Wanted: Simply Perfect Kitchens
Kitchens are catching on as places people like to be, making them today's hot spots for home renovations. Remodelers everywhere are trying to create the perfect place for cooking and conversation by making the kitchen homey, high-tech, and easy to use.
One reason kitchens are the most popular room for remodeling, says the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, is that they keep their resale value. Kitchen upgrades come closer than any other project to paying for the remodeling cost when the house is sold.
Also, aging kitchens are ready for makeovers-the average house in the United States is 28 years old.
But the main reason for the kitchen remodeling mania is a technology-driven lifestyle change.
"If you go back 25 or so years, it's obvious that the design of the home and the lifestyle of the family then is much different than today," says Rich Maile, president of Maile Remodeling and Design in Crescent Springs. "Kitchens were closed-up work areas then; now they're like Entertainment Central. Thirty years ago, the cook went into the kitchen alone. Now, everyone congregates in the kitchen with the cook-snacking, talking, and having fun."
As kitchens increasingly become the hub of family life, they're getting bigger. Designers are using brighter colors and soft, easy-to-clean, soft-to-the-touch counter and floor surfaces.
In creating their dream kitchens, homeowners are demanding features and functions like seating areas, home office spaces, and recycling centers, as well as extra phone jacks and electrical outlets to accommodate today's technology. State-of-the-art food prep stations-with warming drawers, refrigerated drawers, customized sinks, and shelving-are getting sketched into more blueprints than ever. Appliances are expected to blend with the rest of the room and to work diligently but quietly.
These redesigns add living and entertaining areas to the kitchen without losing the fundamental purpose of fixing food. Maile likes to start with the basic work triangle-stove, refrigerator, and sink-and then bring in other attributes by knocking down walls to open up the space leading into existing family, living, or dining rooms. Other options are to add a family room, raise the ceilings, and update the appliances.
For Cheryl Stegman of Stegman Kitchen Showcase in Newport, creating the perfect kitchen begins with cabinets.
"Cabinet selections are almost endless," she says. "In some of the high-end lines, you can pretty much design your own door and drawer fronts."
Stegman advises homeowners to work closely with their kitchen designer in creating a cabinetry layout. This should take into account all the appliances they plan to include or install.
Stegman says, "People want a kitchen that is very low maintenance and one that fits their lifestyle and flows with the rest of their home."
Chuck and Cindy Sugarman of Ft. Thomas couldn't agree more. They recently had their galley-style kitchen remodeled by Stegman Kitchen Showcase: an outside wall was knocked down and the room extended into the home's screened-in porch; a corner of windows was installed to increase natural light; a pantry, island, and lots of cupboards and counter space were added.
"Our house was built in the 1950s with this pass-through kitchen," says Cindy Sugar-man. "To make it perfect for our family, we wanted a larger room, lots of sunlight, new appliances, and a more updated look."
Stegman fulfilled the Sugarmans' wish list, working within the constraints of the home's existing structure and even saving a bit of the family's beloved back porch. Upgraded appliances are now in place. A desk stands ready to stack and sort paperwork. An island with cooktop lets the cook be a part of all the activity.
"The cook is a part of everything with this arrangement," says Mrs. Sugarman. "With the island, you're facing the table when you're at the cooktop. Plus it provides a standing-around area besides the table."
The island is anchored by two columns-an increasingly appealing architectural appointment showing up in the kitchen and other rooms of the house. One column is a support beam; the other, inspired by Chuck Sugarman, is a cleverly concealed passageway for piping out the cooktop's exhaust.
Pantry and cabinetry feature a panoply of pull-out shelves and drawers.
"I'm not very tall and, before the remodel, had to keep everything over the counter," she says. "Now I can find everything with the pull-outs in the pantry."
Cheryl Stegman puts cabinets everywhere to ease the flow of work: utensil drawers near the cooktop, wall cabinetry near the sink, dishwashers for easy loading, and plenty of pull-out shelves and a pull-out trash can-a standard item in every kitchen Stegman's company designs.
"Cabinetry is an investment that should not be taken lightly," she says. "Go for quality. There are accessories for every cabinet. Invest in them; they will make your life easier."
Several options that take advantage of both the industrious nature and refining aspects of custom cabinetry include dishwashers tucked into pull-out drawers or refrigerators cleverly hidden away in drawers.
Stegman says, "Take advantage of every square inch you have in cabinetry and drawers."
Meet George Jetson's Kitchen-Today
They call them "smart rooms" that seem to know what you need, especially in the kitchen where appliances have taken on a life of their own.
One microwave oven, for example, doubles as a day planner.
"You can schedule an appointment months ahead, for a visit to the doctor," says Ron Becker, store manager at Custom Distributors Inc., in Cincinnati, "and the microwave will beep that morning."
Rich Kopser, of Hagedorn & Sons in Erlanger, says, "Look at the microwave with built-in recorder. You can press 'record' and leave a message for the kids. A message notification is then scrolled across the face of the micro-wave. They just hit 'retrieve.' It's sort of taking all the notes off the refrigerator."
And speaking of the refrigerator, Frigidaire has one in the design stage that will be linked to the Internet.
"This is futuristic stuff," says Kopser. "As you need more pickles, you'll run your scanner over the item. The system will inventory what you need on your shopping list and what you have in your refrigerator." Long-term, Kopser says that the system would be linked to area grocery stores.
Amana has introduced a high-speed oven that uses halogen lights to cook, cutting the cooking time by more than half.
"Meat's brown on the inside, moist on the outside," notes Kopser. "It's the wave of the future."
As if the Amana weren't quick enough, General Electric is coming out with a micro-wave that can cook a steak in eight minutes and make an entire meal in 15 minutes.
The wave doesn't stop with the oven, though. Maytag's latest innovation is the Intelliclean, a dishwasher so smart that it figures out how dirty your dishes are and adjusts the wash, rinse, and dry cycles accordingly. If the dishes aren't very dirty, it shortens the cycles to save time. Kopser says, "Time savers-that's what people are looking for."-Kathy Witt
Your Lifeline for Remodeling Help
The first step of your remodeling plan should be a stroll through the Internet Web site of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
NARI is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to serving as an ally to the nation's homeowners. With nearly 6,000 member companies nationwide, representing more than 40,000 remodeling industry professionals, NARI is committed to enhancing the professionalism of the remodeling industry and education of homeowners.
Visit www.NARI.org for help in finding a professional remodeler in your area, to explore innovative design plans and ideas, and to learn the pitfalls to watch for in any remodeling project.
You can also order the NARI free publication, The Master Plan for Professional Home Remodeling, a guide to every stage of your remodeling project, through the Web site or by calling (703) 575-1100.-Kathy Witt
Inexpensive Kitchen Upgrades
If you can't afford your dream kitchen makeover but want to give the room a face-lift, invest in new countertops, hardware, and plumbing accessories like sink bowl and faucet sets. These are fairly inexpensive improvements that can change the look of a kitchen, says Bob Chastang, owner of F-A Construction, a full-scale remodeler in Florence. Chastang says that what makes a kitchen "perfect" is a great layout, with the sink-stove-refrigerator food prep areas suited to the purposes of the cook. He also says that while you can compromise on the quality of some of the design elements, you should never compromise on quality of workmanship.
Chastang offers these suggestions for a simple kitchen remodel:
· Update wallpaper or paint and window treatments
· Add moldings: crown and around doors and windows
· Install new doors
· Inset a cutting board into the counter-top, a perfect cover-up for a worn spot
· Update appliances
· Install under-counter appliances
· Apply a ceramic tile backsplash
· Add under-counter and recessed lighting
· Replace the hardware on doors and drawers
· Install new flooring