Once considered the domestic ‘headquarters’ of the 1950s housewife, the modern family kitchen has evolved from a simple and functional workspace to the most utilized – and most enjoyed – social focal point of the home.
While today’s designer kitchens triple as a one-stop living, dining and entertainment room, at a time when chrome, plastic and vinyl were considered cutting edge, the extent of thoughtful kitchen design focused solely on the activities of storing, preparing, cooking and cleaning.
“The new kitchen is more than a cooking area,” says Jim Lintott, owner, JRL Kitchen Design. “It’s a place where friends and family gather to share conversation, stories and food – where everyone who enters feels welcome.”
When considering remodelling or designing a new “guest-friendly” kitchen, Lintott says bringing in a professional kitchen designer before commencing the project can save homeowners time and money, as well as help them create a space they will be happy with over the long-term.
“Kitchen design can be highly specialized and complex,” he says. “A kitchen designer understands how a kitchen functions and can analyze the family’s lifestyle, interests and cooking and entertaining needs. A designer can give you ideas you may not have thought of, including those that will help you keep costs down.”
While cabinetry style, colour and material are integral to setting the design tone, Lintott says creating a functional and creative floor plan is the first step to designing a kitchen that adds monetary and lifestyle value to the home.
“Everyone has unique tastes and ideas about how they want their kitchen to look, feel and function,” says Lintott. “A great kitchen starts with a well-thought-out design. Spending time planning out the space is key to making your kitchen function for maximum comfort and efficiency.”
Previously boasting a sea of brightly-coloured Formica, today’s kitchens often showcase a variety of elaborate materials and components, including: wooden mantels and corbels, marble fireplace surrounds, granite work surfaces, cultured stone feature walls, distressed posts and beams, glass tiles, stamped concrete and quartz countertops.
At the centre of it all, Lintott says, an island with a seating area or cooking area is a key feature that many people like to incorporate into their floor plans. “It makes the host or hostess feel like they are still part of the festivities and they can include their guests in what they are doing or preparing,” he said. “You could design the island out of a different style cabinet, colour or material to make it stand out. Incorporating an antique piece of furniture can be stunning.”
In addition to comfortable built-in or freestanding seating areas, Lintott notes avid entertainers traditionally make room for a wide range of appliances, including: temperature-controlled wine cellars, beverage centres, island cooktops, twin dishwasher sets and commercial-grade ovens and ranges.
However, while appliances play a big role in the design, Lintott says lighting is an important feature that is often overlooked.
“Take the time to place the right lighting for function and mood,” recommends Lintott. “I suggest taking your floor plan to a lighting supplier and working with a design specialist to help you find the best lighting for the ambiance that you are trying to create.”
The kitchen designer’s biggest piece of advice for homeowners, however, is to take out the proper permits and to ensure they use licensed plumbers and electricians.
“Talk about the budget with them and consider all the costs up to final completion – prior to signing any contracts.”
He also notes that when hiring a professional designer or contractor, checking references and experience is a must.
“A new kitchen can be an excellent investment in most homes, which is why it should be well-designed or it could become a financial liability. Request to see one of their projects. Most homeowners who have had a positive kitchen experience would love to show off the finished product.”