The Cook's Kitchen

Things have come a long way since we were awed by Mrs. Brady's kitchen, with the built-in wall oven and fancy Formica island. Granted, built-ins are still extremely popular, but what I wouldn't give to trade my had-its-heyday microwave shelf for a coffee centre, a pullout recycling station or a microwave drawer. People are now looking for transitional kitchens: not too modern, not too traditional. It features clean lines, professional appliances and gives the space the look of being filled with furniture.

“Contrast is a big feature ““ lights and darks, nothing in between,” says Brenda Baranowski, Kitchen and Bath Designer of Selba Kitchens Inc., in Oakville. “I think because people are using their kitchens more every day, so they're looking for that furniture feel so it blends with the rest of the house,” she says.

By incorporating a light kitchen with an element such as a dark island it adds a more restaurant feel into the kitchen. Each piece looks more like elegant furniture rather than cabinetry. “Lots of people are bringing the chandelier look into the kitchen, something that at one time would have been reserved for a dining room,” she says. When it comes to entertaining and everyday living in such a fine space, Baranowski says many clients save space in their kitchen, such as a wall, to mount a flat screen TV.

Kitchen cabinetry is featured in rich, darkly stained wood, but Baranowski says that they are using more exotic woods such as zebra and wenge (African Rosewood). Wenge is a tropical wood, very dark in color and a strong partridge wood pattern. Zebrawood (looks just like it sounds) features blond and dark stripes. “When we stain it in a dark colour it has a tone on tone look but more of an exotic feel,” says Baranowski. Slab doors and glazed finishes are also popular.

Long-gone is the appliance garage, replaced by hutch cabinets that extend down to the countertop. “You still have that storage at counter level. It gives you additional storage and sometimes you can bring them out a little deeper than the rest of the cabinets,” comments Baranowski. It's a great place to store small appliances that you don't want to exhibit on the counter. “Many people are going with higher-end, stainless steel appliances and keeping them on the counter as fixtures,” she adds.

Glass cabinet doors are implemented in various looks: wire mesh doors, clear glass, beveled, frosted, glass with a waterfall effect, and reeded glass. What's different now is the interior finish behind the glass: a white kitchen with a dark chocolate-coloured island might feature glass doors with a chocolate interior.

Cabinet hardware varies, says Baranowski. “It's really personal. There's still a lot of stainless steel to compliment the appliances ““ some with more of a brushed antique finish, a lot of oil-rubbed bronze.” Polished chrome is becoming more popular as well as clear glass knobs.

Kitchen islands are now a fully functioning, independent part of the kitchen. “A flush style is the most popular because it gives you the biggest prep area rather than having a tiered island with a raised breakfast bar,” notes Baranowski. “They're great for entertaining and putting out appetizers. A lot of people are making the island more a part of their kitchen and getting rid of their table and chairs and incorporating a family-style eating area within the island.” The addition of chunkier posts and decorative toe-kicks imparts the upscale furniture look.

Large islands can also accommodate a prep sink with a gorgeous polished chrome faucet. What may be even more desirable are the options in microwaves with and under-counter or microwave drawer options. “For people with less of a budget, microwave drawers are amazing,” she says. Think pot drawer that opens easily for you to put your food in, heat and remove. 

With the microwave moved off the counter and into the island, what other options are available? “A lot of people are looking for secondary ovens, whether that's a range with a wall oven or a double wall oven,” says Baranowski. And imagine starting your morning at your kitchen's coffee centre. “It basically an espresso machine that's built into a wall oven-type cabinet.” Garage recycling centres, pantry pullouts, rollouts and compost bins are becoming somewhat of a standard. A pot-filler faucet above the stove is an excellent option for foodies who want to avoid the hassle of carrying heavy pots of water from one end of the kitchen to another.

Counter depth, flush fridges pair well with the transitional kitchen. The sacrifice in depth is made up for in width and or height. “More people want a wider fridge ““ starting at 36 inches, going up to 42, even 48 inches,” reveals Baranowski. Those with larger kitchens may appreciate a full floor to ceiling fridge and full freezer side by side.

Warm grays are the hot tones for kitchens now, whether it's in a stain, a glazed finish or a solid colour. “The focal direction is moving out of beige tones and into the warm gray tones,” says Baranowski. “Tiles that have a gray undertone but still have browns and beiges mixed with it. In that way the kitchen still goes with any other beige tones throughout the home.”

Granite still remains the most popular choice for countertops, however Baranowski says quartz is coming on strong. It offers durability that you won't get from a natural stone. Backsplashes are being finished in Calcutta marble or glass tile mixed with natural stone. What's more, tile is no longer just for the backsplash; it can also be carried over to the range and placed all the way up the wall to create a focal point. “You can use backsplash tile to finish an entire wall spaces,” states Baranowski. Even a separate wall in the kitchen might have the same stone and mount a flat screen TV.