To create a country-style kitchen, it isn't necessary to revert to a coal stove and an icebox. This popular look can be achieved without sacrificing high-tech conveniences, provided careful attention is paid to the room's surround.
"Surround" is a term designers use in referring to perimeter surfaces -- the floor, ceiling and walls. If the proper materials are selected for covering these expanses, the kitchen will almost certainly take on an authentically country atmosphere.
One foolproof formula is illustrated in the accompanying photo.
Instead of the hard-surfaced material used in most kitchens, the floor in this model has been stripped down to its oak planks, which were then dark-stained and covered with several coats of polyurethane. The addition of that protective sheen shows how 20th century technology can exist unobtrusively with a 19th century interior style.
Blue-and-white ceramic tiles give the walls the sort of decorative appearance associated with country homes. Whether the tiles are handmade or done in a rusticated finish, they will serve as an appropriate substitute for the plain and polished tiles in many modern kitchens.
This theme is extended and emphasized by the abundance of ceramic objects displayed on shelves and hanging from the ceiling rack. It's also typical of a casual, country setting for such objects to be left in full view rather than to be stowed away behind laminated doors.
That column off to the side of the room is made of steel, but it has been clad with wood planking in a grayish, barn-side finish. Near it, the valance above the stove is likewise done in a textured wood. Besides housing the lighting for the stove area, the valance serves as a shelf for decorative utensils. Further enhancing the kitchen's warmth and charm, the preparation island and chairs are of natural oak.
Unless one requires the kind of illumination available in operating rooms -- and some people really do find that necessary -- sufficient lighting can usually be obtained from a few well-placed fixtures. One or two can be suspended from the ceiling, while others may be installed underneath wall cabinets. Task lighting above the stove and sink is also helpful.
Though it wasn't done here, the refrigerator door can be outfitted with plywood or some other material more rustic-looking than factory-finished enamel. The sink, too, will be more in sync with the overall flavor if it's made of porcelain rather than stainless steel. And don't forget the little touches that make a big difference. Hardware and fittings, for example, should be made of copper or wrought iron.
As for the colors, choose warm tones with strong contrasts. The blue-and-white combination used on these walls is a sound selection, especially since it introduces a light note to an otherwise dark surround. Rusts, yellows and browns are other favorites for the country look.