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Designers Reveal: How To Create The Ultimate Kitchen

“What makes the ultimate kitchen?” Here’s advice from several local kitchen designers about some fundamental must-haves and ultimate kitchen finishes.

Start with the big picture: a great kitchen must be well-planned and have an airy, open feel. These days, there is no such thing as “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” Multiple workstations enable culinary cooperation. John Vanderkolk, owner of Kitchen Designers Plus, suggests doubling up select appliances and workstations. Vanderkolk believes you can design around double ovens, twin dishwashers, two sinks, a couple of islands, and a separate refrigerator and freezer—both full-size, of course.

Many designers also emphasize carefully arranging these workstations. (Believe it or not, a kitchen can be too big!) Anthony Binns, co-owner and head designer of Binns Kitchen and Bath Design jokes, “You need a map and roller skates to work in a kitchen that is too large.”

Binns breaks down the plan into principal stations that include a prep center, cooking center, beverage center, clean-up center, and work center. When asked about the style versus space-planning ratio in an ultimate kitchen, Binns emphasizes the individuality of each client. Kitchens should be customized according to a user’s needs, and the ratio is determined by lifestyle, economics, and culture, among other things.

Today’s kitchen designers are also taking into account functions that go beyond cooking, such as entertaining. Great kitchens become a natural place for guests to hangout and should be designed with this in mind.

Consider, for instance, a “party sink”—a small prep sink and a long, integrated trough with drain.  A host can stock the party sink with ice, beverages, chilled appetizers, and so forth.

The new-and-improved ultimate island doesn’t stop there either. Susan Slat, a kitchen and bath consultant for Downsview Kitchens notes other social aspects of an island. These days, “everyone wants to plate their food” the way real chefs do, she says. A plating station involves a spacious island with a two-burner cook top, a prep sink (and a flair for the dramatic on the part of the host).

Luxury kitchen from Binns
Source: Binns Kitchen and Bath Design

Another ultimate kitchen trend: camouflage. Often the dishwasher and refrigerator are completely disguised as cabinetry while the range and accompanying ventilation unit are showcased as a kitchen’s focal point.  Binns (Binns Kitchen and Bath Design) declares, “The range and hood vent are the sexy part of the kitchen.” They say, “Look at me, I’m a cook!”

Along the lines of hidden components versus highlighted features, designer kitchens incorporate “architectural furniture,” such as a spectacularly bold commercial range, or a massive, carved central island complete with the illusion of legs (by way of nickel foot caps).

Downsview luxury kitchen
Source: Downsview Kitchens Design

In order to better showcase a kitchen’s architectural furniture, one must downplay other elements. Slat (Downsview Kitchens) describes the ultimate kitchen as having “streamlined aesthetics…with fewer interruptions.”

On the other hand, imagine the dramatic effect when a concealed item is revealed. For a recent project Slat designed a beverage station hidden behind two cabinet doors. “Open sesame” to expose a chic, red espresso station complete with accent lighting. The element of surprise enhances the ultimate kitchen experience.

Custom espresso station in luxury kitchen
Source: Downsview Kitchens Design

When asked about the newest, trendiest, most avant garde finish materials for ultimate kitchens, the designers all gave similar responses. The trendiest materials also happen to be the simplest (though not necessarily the most economical). Most clients still opt for the sumptuous textures of marble, the rich decadence of wood, and luxurious hand-crafted, metal hardware. (After all, “Hardware is the jewelry of the kitchen,” says Susan Slat).

Kitchen Designer Plus
Source: Kitchen Designers Plus

Nevertheless, the most important feature of any kitchen remains performance, says Vanderkolk (Kitchen Designers Plus). That includes ergonomics and functionality, along with aesthetics and visual appeal. Slat (Downsview Kitchens) believes everything, from appliances to cabinetry, can and should be beautiful. Add in stunning architectural furniture, eye-candy appliances, and inviting social perks, and the ultimate kitchen transforms into the ultimate living space.

By Emily Struzik

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