Where are your fondest memories in your home? Most would say the kitchen, a celebrated room that not only offers the comfort of good food, family times and great company, but also promises the biggest return on investment in terms of upgrades. Today, the kitchen is an open space that may flood into other rooms of the house. Often called “the heart of the home,” many spend the better part of the evening there. Children run in and out, chasing each other around the island, young couples learn how to cook together, referencing many cookbooks as they move from recipe to recipe, dogs look for scrap pieces of food and friends gather around while sipping a glass of wine.
Despite today’s room of domestic bliss, the kitchen was not always a room of such glamour. Kitchens were once small, cramped, dark and boxy – a dungeon of bad design. Does anybody remember linoleum? One could say that kitchens went through a serious rough patch; however, the allure of the kitchen has since recovered and is now considered the perfect space for social pleasure.
Trends show that people expect a lot from their kitchens. They want them to be efficient, save hundreds of dollars in utilities, withstand wear and tear, store everything, entertain friends and offer a cozy enough space to enjoy a cup of coffee. That’s a lot of weight on one room’s shoulders. And it doesn’t end there. Experts say that the look and feel of the kitchen influences the design decisions made about the rest of the house. That says a lot. Many homeowners have to force their guests to move to another room after a long night standing around the island or sitting at the bar. Given its history, nobody expected the kitchen (of all rooms) to become the temple of entertainment and life in general.
Like many home trends, green products are all the rage. From small, indoor greenhouses to high efficiency appliances, most homeowners are opting to go green – at least on some level. Studies show that refrigerators account for almost 15 percent of a household’s energy usage while dishwashers older than ten years use almost double the water of green dishwashers. Technology has come a long way with modern dishwashers incorporating soil sensors capable of adjusting water use depending on how dirty the dishes are and new gas ovens boasting electronic ignition systems, which save about 30 percent more energy than older models. These appliances can save hundreds of dollars each year and will more than make up for the cash spent on their purchase. Plus, efficiency doesn’t get in the way of looks. Most of today’s appliances have sleek designs in an array of color.
You don’t have to have a gourmet kitchen lined with cabinets and built-in shelves to invest in great storage. With many do-it-yourselfers living in extremely cramped spaces, homeowners are becoming increasingly inventive when considering storage options. From apple keepers that can hold both apples and other produce like onions and potatoes to jars filled with flour and sugar to homemade shelving, homeowners are proving that having a small kitchen may in fact be better. And that’s what it is all about – keeping it simple.
Dwell recently featured Cass Calder Smith’s kitchen revamp. The San Francisco architect’s only requirements included using natural light to make the kitchen bright – modestly and efficiently. The results included a window seat with a great natural view, large open windows and clean white cabinets accented with mirrors. A small cooktop, sub-zero refrigerator and sleek furniture brought the room together. Even in an extremely small space, the kitchen works. “Kitchens should be scaled to the size of the family and the house – which in this case is 18 feet wide. It doesn’t have to be a grand statement; it just has to work,” said Smith. Smaller families should take note and value simplicity over luxury.
So where will kitchens be in the future? The functionality and “room of the house” mentality is here to stay. Most homeowners, however, are looking to scale down their exaggerated and extravagant kitchens by reinventing the luxurious design popular a few years ago and investing their time and money into quaint spaces. When asked about kitchens of the future, Christine Rosel agrees. “One of the best meals I’ve had came out of the tiniest kitchen,” she said. “Instead of thinking ‘how much can we spend?’ we might try ‘how much can we do with how little?’”