Current kitchens: Modern open plans consider storage, style, light

Modern kitchens see pantries evolve, cabinets reimagined and island expansions

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When it comes to new home design, the party has moved to the kitchen.

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New home buyers spend more money on upgrades in the kitchen than in any other room. The kitchen is so central to modern lifestyles that it can take up 40 per cent of space on the main floor.

“With COVID, we’ve gone back to cooking at home and re-examining how the function of the kitchen is important,” says Jessica Moody, interior design liaison with luxury builder Maillot Homes.

Justin Mauro, president of Renova Homes and Renovations, says kitchen design has really evolved in the past 15 years.

“People’s lifestyles have changed, and the culinary arts have become very popular.

Everyone wants an open kitchen. When people are renovating homes built as recently as the 1990s, they want to open
them up even more,” he says. The open-concept kitchen makes for fun, informal family time and sets the stage for cooking as entertainment. Pedro Ocana Muller, founder of inner-city builder Sunset Homes, says there aren’t many walls on the main floor anymore.

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“The only natural partitions on the main floor now are for the bathroom, for pantries and perhaps for an office,” he says.

Each of these three new home experts looks at what’s cookin’ in kitchens for 2022.

LUXURY APPLIANCES

New home buyers are splurging on stylish appliances that save time and energy. Moody says she particularly likes the new high-tech steam oven by appliance maker Miele.

“You can just say, ‘hey oven, do my fish and my rice’, and then walk away. It can be plumbed or it can have a water container, like an iron. Steam is extremely hot and reduces the cooking time but keeps food moist,” she says.

Appliances by Bosch, Wolf, Sub-Zero and Kitchen Aid are common in the custom kitchens built by Sunset Homes.

Some, like refrigerators and dishwashers, can be hidden behind cabinet panels. Others, like high-end ranges, come in  bold colours such as red and blue. The ranges can have an interesting wood or metal hood fan installed above.

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“Architectural statement hoods are becoming more common in modern craftsman and farmhouse-style homes,” Muller says.

Twenty years after they first appeared, stainless steel appliances are still going strong. With better finishes now, people
shouldn’t shy away from stainless steel or black stainless steel, says Mauro.

“The technology has improved with fingerprint-resistant finishes,” he says.

FLOORING

Continuous, consistent flooring throughout the main level is the most esthetically pleasing, says Muller. Hardwood remains popular, but tile is a close second.

“For our homeowners who choose this option, we always recommend in-floor heating,” he says.

Everyone loves wood in the kitchen, says Moody.

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“We’re doing a lot of walnut and white oak with a mix of narrow and wide planks.”

LIGHTING AND WINDOWS

The key to great lighting is to layer it, starting with pot lights in the ceiling. Then adding task lighting over work areas, accent lighting inside and underneath upper cabinets, backlighting display features such as wine racks, and finishing it off with a statement fixture over the kitchen island.

“There’s nothing like that big piece of jewelry over an island,” says Moody. “LED lights are so efficient that you can
light up an entire space and hardly use any energy.”

With everything so open, natural light can stream in through windows in adjacent rooms, but homeowners are prioritizing windows, even forsaking upper cabinets along an exterior wall for more windows.

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CABINETS

Optics are another reason upper cabinets are waning in popularity. That lean, linear look so vogue in home design can be achieved by uncluttering walls and hanging just one equally uncluttered floating shelf for effect.

Losing upper cabinet storage means lower cabinets must be used more efficiently.

“Pot drawers, pull-out spice racks and blind corner-unit solutions — there are so many things that make cupboards work better.

They just can’t be an empty carcass with no purpose,” Moody says.

When upper cabinets are installed, they’re as large as possible, extending right to the ceiling.

“People are looking for more storage. Something interesting that we’re seeing are appliance garages. It’s a cabinet with an awning-style door that sits on your countertop, with outlets behind in the backsplash. Instead of moving appliances in and out of a pantry, they’re accessible but hidden from view,” says Mauro.

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Pulls, knobs and hinges don’t contribute to modern esthetics either. Drawers and doors can be “handleless” with hidden grooves or are touch-latch, in which the door is gently pushed to release the hinge.

PANTRIES

The corner pantry with a glass door was all the rage in the 1990s. Mauro says that during renovations he’s knocking them out and building walk-through pantries where space permits. In new home construction, the pantry is often located off the garage so that the homeowner can easily unload and put away groceries. In luxury homes, the pantry is almost a second kitchen.

“Butler’s pantries are popular, with an additional sink, a fridge, cabinets and maybe another dishwasher,” he says.

The butler’s pantry, catering pantry or spice kitchen can be a second workspace. It could also be a dedicated place for coffee and espresso machines or it can be a Scotch or wine bar.

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“I think we’re getting away from big wine cellars that were rooms of their own. It’s more integrated into the kitchen,” says Moody.

THE ISLAND

Kitchen islands are rarely deserted. They’re the workspace, the dining table and focal point for conversation. They keep getting bigger and sometimes, they can multiply.

“I’ve seen two islands — one functional and a second for just gathering around. It keeps guests out of your cooking space,” says Moody.

The esthetic of the waterfall island, where the sides of the island are made of the same material as the countertop, is here to stay.

“People like the look of it. It’s so clean and the natural stone won’t date. We’re also seeing that large format stone in kitchen backsplashes. We’re getting away from little tiny tiles and using fewer yet high-end materials. That same stone on your countertop is going up behind the splash,” says Moody.

Similarly, Muller is fielding requests for large format, marble slab backsplashes.

COLOUR

Calmer colours prevail during unsettled times. Green is one such colour.

“Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore brought out greens this year — soft, sagey grey-greens. If paint manufacturers brought out green, we’re going to see it in tile and fabric,” says Moody. “Greens might be bolder. when used in cabinets, especially if we’re getting rid of wall cabinets and doing lowers. I could see a dark, hunter green kitchen in 2022.”

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