addition to being the place where meals are prepared, todayís
kitchens are entertainment centers and family gathering
A couple of generations ago, American kitchens were large and busy
places where mothers and daughters baked and families gathered. In the
decades that followed, kitchens diminished in size and living rooms
grew larger with the advent of television and convenience foods. Now,
the kitchen is once again the headquarters of many American
households, and people are looking for increased space, high-tech
appliances and integration with the rest of the house. These
"super kitchens" may be the showplaces in a home, but they
are required to function as the hub for more activities than ever
In the zone
The square footage and number of work stations for cooking,
planning and socializing are on the rise. One increasingly popular
area is a "family organization zone," says Molly Madsen,
owner of AB&K Design in Greenfield and Mequon. "Itís a
place people can coordinate the family activities. Weíll install a
small desk and take the center out of a cabinet and replace it with a
bulletin board or chalk board," she explains. This area might
also include a space and wiring for a computer or laptop. "We can
also create a place for mail so it isnít piled up on the table or
A charging station for cellular phones, portable stereos, and
laptops is an important component in new kitchens. "Most
households have cell phones and lots of other electronic devices like
PDAs, laptops and iPods that need charging. We place the outlets
inside a cabinet so the cords are not dangling everywhere and everyone
knows where to find them, too," Madsen says.
Kitchens are also likely to include multiple food preparation
zones. For example, some customers are asking for a "baking
zone," according to John Draves, a designer with Wisconsin
Kitchen Mart in Milwaukee. "We can install a marble counter for
making and kneading dough and special drawers for large mixers and
baking equipment," he explains. A "cooking zone" might
include a cook top, microwave, heat lamps, ovens and an extra sink.
While the laundry room has traditionally been in the same vicinity
as the kitchen, some homeowners are bringing it into the kitchen.
"You can fit a stackable washer and dryer behind a cabinet door.
Itís much more convenient," Madsen says.
Pets are important members of many families and some customers are
incorporating pet zones in their remodeling plans. "Sometimes
homeowners will ask for a special feeding station for their dog or
cat. We can create a niche where the petís dishes can be tucked
under a cabinet," Madsen says.
islands serve myriad functions, from
breakfast bar to homework central to party hub.
"The kitchen has become the social center where everyone wants
to hang out," according to Kevin Schmidt, owner of Dream Kitchens
in Delafield. "In older homes, we are often taking two or three
rooms and combining them into one big room. People are spending much
more time at home, preparing meals instead of just taking something
off the shelf, so they want the right equipment," he says.
"Almost every client who has their kitchen remodeled will tell
us that whenever they entertain, people seem to end up in the
kitchen," says Madsen. "We try to design space that gives
clients the ability to socialize with their friends and family, but
still allows them the room they need to prepare a meal," she
says. A "conversation counter" can work as a place where
people can interact between rooms.
Draves notes that many customers are looking for better and more
efficient appliances in their kitchens. Food preparation areas have
grown due to an increase in the number of cooks and a greater interest
"People are doing more cooking and entertaining. They are
looking for appliances that can do more," Draves says. Some
clients are using commercially adapted ranges that are like restaurant
stoves and ovens, but much safer for use at home. For ultra high speed
cooking and baking, the TurboChef Speed Cook Oven is a revolutionary
new oven that gives new meaning to the term "fast food."
"These are three to four times faster than a convection oven. You
can roast a 12-pound turkey in 45 minutes, and itís perfectly golden
brown," he says.
In many homes, the kitchen is now the control center for all of the
electronic gizmos and gadgets that control the television, stereo,
home theater and more. "Wherever you have a TV, stereo
components, surround sound and DVD players, you have a lot of remote
control devices. Now, we can put all of that wiring into one control
panel. Very often, people want that control panel in the
kitchen," Schmidt says. "We can even put the controls for
the thermostat and the lights on that same panel and it can all be
hidden in a cabinet," he adds.
Remember the kitchen pantry? An increasing number of clients are
asking for walk-in pantries and prep kitchens, says Schmidt. "The
pantry is one of the most highly requested features in a new
kitchen," he says. These pantries have more storage options, and
many are now featuring specialty items like wine storage.
Customers have been energy conscious for some time, buying Energy
Star appliances that are more efficient, Madsen says. They are also
becoming more aware of being environmentally friendly, Draves says.
"Our clients are buying cabinetry and flooring made from
renewable resources. For example, youíll see more bamboo flooring
and cabinets made of Liptus wood, which is a South American wood that
grows very quickly. We try to make those options available," he
"Our clients are looking for a way to incorporate more living
into the kitchen, and we are looking for unique ways to accommodate
them," Draves says. "The best part of our job is listening
to our clientsí wants and needs and trying to make it all fit."
Madsen agrees. "Our primary goal is to create a space that works
for the family, whatever their lifestyle happens to be."