A country look that's not an afterthought

April 04, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

With all their smooth surfaces and high-tech cooking equipment, contemporary kitchens don't exactly lend themselves to a nostalgic or even a decorative treatment.

But as many of us soon discover, these food laboratories can be uncomfortably sterile places to work or to linger. They certainly don't welcome family-style dining, nor do I find them conducive to old-fashioned home cooking. As a result, a good many of these sleek settings are eventually given design touches that are intended to warm them up. Curtains and wallpaper are hung to produce a sense of coziness. Quaint items like antique country utensils and dried herbs are introduced for the same reason.

Often, though, these afterthoughts look like just that. Because they don't jibe with all the gleam and polish, the room winds up looking cluttered rather than cozy.

Careful planning is required to avoid this disconnected effect. And the best way to proceed, I believe, is by first choosing a preferred overall design for the kitchen and then introducing contemporary elements, rather than doing things the other way around. I have found that modern conveniences like plastic laminate counters and self-cleaning ovens can work quite well within the context of a not-so-modern room design.

With the exception of the funky stove, which is probably there only for decoration, the photograph illustrates the kind of look I'm describing.

What's particularly interesting here, I think, is the complementary combination of the floor and quilt patterns. Together, they produce an unmistakably country-style look. The three-color Armstrong vinyl floor tile is based on the classic Ohio Star patchwork quilt, which also can be used as a decorative table cover. The brightly colored star points on the floor were formed by cutting 9-inch-square tiles into triangles and setting them against uncut tiles of neutral buff and beige.

Notice how this overall design comfortably accommodates the jars, baskets and other country accessories. In such a setting, curtains aren't really needed.

It's also not necessary to haul out Grandma's coal-operated stove or to purchase an icebox at a flea market. The very latest appliances will look fine in this kind of kitchen because the basic design has been so well established. Besides, our eyes have learned to accept the presence of high-tech products in all sorts of settings, regardless of their styling. But we're not at all accustomed to seeing a few antique-type pieces in an otherwise ultra-modern interior.

If you're intrigued by the type of floor design shown in the photo, a professional installer should be able to provide information about various color and pattern options. In addition, a 16-page Patchwork Floors booklet can be obtained for $3 from Armstrong World Industries, Department QUILTPR, P.O. Box 3001, Lancaster, Pa. 17604.

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