City Life The Hottest Room In The House

The kitchen is the family’s gathering spot and the home’s focal point. Our survey shows that fantasy can be functional. Here’s what’s new from Dallas designers and builders.

A D Magazine survey of builders and designers only confirms what anyone who’s driven through Lakewood or Preston Hollow already knows: People are remodeling kitchens like crazy. (A helpful service station employee, fixing our flat tire, even attributed the nail puncture to the remodeling craze.) The new style in kitchens is in hoi demand, so we set out to find out what it is.

Our survey results match a recent National Association of Home Builder’s study thai detailed housing preferences of buyers in Dallas-Fort Worth. The NAHB found that 49 percent of Dallas residents would like a kitchen that completely opens into the rest of the house. Almost half of respondents said cabinet space was lacking in their kitchens and if building or remodeling, would enlarge cabinet storage. Fifty-seven percent of study participants said they are influenced by appliance brand names when designing new kitchens, and 60 percent preferred stainless steel. Other designs and kitchen features that at least half of respondents regarded as essential include: special use storage, walk-in pantry shelves under wall cabinets, large counter space, double sink, island work area, and extra deep counters.



WIDE-OPEN SPACES

Dallas wants its kitchens to be open, airy places, big enough to host informal dinner parties arid intimate enough to fix a snack after little league. Kitchens are now being treated as showrooms, usually merging into the family living space or opening onto the patio and pool. Robert Pavlis, president of Bradford Homes in Dallas, says that while Dallas residents have become more sophisticated with their design and finish choices, they still want their kitchens to be homey arid comfortable. Figured separately from [he cost of the house, this style of sophistication blended with old-fashioned comfort will run $60,000 to $80,000, according to Nancy Ellis of Dallas-based Ellis design. Homebuilders say that if a remodeling requires a complete plumbing and electrical gutting, it could cost $100,000 to $150,000. But two things are clear in the Dallas homes of today: Customized style is in, and people are willing to pay for it. And the style can’t be only veneer deep. Dallasites now demand fine craftsmanship and the best in appliances.



THE ISLAND

Functionality is a kitchen’s primary goal. But now that it’s become the family’s favorite relaxation spot, the design must accommodate the flow as well as handle the kitchen’s different roles during the day. In most remodeling jobs, wails are removed to open the kitchen up to the rest of the house. In newly constructed homes, kitchens are often built in the middle of the space. In both cases an informal dining area is usually integrated into a working island in the middle of a kitchen, which is ideal for simple family meals and forms a seating area for the children doing homework. The island space is also a way for friends to enjoy a glass of wine and still be able to talk to the cook. The island, which can contain a sink, dishwasher, and storage cabinets, helps mark off the workspace without interrupting circulation.



THE TOOLS FOR THE JOB

In the 70 years since refrigerators were first introduced into homes, the rectangular white box in the corner of the kitchen has given way to sleek centerpieces. Dishwashers, sinks, and all the other little appliances that are kitchen necessities are now built-in to compliment the cabinetry and general color scheme of the surrounding rooms.

In the 1960s and 1970s, appliances came in two colors: avocado or harvest gold. So what’s the favorite look for the ’90s? Anything and everything in stainless steel, making Dallas homeowners hot for a commercial, professional, open-range look. Area builders and decorators say that the steel creates a great contrast between warm and cold in a kitchen, and it’s very 21st century.

Refrigerator options include separate refrigerators and freezers that can he placed side-by-side or in different parts of the kitchen. Models come in a wide range of sizes, finishes, and fits. One new style allows homeowners to place mini-refrigerators where they logically belong and virtually make them invisible: vegetable drawers by the sink for easy washing, fresh fruit by the back door for quick snacks, meats in the island bench by the cook top. Another new trend is the under-counter line of compact units. The units are ideal for bars, dens, family rooms, or home offices.

Another important built-in is the cooking range that today must have a variety of baking modes and the space to accommodate larger, professional-sized pots and pans. Cook tops have an option of griddle and grill, with glide grates and drip trays to make cleanup easy. Extra shelf space can be ordered for both the hoods and the ranges.

A full appliance package will cost from $15,000 to $25,000, and up to $35,000 for the stainless steel models. Only a few years ago, when a kitchen was just a kitchen, the same package of strictly utilitarian appliances cost between $3,500 to $4,000. George Lewis, president of George Lewis Custom Homes in Dallas, says that freestanding ranges are now in vogue and that about 95 percent of Dallas ranges are now gas, as opposed to being 95 percent electric only 10 short years ago. Regarding appliances. Lewis adds, “If you didn’t know where the dishwasher was, you’d never find it.”



GETTING THE RIGHT LOOK

Although Corian and Formica have dominated the countertop market for a long time, most area builders feel that granite is taking over the scene, Randall Hall, of Randall Hall Design Build and Remodeling in Dallas, said that his counter spaces are almost exclusively done in granite. The material is very sleek looking and at the same time, durable. A hoi pot taken directly from the stove or microwave can be placed on granite, while a shallow granite backsplash (the space directly above the counter and below the cabinets) makes for easy cleaning. Pavlis says thai the solid or speckled granite countertops mix well with the darker colors that Dallasites are choosing for their kitchens. According to Jim Johnson, president and owner of Jim Johnson Homes Inc., granite counters cost $5,000 to $15,000, whereas Formica only costs $700 to $800 for the same space. But. as Johnson puts it, “They’re spending money in the kitchen in Dallas.”

Burgundy, mahogany, and muted earth tones in brown, tan, and caramel are typical’ ly chosen for walls, In fad, area builders said they have not used wallpaper in a kitchen in more than three years. Backsplashes are being done in faux-finishes with hand-done antiquing or stuccoing to create an Old World or Mediterranean look. George Lewis agreed that hand-painted tile, tumbled or shaken marble, and granite are the baeksplash materials of choice today. “Marble suppliers in Dallas are readily available now. but people typically want granite countertops in higher-end homes.’’ Lewis reports.

Floors are made of brick, slate, stone tile, and even concrete. Hall says Dallas loves the natural stone look that offers a rougher finish than what was typically a smoother tile floor in years past. Brown, gold, gray, or a mixture of these colors is generally used. Lewis agrees that brick Boors with wooden borders are gaining popularity. He added that other kitchen floor trends include limestone; hand-scraped hardwood, made to look old; special patterned hardwood; and antique French tiles. “We haven’t had a linoleum floor in a kitchen for as long as 1 can remember,” Lewis says.



WHERE TO PUT STUFF

The mix of materials-granite, stainless steel, marble, and stucco-has added to the eclectic, yet practical effect. The name of the game with kitchen cabinets these days is to look like the rest of the home’s furniture. Many different textures, styles, and colors are being used in the kitchen. so the cabinetry becomes a visual tie-in to the rest of the house. Hall said that, after the appliances. cabinetry cost is what can really drive up the price of building or remodeling a kitchen. “These types of cabinets are not built in a mill shop. To get that real furniture finish is expensive.” he said. Warmer wheat colors are popular, as is the stained look.

Johnson says that cabinets made from dis tressed wood or antiqued with white wash on top of a darker stain make for a nice contrast from the granite counters and steel appliances. He says that an “appliance garage,” or cabinets built below the upper cabinets, right over countertop space, is in demand now as well. Often built with two doors or as a roll-top. this area is designed to provide storage for and conceal smaller appliances like coffee makers, blenders, and toasters. The once-prevalent trash compactors are no longer requested because most new homes have built-in recycle bins in the cabinets. Johnson adds that televisions and stereos are also being built into hidden cabinetry, so thai people can watch their favorite show, a movie, or listen to salsa while preparing a dinner of rice and beans.



BRAVE NEW WORLD

Ambient lighting-including lights suspended by invisible rods, pendant floating lights, and halogen skylights-is now cutting edge. Like everything else in the kitchen, lighting requires thoughtful planning, One thing to remember is that dimming controls are always useful for cooks of various ages to be comfortable in the space. Lighting can be used to give sharp, strong color contrasts and to make certain parts of the room stand out.

General lighting can be direct, combining single fluorescent or incandescent fixtures. But the trend now is toward indirect kitchen lighting, aimed to bounce off light walls and ceiling. casting a warm glow over the room. Bouncing diffuses the light and gives even illumination over an entire area. Accent or decorative lighting usually revolves around an eating area in the kitchen, an island, or display area. Pendants or chandeliers come in all shapes, cost and styles, depending on taste and budget.

Natural lighting is great for those who have it and frequently, homeowners will install skylights in a kitchen to get it. Anyone who goes this route in Dallas should consider operable blinds to ward off the summer’s intense heal.

Kitchen automation has also reached new levels. With kitchens opening into other rooms, particularly living rooms, panels are being installed in the cooking space to allow for pre-set lighting, kick-back music, or to turn on a DVD in another room. Like the captain of the Starship Enterprise, cooks pilot their home electronics right from the kitchen. Intricate intercom systems are now common, with the main unit in the kitchen, The paging systems are very useful for calling family members to a meal or checking on children in other parts of the house.

New inventions homeowners can expect to see in the next year or two-they’re being worked on right now at MIT and other design centers-include talking oven milts, spoons that can taste food for flavor, coffee cups that know exactly how their owners like their java, and microwaves that can read barcodes to heat food in a container. The oven mitt can take the temperature of the pan and “speak up” when the dish is ready. A little chip sewn into the fabric of the mitt calculates temperatures and the thermal mass of the food. The computer chip has a thousand undeveloped uses, and Intel, for one. is determined that every one of those uses be discovered and get into production.

The joy of cooking has only just begun.

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