What's hot in kitchen? A tastefully done mix Stains with plain wood, marble and butcher block are popular styles


September 29, 1996|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

Pickling is back. White is still in, but only with green. Wood is good, and light blue and green stains are gaining. Industrial and commercial looks are in. But hottest of all are mixed materials and mixed finishes: wall cabinets stained, base units plain wood; a mixture of marble and butcher block on the counters.

Those are the latest words from the world of kitchen design, where a welter of new products and new finishes makes designing the heart of the home a joy and a challenge.

The trend in cabinets is away from the white laminates and dark woods popular in the last few years, and toward a "bright, light" look with colors.

"I'm doing a lot of multiple finishes," said Trish Houck, a professional kitchen designer based in Columbia. She estimates that more than half of the kitchens she designs these days use more than one finish -- for instance, stained cabinets on the walls, a furniture-style wood look on an island. "I get many requests for light-colored stains, light blue or light green. And I'm using an extraordinary amount of granite."

Melissa Mon, a kitchen designer at the Home Depot in Towson, said, "Walnut is the hot-selling wood right now. It's big in both a natural finish and in a light, pickled white finish."

Although Houck said she does "very, very few" white kitchens anymore, Mon said white laminates are still big sellers with green counter tops.

These days, people who cook -- and it's not always the traditional mom -- have access to a wide variety of sophisticated equipment and materials, including commercial stoves and Agas British design that is constantly on, with compartments at various temperatures), marble counter tops and butcher's blocks, pot racks, pantry units, prep sinks, ceramic and stone "country" sinks, appliance garages the list goes on and on.

Even in flooring the choices have exploded.

"There's a lot of wonderful new stone-like tile," Houck said. "The tiles are big -- 16 by 16 [inches]." Houck said she's also used commercial vinyl flooring, even cork.

For some people, as the equipment has gotten more specialized, the philosophy of design has subtly shifted away from the rigid triangle and into a series of zones -- a preparation zone, a baking zone, a cooking zone, a clean-up zone, or whatever area the cook needs.

Karol's new kitchen (delayed and delayed and delayed again by constant rain on the East Coast -- it's just getting a roof) will be L-shaped, and to some extent, the shape dictated the zones.

The short end of the L will be the clean-up area, with the sink and dishwasher. One end of the long side of the L will be the cooking area, with stove, cabinets for pots and pans, and condiments and spices. The far end of the L will be the storage area, with fridge, double pantry units and cabinets for lesser-used items, such as trays and roasting pans.

Houck said zoned kitchens are especially in demand among two-cook families. She "guesstimates" that about 20 percent of the kitchens she designs are for couple cooks; another 20 percent are men doing the cooking. "I'm sure I have no more

than 50 percent of women doing [all] the cooking."

Two-cook families may want two sinks, or a separate baking area. Two microwaves are more common, especially in households where children prepare their own snacks, and some cooks consider two dishwashers essential.

"Some people cook several meals on the weekend to last through the week," Houck said. She said the emergence of men getting into family cooking is the biggest change in kitchen practices in recent years. And, she said, "they're likely to be gourmet cooks."

Karol is getting two spice/condiment cabinets in the cooking zone, and two pull-out pantry units in the storage zone.

And though she looked longingly at a color scheme of red, yellow, green and natural wood, she settled on white cabinets, white-washed terra cotta tile floors, and faux-granite laminate counter tops.

It's a perfect look for her 80-year-old bungalow -- that is, it will be, tTC if it ever stops raining.

Randy Johnson is a home-improvement contractor based in Harford County. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at homeworlark.net, or write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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