For many, the kitchen is a hub of activity; from frenzied morning breakfasts to after-school snacks, from everyday dinners to festive entertaining. What you need is a space to help manage the flow cleanly and efficiently. What you want is a space that's chic. Food trends expert Dana McCauley, danamccauley.com, has been watching the latest in cool kitchens and offers some ideas on how to enhance the space, making it both sensible and stylish.
Style at Home: How can homeowners achieve both function AND fun in terms of kitchen design?
Dana McCauley: That's a tough balance to achieve. One of the trends that look great but aren't functional is having a lot of open shelving. Not only do plates and other items get dusty and greasy on open shelves but you have to constantly be editing and tidying the space to avoid a cluttered look. One of the tips I like to share is that function be considered first and design second. Choosing appliances that look great but have sound usable design is key. For instance if you like to entertain and want to make foods ahead, buy a full depth refrigerator that can accommodate a tray of canapés or a whole layer cake. Likewise, think about how many steps it will take you to get from your equipment to the food to the preparation area. Even a big kitchen can lack functionality if you are wasting a lot of steps and time.
S@H: What's the latest in "greening" your kitchen? And is there a single green material or appliance, which gives the most bang for the buck?
DM: I love that designers and manufacturers are using more bamboo to make counters, cutting boards and tools. Bamboo grows much more quickly than hardwood yet it has a lot of the same advantages as woods such as oak or maple. Sean Ruck who also contributed to the Kitchen Aid Kitchens for Cooks trend report points out that lower energy and water usage appliances are also becoming more available and helping consumers to save both money and resources.
S@H: Kitchens have always been a hub in the home - how are they reflecting the many ages and interests of those who spend time there?
DM: In her essay the Ageless Kitchen PJ Wade points out that wider access ways to accommodate walker and wheel chairs, adjustable counter top heights and ergometric features such as levered door handles are making it not only easier for people of all ages to congregate in the kitchen but to cook in it as well.
S@H: Customizing the kitchen is not a new concept. But how are people beginning to really personalize their kitchens?
DM: When I was growing up there were definite phases in kitchen fashions. I vividly remember the avocado green and harvest yellow years when everyone (and I mean everyone!) had the same colour appliances. Then there was the black glass and oak era. Today kitchen fashion is much more diverse. There are many 'right' ways to create a stylish kitchen through colour choices for cabinetry and appliances, through size and shape of appliances and this freedom is allowing people to create spaces that they really like and that reflect their personalities and cooking habits.
S@H: How close are we to "smart" kitchens? (And can you name a few items that are currently available to consumers)
DM: The next wave of technology promises to truly make kitchens personal spaces with wall panels that can be changed to reflect your mood and appliances that will interact with your personal health and help you to choose foods to meet caloric and other nutrient goals. It's not quite a Star Trek replicator but it's pretty edgy, cool stuff!
S@H: What was the last thing you did to -- or incorporated into -- your own kitchen that greatly improved it?
DM: I've just added a bar height island to the space where my architect had planned for there to be an eating area. I think having this feature will help my family to use the kitchen more effectively both for cooking and for entertaining. As well as adding an acre of horizontal workspace that I'll enjoy, the height of the counter will be ideal for my husband Chef Martin Kouprie who is tall. My island will also house an under counter beverage center which will take pressure off the space in my main refrigerator and make entertaining easier. At my test kitchen we recently installed a Brizo tap that is a 'smart' tap to decrease our risk of cross contamination. The tap is motion sensitive and can be used without having to touch the handle or any other part of the tap with dirty hands. We love it!
Toronto-based Dana McCauley is an author, food trends expert and corporate food consultant. For more information, visit danamccauley.com