Jan 5, 2012

Kitchens for a new lifestyle.

It is no secret that in order to design a great kitchen, it helps to know how to cook.  Understanding healthy eating is key to know what is eaten and the best ways to configure and use a kitchen to support that lifestyle. When working with clients, the need to add one new product or technology is what spurs kitchen design innovation. Consider these ideas when planning your kitchen update.

As I advise my clients, take your time making decisions for a kitchen remodel. With new products and processes, lifestyle changes, aging in place, and concerns for long-term health, be careful in assessing routines that support those lifestyles. For example, shopping at the farmer’s market or an organic department has created a demand for better food preservation tools in today’s kitchens. The importance of Sub-Zero’s dual refrigeration with NASA-designed air filtration, Viking’s Plasmacluster ion air purifier or Liebherr’s BioFresh technology becomes clear when cooking fresh food is a priority. You can’t just place a refrigerator in a hole and focus on looks, rebates and special packages being offered to the consumer today.  

What is your ideal cooking source? Is gas better or do you desire a  cooktop that doesn't get hot?  Cooking demos at kitchen and bath shows are a dime a dozen. At an industry show in 2011, I watched as a chef melting chocolate placed a $50 bill between the cooktop and the pan. When he removed the bill, it was barely warm. Magic? No, magnets. For 30 years, manufacturers have been perfecting induction cooking, which uses electromagnetic technology to heat a pan's surface directly — meaning precise cooking and a safer kitchen.  

Starting with fresh foods means having the proper surfaces and tools to cut, peel and chop. What's the ideal counter surface?  Are there some better than others for your needs?  What tools are needed and where do you store them when not being used?  Food preparation methods like cook/chill machines, steamers, slow-cookers, warmers and even food storage devices, are becoming the norm. Finding the right space for them is key to a successful design, especially when hiding them when not in use is desired.  Need a specialty appliance like wine coolers, built-in coffee makers, and the like? Be sure they are the right scale, power and size to suit your needs.

Thoughtful kitchen design requires us to determine where the most-used small appliances - coffee machine, blender, electric mandolins, juicers, indoor grills, water-filtration machines and more - are located. Appliances that are gaining in popularity include electronic scales - built into the counter top for homeowners who measure their food’s weight - and under-cabinet televisions. The steam oven, steamer and speed oven offer low-fat and faster cooking. Plumbing/drainage lines or additional voltage requirements may need to be investigated, as well.  

The role of spices in cooking is increasing in popularity which means that proper storage of spices is important. Spices can be stored in jars supplied in a compartmentalized drawer, such as Bulthaup’s cabinetry version, or strategically placed away from the cooktop to preserve shelf life. Ideally, you can grown your own and install the tools for easy prep and storage.

Don't forget aesthetics too. Cabinetry, major appliances, and surface materials need to be selected with care for best long-term value.   As a designer, I translate function and space planning into logistical, surface, mechanical, and electrical requirements for all of the desired conveniences in a new kitchen. I seek products that are value-laden, that will last the longest and provide the best satisfaction for the lowest price in the long run. The overall design must suit the lifestyle and design style for each person.