Las Vegas, Jan. 20 – Great kitchens sell homes, but good looks don’t always meet the needs of the home’s cooks. “A workable kitchen can be beautiful, but a beautiful kitchen is not always workable,” Connie Edwards, director of design for Timberlake Cabinetry, told a room packed with several hundred building pros at the International Builders’ Show.

Edwards, a certified kitchen and bath designer, along with two other designers shared their decades of industry experience during a session called “Kitchen Power: The How and the Wow of Great Kitchens.” Their primary message was good design and great products create a spectacular kitchen.

Mary Jo Camp, a Northern California certified kitchen, bath, and interior designer, said pros need to consider how the kitchen fits into the home’s flow, and suggested they follow design guidelines provided by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

As for specific design trends, Camp, of Standards of Excellence, said that the latest kitchens may have many zones–cooking, prep, entertaining, kids, and storage–but in most kitchens, these spaces overlap. And she added that it’s very important that the zones provide space for multiple cooks.

In terms of products, the popular trends in refrigeration include partially recessing the appliance into a wall and covering it with a cabinet façade so it looks like an armoire; colorful doors; undercounter models installed in islands and kid zones; and column units that can be installed in various places throughout the room. “They give you the freedom to put refrigeration where you want it,” Camp said.

As for cooking appliances, designers are placing built-in ovens to the side of cooktops, not directly underneath them, so that two people can cook at the same time. The pro-style range still is popular, but styles are more streamlined, noted Camp. In upscale homes, induction cooktops are hot because they are easy to clean and offer safe operation, accurate simmering, and heat efficiency, she said.

Prep and clean-up areas should include multiple sinks and recycling centers. Also, there is a growing consumer interest in composting bins, and there are more models to choose from. “The products are there because people are asking for them,” Camp said.

In terms of dishwashers, homeowners still want two, but they may need one large model and a smaller dishwasher drawer in the prep or clean-up area. And they want them raised so they are easier to reach into, the kitchen specialist said.

Designers are mixing up cabinet configurations and finishes to add interest, and cabinets with obscured glass still are popular, said Kay Green of Kay Green Design, a model home merchandizing firm. Painted finishes, and white in particular, are making a comeback.

Other kitchen trends include installation of fireplaces, additional recessed lights, mixing flooring types, and countertops made of recycled materials, Green said.

The designers suggested creating focal points in the kitchen, such as with a unique vent hood, a wine cabinet, a spectacular view of the outdoors, or a room divider, or by varying appliance or cabinet heights.  
Finally, the three women provided cost-effective ways to spice up your kitchens:

  1. install a laminate countertop that looks like metal
  2. install a stone countertop just on the island
  3. paint a pantry door with chalk paint so the family can write on it
  4. use a small amount of tile on a backsplash or wall
  5. install splashy hardware
  6. use molding on the ceiling to create interest