Cooking areas have become a strong focus in the kitchen – due in part to the rising popularity of professional-style ranges. The cooktop-and-range-hood combination forms a design anchor in the kitchen, often showcased with special treatment, molding and millwork detail, and dramatic backsplashes.

Designers emphasize that function can't be sacrificed for design – especially with the heat and smoke generated by these pro-style ranges. Running three or four burners on a 48-inch commercial range generates a lot of heat, says Mary DeTar, a kitchen designer with Studio 2000 in Ann Arbor, Mich. A 450- or 500-cubic-feet-per-minute (cfm) hood isn't powerful enough to vent that type of range.

But designers are also finding that form doesn't need to disappear in the face of function. For example, hoods can be disguised, using custom details and coverings, or they can be used as is to form a dramatic metal sculpture.

David McNulty's high-end work often leads him to custom hoods that range from $5,000 to $20,000. The president of Kitchen & Bath Creations, Park Ridge, Ill., accentuates the cooking area by using a beautiful hood and backsplash. "We can also add table legs and valences. Or make the cooktop cabinet look like furniture by adding hand carvings, scroll valences, and corbels," says McNulty.

David McNulty often makes hoods the focal point of the kitchen by using an interesting backsplash, corbels, or valences. For customers who don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a hood, he finds creative, semi-custom solutions. "We can purchase the blower for $1,000 to $1,500, then for another $600 create an entire hood using wood and skilled labor," McNulty says. Another cost-effective favorite is having a carpenter build the chassis around the ventilation source, then adding crown molding, fascia, or rail molding.

Scott Ginder, a designer with Dick Clark Architecture in Austin, Texas, says he chooses between custom and standard range hoods based on how much customers are willing to spend to make the cooking area the focus of the room. He says if the range and hood will be a focus, he always tries to integrate the backsplash. "Trying to bring the backsplash, cabinetry, and appliances together in a tight way is the key to a successful kitchen," Ginder says.