K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Trends

Jul 31 2014

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Slimming Down

It’s not just the millennials that are facing kitchens of tiny proportions. Between the struggling economy and the prominent baby boomer population, more and more homeowners are looking at downsizing.

At a press event with General Electric last week, I got to see the newest prototypes in micro-kitchen concepts and what might be next for city apartments and small homes. GE’s six ft., linear piece did not seem at first any more than ordinary until I learned all that was in it.

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Within a standard countertop height and depth and a standard module of 24 inches wide, the concept contains a full kitchen suite. On the left hand side, an induction cooktop sits atop a microwave and an oven, which are hidden behind a walnut cabinet front. The centerpiece, topped with additional counterspace, holds the refrigeration module. The third module on the far right is the cleaning module, complete with a sink, disposer and dishwasher.

Everything could just be crammed in this tiny space, but consumers want to integrate technology and retain the luxury of a full size kitchen. Even if they are downsizing, they are not willing to give up those modern touches they’ve come to love. GE’s micro-kitchen prototype therefore has ventilation integrated into the backsplash, as well as a task light and cutting board on top of the kitchen sink. The touch screen technology on the oven, refrigerator and dishwasher give the user multiple options and increase space with the lack of knobs and buttons.

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What’s next for the micro-kitchen? GE and its FirsBuild online community are exploring ways to customize these concepts and offer different options for whatever the situation. Current ideas include an overhead cabinet as well as the standard countertop height piece, and a kitchen that hides a laundry system too. As available households shrink and people move towards the cities and downsize, micro-kitchens are truly the kitchens of the future. Start thinking small.

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Jul 16 2014

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Helping Clients Identify Their Style

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Many homeowners’ busy lives prevent them from being style-conscious, causing them to use the wrong terminology when referring to their personal taste or claim they are not particular. How can a designer best help these homeowners who may never have given a thought to what they ideally would want in their homes through this overwhelming process?

Here are some tips from some experts:

1. Get visual. Assemble a binder, PowerPoint or PDF you can keep on your desktop or tablet. In it, have images of five different style kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, accessories and maybe pieces of furniture as a conversation-starter exercise.

“If someone seems to have little opinion, I will show them two choices and ask, ‘Which do you like better?’” said Kate Brady, manager of showroom operations for General Plumbing Supply in Walnut Creek, Calif., and president of the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association. “People have trouble making choices when offered more than two options at a time, so keeping it simple works. Doing that four to five times gives me a good idea of what direction they are going. It is a simple method that always works.”

2. Give them homework. Alternatively, you could ask your client to bring along blueprints, sketches and their “Idea Book.” “The idea book is usually made up of pages torn from a magazine or a print-out from one of the online social media design sites like Houzz,” said John Murphy of Redlon & Johnson, a leading New England wholesale distributor of plumbing products, and president of the National Association of Plumbing Showroom Professionals. “Their taste can be made clear by pointing out what they like in the picture and, of equal importance, what they don’t like.

3. Look for clues. Observe details such as whether the individual is right-handed or left-handed and what colors they are wearing. “Clients wear colors that they like and are partial to,” said Murphy. “Do not be surprised as the client leaves if they have chosen paint, tile, fabrics and fixtures that will match the clothing they are wearing when they visit your showroom. And physical observance of motor skills can impact everything from the location of faucet handles in the kitchen to flush handles on toilets or hand-held showers in the bathroom.”

Transitional Style Gaining Speed

”Transitional is a style that appeals to both younger and older consumers,” said Brady. “We’ve moved away from a highly decorative style and gold finishes that were popular before 2008 toward a design style that is plain, simple and easy to maintain. Consumers want to create spaces that are more flexible and will have a longer life. That’s what’s fashionable now. Generally speaking, younger consumers favor a more modern design, and older consumers favor more traditional design, but transitional design tends to appeal to both.”

Brady has noticed geographic differences in design preferences as well. “I worked in Florida from 2004-2008, and the East Coast tends to skew more modern or contemporary,” she said. “The community I work in now tends to be more traditional, but not far away in Napa you’ll find more fans of contemporary design, so I guess the best advice I could give someone in terms of identifying their client’s style is to treat them like an individual, not a stereotype.”

Murphy agrees. “It’s a challenge to identify someone’s personal design style,” he said. “The same client who owns more than one home may even have several different styles depending on where those homes are located,” he added, noting the same regional differences on which Brady commented. “Someone living in Santa Fe is going to have a different approach to personal design than someone living in Boston.

“Along the coastline from Maine to the mid-Atlantic, you’ll find the cottage style is more popular. It’s less formal, less ornate. It favors brushed finishes vs. polished. It’s more conservative and less stylized,” said Murphy. “In more metropolitan areas like Manhattan, Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, the contemporary style is more popular. It’s very current and sophisticated.”

“When it comes to the kitchen, consumers want choices that complement their main faucet,” said Jack Backstrom, director of global water products planning for InSinkErator. “Their preferences regarding the size of their water dispenser, for instance, depend on the size of their traditional tap. Generally speaking, consumers want their water dispenser to be understated…they don’t want it competing or contrasting with their main faucet.”

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May 22 2014

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Traditional Design: Does it Fit in Today’s Kitchen?

K+BB recently asked its Designers Network group on LinkedIn their opinion of where traditional design in the kitchen stands today. Here are a handful of their helpful responses.

Cheryl DraaPrincipal Designer at Cheryl Draa Interior Designs, LLC

I think it depends on the area of the country. City people tend to be more open to a modern kitchen if they have the chance to start fresh in a new condo or can redo what they currently have. Suburbanites may have to keep their traditional styles a while longer, but I’m seeing a good, equal mix in new development.”

Cathy OsborneDesigner at Auer Kitchens

“Traditional is in constant flux. A 1950s traditional kitchen looks very different from a 1980s traditional kitchen, and both look very different from the traditional kitchen the buyer is requesting today. The same goes for “timeless.”
We are all removing the timeless dark cherry arched-door-framed, traditional-overlay cabinets with green marble countertops and polished brass fixtures and installing new timeless white-painted square door inset cabinets with white cararra tops and polished nickel fixtures. 
There will always be traditional because there will always be people who want safe, establishment, mainstream – but not cheap, boring or out of touch. But the style that reflects all of those things never stops morphing.”

Bill ZielinskiOwner CUSTOM IMPROVEMENTS Building, Remodeling & Design

“I think it is regional. For me, when working directly with the homeowner, the most common style is “Trail Mix.” This is the style I end up with after trying to combine must-have features from two-dozen pictures clipped from Houzz or Pinterest.”

Maureen D. ConnollyOwner/Interior Designer at “little house of Kitchens,” East Setauket, New York

“Traditional styling is characterized by a certain level of architectural detail. [Traditional kitchens] are typically more ornate and can combine any or all of the elements of raised panel doors, layered molding build-ups and decorative ornaments, i.e., corbels, mantle hoods and decorative glass. They typically utilize framed, full overlay or inset cabinetry. Furniture toe details are often prevalent. Whereas, in contemporary styling, frameless European construction, minimally used detailing and stark contrasting materials are the norm; with a sleek and cleaner minimalist look. I would describe the style of most of the kitchens my clients are doing as a light traditional or transitional style.”

Cindy TervolaKitchen & Bath Dealer/Designer at Tervola Designs

“There is definitely a trend toward more contemporary kitchens with clean lines today. However, I have just finished designing four traditional kitchens, so there are still people out there who prefer a more traditional look. It really depends on individual design tastes. If someone prefers a traditional look that is what I will give them. Due to the casual living in Hawaii, my designs tend to be a little less ornate than other parts of the country. I use simpler pilasters and moldings and rarely use raised panel doors.”

John Yates, CKD, CBDItalian Tile Agent – USA

“Traditional is going strong in Avon, Conn. I think it has everything to do with where your clients live. Sure I do modern kitchens – about 3 to 5 percent of the time. Avon and the rest of the surrounding towns in Farmington Valley are quintessentially traditional with an occasional enclave of modern-styled homes scattered in. However, on the east side of Avon Mountain, it’s a different story. Here you have West Hartford, which is a melange of both traditional homes from the 20s – 50s to large neighborhoods of mid-century modern. This is a haven not only for traditional but transitional and clean lined, modern German-styled cabinetry with quartz countertops and industrial styled 20 x 20 “porcelain-tiled floors. 

So, I say it depends primarily on the neighborhood and motif of the home. Therefore, the style known as Traditional lives on.”

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May 06 2014

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Outdoor Residential Kitchens Crave Professional-grade, Specialized Equipment

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In the wake of the housing recovery, professional-grade equipment is becoming more prevalent in outdoor kitchens. “What we’re seeing with outdoor kitchens parallels the trend we saw with professional indoor cooking equipment,” said Brian Eskew, marketing director for Twin Eagles.

Fueled by an increased interest in artisan cooking and entertaining at home, a growing number of outdoor kitchen products are now becoming more specialized with the capabilities of restaurant kitchens. As outdoor kitchens are forecast to be one of the most popular residential outdoor design elements in the coming years – according to a recent survey of residential landscape architects by the American Society of Landscape Architects – there are no signs of this trend cooling down.

Power Heating Up 

Performance is truly the name of the game. Commercial cooking equipment is designed to cook quickly, effectively and consistently at high temperatures. Homeowners want the same thing when they cook their favorite meals in their outdoor kitchens. This is driving product innovation, and more manufacturers are finding ways to repurpose commercial products for residential use.

For example, outdoor kitchen companies have brought the salamander grill – common in many restaurant kitchens – into the backyard. These can deliver intense heat overhead to help the food avoid exposure to flare-ups or charring. Similarly, restaurant-caliber burners have hit the residential market in a big way. They create external heat, giving homeowners the firepower to do everything from searing steaks at more than 700 degrees to handling lobster pots and turkey fryers.

‘Foodie’ Revolution 

Those who want to step up their outdoor cooking game know they need the right equipment to get them there. “People are becoming more adventuresome in their cooking,” said Russ Faulk, grill master and vice president of design, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “The better your equipment is, the more easily you can try out some advanced techniques, and the more you’ll enjoy the experience.”

While enthusiasm for artisan cooking has always been at a simmer in our culture, it’s now more widespread than ever, thanks in part to the rise of food bloggers and celebrity chefs. It’s not just avid cooks who seek professional-grade equipment – it’s everyone.

“Everybody just wants to get into the kitchen, whether they’re cooking from scratch and need specialty cookware or if they’re just reheating a dish and giving it their own twist with a special garnish,” said Deborah Pankey, food editor for the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs. “As people travel more, read food magazines and watch cooking shows, they want to bring that into their own space.”

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Today’s Special

Happening simultaneously with the heightened interest in cooking, outdoor kitchen equipment has become more specialized. As people begin to develop a more sophisticated palate through exposure to a variety of cuisines and regional dishes at restaurants, more focus is placed on recreating those recipes at home. To cook these dishes, equipment that extends beyond grilling is often necessary.

“Specialized outdoor cooking equipment is becoming more popular,” said Faulk. “For example, we’re seeing a rise in popularity of the pizza oven – a specialized piece of equipment designed for a certain type of cooking. It has capabilities that a grill does not.”

In fact, manufacturers have discovered ways to redesign commercial wood-fired brick ovens for residential use while maintaining the same performance found in a restaurant kitchen. Along with specialization, the cooking equipment has become more functional. Added capabilities allow for both endless recipe possibilities and versatility when it comes to cooking styles. By offering multiple functions for the user, grills with options such as dual-fuel capabilities, sear burners for high-temperature cooking and rotisseries have risen in popularity.

Elevating Lifestyle

Food is only half the story, and according to Eskew, “As much as it is about food, it’s even more about lifestyle – gathering and entertaining.”

Entertaining at home has taken on new life following the recession. Homeowners enjoy staying at home more often and value spending more time with family and friends. In turn, they seek the best available outdoor kitchen equipment that will help them cook restaurant-quality meals for their guests.

“The fact is that more people are eating at home now more than ever before. Therefore the ability to be able to cook for your family or for a group of people is important,” said Jim Ginocchi, president of Coyote Outdoor Living. “Homeowners are looking for quality – both in the time spent with loved ones and from the equipment they are cooking their food on.”

As the outdoor kitchen is another center for entertaining at home, consistency is one of the most important elements of the cooking equipment, according to Dawn Whyte, principal designer and owner of Designs by Dawn. “While the indoor kitchen is the heart of the home, the outdoor kitchen is the pulse of the neighborhood – it brings people together,” she said. “And when people get together, the host wants to feel confident that their dishes will be delicious every time – just like restaurant chefs.”

Beyond Cooking

While much emphasis in professional-grade performance has been placed on cooking, manufacturers also have been bolstering other parts of the outdoor kitchen. Refrigeration and cabinetry are two areas that have become more important as homeowners want their outdoor kitchens to be completely self-sufficient – and in some cases, the primary kitchen.

Storage has become more important as homeowners are using their outdoor kitchens more often.

“Not only do we have the BTUs, different styles of grilling and cooking, built-in halogens for nighttime grilling, side burners, storage, high searing options, rotisseries and all kinds of refrigeration – cabinetry also has improved. We have choices beyond stainless,” said Elaine Markoutsas, nationally syndicated design writer for Universal Uclick. She points out that Brown Jordan, a luxury furniture manufacturer, has a line of outdoor cabinetry with classic styling in a range of colors and models.

To improve functionality, some outdoor cabinetry now has the ability to protect the contents inside. For example, magnetic gaskets that create a seal to shield dry goods from the outside elements and weather-tight designs with rain gutters around door openings are becoming more commonplace. These allow homeowners to store items such as linens, pots and pans, dishes and spices outside without worrying about them getting wet.

Looking Ahead

To predict what lies ahead for outdoor kitchens, experts suggest looking inside.

“Consumers will probably see more translation from what is popular for indoor cooking,” said Ginocchi. “Trends for the outdoor usually follow what is popular for everyday use inside.”

Experts also agree that specialized equipment will continue to flourish as manufactures push the limits of innovation. We’ll likely see more specialized professional-grade products – such as fryers, dual-fuel appliances, smokers and electric grills – become popular outdoor kitchen staples over the next several years.

- By Bradley Carlson, Communications Manager, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

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