Design & Technology
FOR NEW AND REMODELED KITCHENS
WRITTEN BY NANCY ROZUM
Kitchens used to be strictly for food preparation. Today's kitchen is now the nucleus of many homes. While it is still primarily the place where food is prepared, kitchens have morphed into versatile hubs where guests gather while meals are prepared, where children sit and do homework, where busy moms and dads pay bills or browse the internet while waiting for meat to defrost, and where a myriad of other activities take place. Kitchen designs and technology have evolved to accommodate the kitchen's new role in the American household. Cameras have made their way into the kitchen. "Cooking is part of the entertainment for some gatherings," said Zey Hilla with KSI - Kitchen Suppliers, Inc. "Socializing, eating and entertaining happens all at once. We don't just cook and serve anymore, so some folks who really like to cook are installing cameras, like on a cooking show, which project onto screens so guests can watch and socialize with the chef." Zey is also seeing an increase in homeowners wanting conveniences such as sinks and countertops with attachments such as sliding cutting boards, colanders and drying racks. "Aging-in-place, or universal design, is also fueling changes in some kitchens," said Zey. "We are moving heavier objects, like dishes, from overhead cabinets to below counter drawers." She is also seeing a trend toward larger appliances. "Appliances are getting taller and wider and big appliances are getting less costly so wall space in kitchens is becoming a challenge," said Zey.
Appliances are also getting smarter. For example, some GE Appliances, including select GE Cafe™ and Profile™ series refrigerators, have built-in WiFi connect which allows the appliance to communicate with a smartphone, using the WiFi in a home and GE Appliances' Kitchen App, for remote monitoring, control and notifications. Alerts appear on a smartphone if the refrigerator's temperature is too high, the water filter needs to be replaced, or the door is left open. If your refrigerator has hot water capabilities, you can schedule hot water for morning coffee. You can also tell if your icemaker is full or empty. These are just some of the convenience, peace of mind and performance features provided though WiFi connected appliances. For GE appliances without built-in WiFi, GE offers an optional ConnectPlus module which attaches to the communication port in GE WiFi Connect compatible appliances, allowing the appliances to communicate with a smartphone. You don't need a smartphone to get your kitchen faucet to turn on and off. A simple touch anywhere on the spout or handle of a kitchen faucet featuring Delta's Touch2O Technology will do the trick. "This innovation has had a really good response with consumers," said Christy Smith with Burke Agency. "Delta is now also offering soap dispensers with this same technology." Pull-down or pull-out kitchen faucets have become more prevalent,” notes Christy. "The Metris Select high arc pull-out kitchen faucet by Hans-Grohe has a button to conveniently turn on and off the faucet at the spray head," said Christy. "We are also seeing increased sales of commercial look coil or spring-type, high arc spout faucets." In terms of finish, Brizo has introduced several faucets which feature knurled handles. "The knurling gives the faucet a more industrial look," said Christy. Brizo also offers muted finishes, including Matte White and Matte Black. "Muted gold finishes, such as Brizo's Brilliance Luxe Gold, are reenergizing older styles through the use of texture," said Christy. Gold finishes are back, but in a new way, according to Loyann Steele and Caidey Schneider with Wittock Kitchen and Bath. "Stainless is still the most popular finish, but we are seeing more and more brushed gold, matte black and black chrome," said Loyann. "Gold is back, but in a new way. We are seeing gold with lacquered finishes which will age over time." A continuing trend in kitchen fixtures is the popularity of apron front sinks which come in both cast-iron and stainless steel. "The stainless steel sink gives a kitchen a more modern twist," said Caidey. "But the apron-front sink itself is now considered contemporary." Kohler has introduced an apron-front sink targeted toward kitchen remodels which doesn't require a specific base, as with most apronfront sinks. "Kohler's Whitehaven model is easy for remodelers to install by simply removing the 'dummy' drawer under most sinks," said Loyann.
The technology to turn a backsplash into a focal point in the kitchen has also evolved. "Homeowners can now get a stunning backsplash that is visually and emotionally stimulating using our products," said Paula Badalamente with IMAGIO Glass Design™. "Backprinted and backpainted backsplashes add color, design or pattern to a kitchen. The design options are endless. Homeowners can choose a design from our vast collection or we can custom design something unique for them using their own art or photography for example. In addition to being beautiful, solid glass backsplashes are antimicrobial, seamless in appearance, durable, and add value to a home. There are no grout lines to collect grease, dirt and bacteria, so solid glass backsplashes also have an added health benefit as they are as easy to clean as glass."
The kitchen design craft itself has undergone a revolution in the past several years. "Like many kitchen design firms across the nation, we use 20-20 Design, the industry leading interior design software for kitchen and bath designers," said Wayne Weintraub with Kurtis Kitchen and Bath. Kurtis also uses Buildertrend construction management software. "It is a centralized repository in the cloud that customers, builders, remodelers, trades, office staff, designers and anyone involved in a project can access to see orders, blueprints, photographs, emails and other documents," said Wayne. "It brings all communications between all parties into a centralized place. The software was originally designed for builders and remodelers. To complete a kitchen we do all the same activities required in construction including drywall, electrical, plumbing, lighting, etc., so using this project management 'centralized master plan' software has been a valuable asset on our projects." Carter Lumber also uses the 20-20 Design software. "The coolest new trend in kitchens doesn't have to do with the kitchen itself, but with the design," said Dave Megge with Carter Lumber. "Using 20-20 software,
"Today’s kitchen is now the nucleus of many homes. Kitchen designs and technology have evolved to accommodate the kitchen’s new role in the American household."
we can now design a kitchen and take the customer on a three-dimensional virtual walkthrough of their design." Cabinet design has remained relatively consistent in the past several years. One aspect of technology innovation in the cabinet industry has been in the area of customer education. Pioneer Cabinetry, a Michigan cabinet manufacturer, based in Davison, has a section of their website devoted to providing information on all aspects of cabinetry, including woods and color, door styles, overlays, hinging, panel styles, edges, options and other aspects that contribute to a more informed consumer. "Selecting the right cabinet can often be overwhelming," said Jeff Weiler with Pioneer Cabinetry. "Our website aims to make it easier for each of our customers to create the unique look they desire." White and gray are still popular kitchen colors. "We are starting to see a bit more diversity through the addition of pops of color and the introduction of textures," said Dave Megge with Carter Lumber. "Brushed finishes are coming back on cabinets." Dave notes that a lot more conveniences are making their way into kitchens. "When your hands are full, it helps to be able to use you knee to hit a button that activates a motorized waste pullout," said Dave. "Motion sensors that turn lighting on and off when cabinet doors are opened and closed are another convenience, especially in blind corner cabinets and under the sink." Charging stations for computers, tablets and phones are also highly desirable. "We design kitchens to be a lot more functional these days," said Dave. "They are not just for cooking, but for living."