When Purposeful Kitchen Design Trumps Style
Timeless by Design: Designers from across the country agree that it’s not style that makes a kitchen last, it’s function.
If you are planning a new kitchen, you have a lot of reasons to get it right. Not only is remodeling a kitchen a major disruption, but to raise the stakes, it’s the most expensive room to remodel, with plumbing and electrical systems to relocate; cabinets, appliances, and countertops to buy; and maybe even changes to make to walls, windows, and doors.
I asked designers from around the country how they’d go about making a kitchen that wouldn’t need to be remodeled anytime soon. Their responses were remarkably unified, and the idea of “openness” came up in every interview.
A far cry from yesterday’s shut-away spaces focused on cooking, the modern kitchen is home to more activities than ever: eating, entertaining, doing homework, surfing the web, and crafting as well as cooking. “There is no going backward on the kitchen being a social place,” says Jean Rehkamp Larson, who runs an architectural firm in Minneapolis.
“Whether for kids, friends, whatever, we need extra counter space and extra flow. We don’t want to be surrounded by storage. We want openness and natural light.”
Closed-off formal dining rooms are being traded for dining areas that connect to the kitchen, along with breakfast nooks, kitchen islands, and other places for casual meals and bites. “Back in the day, everyone would hang out in the formal living room while Mom slaved away in the kitchen alone,” says Chad Esslinger, who runs a design firm in Illinois. “Today, the kitchen is where the hosts are, where the food and drinks are. If it’s small and down the hall, it’s not conducive to a gathering. That’s why nine out of ten new homes have the kitchen opened up to the family room.”
Jason Urrutia, who runs a design…