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Busy lifestyles mean that many families are solution-driven in all they do—even renovating their kitchens. Here are some kitchen remodel ideas to bring your family’s cooking, eating, and socializing hub up-to-date, making the room more stylish, practical, and eco-friendly in the process.
Creating Kitchen Activity Zones
One solution is to “zone” the kitchen. Homeowners are no longer tied to the traditional kitchen countertop. They’re taking advantage of today’s innovative marketplace to create a “mix and match” approach that gives them the utility they need with the aesthetics they want.
Today’s zoned countertops are true taskmasters. Some get a daily workout as the center of busy family meal preparations or cleanup. Others are essential spaces for baking or fresh food preparation. Some serve as showpieces. Yet others have become one-stop home offices with room for phone, computer, and work space for parents or kids.
By creating activity zones with counters of appropriate heights and materials, the traditional matching countertop look is disappearing from the kitchen. Even backsplashes, which always used to match the countertop, are part of the new mix and match.
Build with Environmentally-Friendly Materials
If you’re replacing or updating your décor, such as countertops, flooring and tile, look for sustainable materials like bamboo and cork, which come from plants that re-grow quickly from the same source (as opposed to wood; it takes decades to grow back a tree) or recycled content from companies like Green Sage and Green Building Supply.
Designer Stelmack says other renewable materials are also finding their way into cabinets. Kirei board, for example, is an engineered product using the stalks of sorghum plants, and bamboo is used in a laminated plywood under the trademark Plyboo®. Reclaimed wood is also popular, she says.
“Re-using existing cabinetry is always preferred, especially if the cabinets are in good condition and pose no threat to the health of the people living in the home,” says Ashley Katz, communications manager for the U.S. Green Building Council based in Washington, DC. “Using salvaged cabinetry can be a way to reduce the impacts of manufacturing new goods, as well as reducing the amount of material entering landfills. While the variety of cabinetry materials once was sparse and limiting, now the choices for environmentally friendly cabinetry materials are endless, and we expect this trend to continue,” says Katz.
Blend Things In
Call it the great cover-up. In a trend fueled by manufacturer innovations and designer imagination, appliances are the sight-unseen heroes of the home. Refrigerators, dishwashers, and TVs are melding into the woodwork — and that’s just where many homeowners want them. Kitchens are looking more like extensions of living rooms; small appliances are being streamlined to fit in just about any room.
Custom pieces often come with big price tags. Troy Adams, a Los Angeles-based kitchen and bath designer, introduced the TansuChill refrigerator as part of his hidden furniture line. The unit is a Sub-Zero refrigerator-freezer encased in traditional Japanese-influenced cabinetry. It can cost more than $24,000.
Camouflaging appliances, rather than tucking them off to the side so they don’t overpower the space, is just plain practical. Relegate them to the recesses, and you can lose the efficiency inherent in the traditional work triangle. But make them a focus and you won’t mind putting them front and center. “Wherever they go, they’re going to look great. Whether that means paneled sides, handpainting on a surface or using interesting door handles, it’ll make a statement,” Salerno says.
Use Energy-Efficient Appliances
When measuring the greenness of your kitchen, the first thing to look at is your appliances. “Outside of heating and cooling, the refrigerator is the main energy hog in the home,” says Jennifer Powers, media manager of the National Resources Defense Council of New York, NY. “The great thing about [today’s] refrigerators is that automatically, no matter what kind you have, it’s probably a good 70 percent more efficient than the old gold or green version from your childhood.”
With any appliance, you’ll want to look for two things: the Energy Star and Energy Rating Number. The higher the energy rating number, the more efficient the appliance. Energy Star ranks appliance efficiency—any appliance with the Energy Star label is in the top 25 percent of energy performers.
Trust Your Judgement
There’s been a change in consumer attitude, marked by people following their own style sense, rather than the trends. “Consumers have become more assertive,” says Gin Guei Ebnesajjad, manager of product styling and development for DuPont Surfaces, Corian and Zodiaq. They are smart and color-savvy, too, she says. As a result, their kitchens carry a creative punch that standard kitchens just can’t match.