to look at in magazines and online. Browse them for ideas. But, remember, the key is finding elements that fit your home’s character, provide space for food preparation and create an enjoyable social area.
Here are some important factors to consider when updating your kitchen.
Floors and walls: Like any room, floors and walls claim the most surface area in the kitchen. Their color and texture sets the tone for everything else. Shades of green are trendy, but consider how they may contrast with existing cabinets and appliances. For flooring, hard surface materials like ceramic tile, slate or stone, as well as a seemingly unlimited variety of affordable and attractive vinyl and linoleum products are also popular. For paint, most experts recommend easy-to-clean semi-gloss or satin.
Countertops: The sky’s the limit on price and material. Consider visiting a store that specializes in counters to get the best sense of the texture and look. Granite remains a top choice for gourmet kitchens because of its durability and elegance. But quartz and marble are increasingly popular. Meanwhile, a wood or concrete countertop may give you just the right feel for your home.
Cabinets: First consideration: Do you have enough cabinet space for your cookware and food? Second consideration: Does the cabinetry compliment other design elements? In recent years, soft-closing drawers and imported woods have become popular. And traditional face frame cabinets — those with a sturdy border — have given way to frameless cabinets that provide a little more space because they don’t have a frame protruding into the shelf space.
Lighting and ventilation: Strive to bring as much natural light in as possible. It’s important to have a variety of tones — a comforting soft light at the bar or counter, stronger direct light above the sink and food preparation areas. Incandescent bulbs have a warm tone, but they’re being phased out, leaving LEDs and compact fluorescents. Typically, the LEDs are more versatile because they can be dimmed and don’t have some of the flickery quirks found in some compact fluorescents.
Consider hanging pendant lights above the breakfast bar and recessed or track lighting over work areas. Sometimes, a light under a counter comes in handy for very detailed work. Meanwhile, high quality ventilation above your stove can help ensure you’re not still smelling that delicious salmon hours after dinner.
Appliances: Aside from fitting in with the rest of your design plans, it’s important to consider whether or not your kitchen appliance are effective, efficient and quiet. A noisy fridge or dishwasher can be distracting, whereas a new, high-quality fridge/freezer, 6-burner stoves and stainless steel dishwashers can help lower energy bills and add value to your home.
The hottest trend in refrigerator design is French doors, designed with two, side-by-side doors on top, and a pull-out freezer drawer on the bottom. Also, consider smart fridges from companies such as Jenn-Air and LG which feature a touch screen that interacts with smart phones to store recipes and track your inventory.