Dreaming of a new kitchen?

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With cooler weather under way and the market on the upswing, now’s the time to revamp or build your dream home.

A Cook's Kitchen

Experts weigh in on the perfect culinary setting

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It’s no secret that the heart of every home is the kitchen. After all, it’s where holiday meals are cooked, school lunches are made and parties tend to linger.

But the kitchen also is the one room in the house that takes a beating from chopping, splashing and cooking.

For the perfect culinary setting, design must combine function and beauty. Start with the latest trends in colors and accessories, but don’t forget the durable countertops, stain-resistant flooring and accessible storage.

Before you get to the nitty-gritty, however, consider the flow of your kitchen, said Steve Dettinger, a certified kitchen designer with the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Eastern Carolina chapter.

“I would start by interviewing the customer and try to find out if one or two people generally cook in the kitchen,” Dettinger said. “If the husband and wife like to cook together, then the kitchen would need to be set up for more people. Someone could be at the island chopping and prepping and another person could be sautéing something.”

Depending on the size of the kitchen, a cooking island also can be outfitted with a cook top, but only with a proper ventilation system.

“There’s a challenge with ventilation,” Dettinger said. “It has to be a down-draft exhaust system or a more elaborate overhead exhaust over the cooking surface. Some people try to cheat and not to ventilate, leaving odors and grease airborne, which is not a good thing.”

DURABLE COOKING SURFACE

Whether it’s a cooking island or countertop, a cook’s surface must withstand daily wear and tear. There’s one, timeless surface that has proven to take a licking and keep on ticking: granite.

“It’s obviously the beauty,” Dettinger said of why granite continues to be a lasting trend. “ It comes from the earth. It appeals to a lot of people. There’s a wide range of color. There are many fabricators around, so the cost is somewhat competitive.”

But is it good for cooking? Not only does granite not damage easily, it doesn’t stain easily, either.

“If it’s sealed properly, it doesn’t stain,” Dettinger said. “Meat juices can seep into it and stain if it’s not sealed.”

Other durable cooking surfaces catching on in popularity include Silestone and Cambria quartz countertops — which can withstand scratching, staining and scorching.

“They’re hard like granite, but not porous, so they will not stain,” Dettinger said.

 

ACCESSIBLE STORAGE

When a cook is in the middle of sautéing vegetables, stirring a sauce and checking on the contents of the oven, there’s no time to hunt through the dark crevices of a kitchen for a utensil or heating pad. Organization is key for any cook worth his or her salt.

Of all the hardware a kitchen requires, cabinets can be among the most costly. But don’t buy into cheaper alternatives, said Terry McGraw, also known as Mrs. FIXIT, owner of the how-to home repair and household tips Web site, www.mrsfixit.com.

“Keep your budget in mind, but don’t cut corners on cabinets,” McGraw said. “While you think you you’re saving a lot at the moment, they won’t last the way that a better-made cabinet would — so, you’ll end up replacing them down the road.”

Don’t forget to set a friendly, welcoming tone in your kitchen with the right color of cabinets. Dettinger said

“We are seeing a migration toward either darks like a coffee bean color or a merlot dark red, wine color to a very antique white,” he said.

Look for cabinets and drawers that create more space and organize all of the kitchen’s many accoutrements. For instance, a large cabinet to store pans and baking dishes is a must, said McGraw. Save even more space with a pop-up appliance shelf to hold a big mixer that stows away as easily as pulling out a drawer.

 

THE MUST-HAVE

Not sure what appliances to buy for your culinary kitchen? Before maxing out your credit card on a bread maker that — come on! — will make one loaf of bread before collecting dust, take a look at your cooking habits.

“If you like to bake, you may want a convection oven, so you can cook several pans at once,” McGraw said. “A marble countertop will allow you to roll out pastries right on the counter. … If you are more of a chef, a pot filler, a chopping block and a six-plus burner stove may be more of what you’re looking for.”

Dettinger said many busy families are building a warming drawer into their kitchen, where a plate of food can easily be stored and warmed for the late-arriving family member.

“It’s generally made of stainless steal and built into the counter,” he said. “… The food remains at a nice, warm temperature but doesn’t dry out. It’s different than placing it in a microwave, where the food can get dry or burn around the edges. Here, it stays very palatable.”

Other products in the culinary limelight are from the environmentally friendly variety. In particular, Dettinger noted countertops made from recycled glass and bamboo flooring and cabinets.

“(These trends) have been embedded in larger metropolitan areas, and they’re working their way to the coast,” he said.

If all else fails and you’re not sure where to turn for inspiration, check out HGTV or a home improvement magazine for ideas.

“It backfires,” Dettinger says of home makeover television shows. “People come in and say that want this and that — the proverbial 10 pounds in a 5-pound bag. Sometimes, these shows on TV have incredible budgets and space. Three-thousand square feet and $60,000 — that’s not the world I live in.”

Whether your dream kitchen means splurging for that multi-burner stove or fixing the broken hinges on the cabinets, never forget who uses the kitchen. You.