A new kitchen for all time: Tips for a look that won't date

By Barbara Pash

Dolan Media Newswires

BALTIMORE, MD--In the kitchen design world, Trish Houck needs no introduction: The owner of Kitchen Concepts by Trish Houck, in Ellicott City, has been designing kitchens for 25 years. She can remember when white laminate cabinets with wood trim were popular, when French Country replaced English Country and even when Prairie had its day.

Now Houck is designing a very different kitchen, one that features stainless steel and opaque stains, refrigerators that disappear behind panels, and exotic woods that weren't available before.

These are just a few of the hallmarks of today's high-end kitchens, which can vary from traditional to contemporary in style but share certain elements, such as professional-grade appliances and custom-made cabinetry.

The kitchen is now the center of the home. The formal dining room is no more; that space is part of the new, multipurpose kitchen. Typically, the kitchen also incorporates a TV/den or computer/work area.

High-end kitchens don't come cheap. Appliances alone can run from $10,000 to $20,000. But much depends on the choice of material and the size of the kitchen. Christopher Taylor, a partner in Urban Space Developers in Baltimore, gives two examples of recent jobs.One kitchen cost $100,000; the other, $30,000. The difference was size: The first kitchen, in a linear Baltimore City townhouse, measured 15 feet by 30 feet, while the second, in a $600,000 suburban house, was much smaller.

But material also mattered. The first kitchen required 7-foot-long slabs of granite, and the client chose the costliest variety. "Everyone says, 'I've got to have granite,' but that can range from $40 to $50 per square foot to $200 [per square foot] for exotic. You can get a nice granite for $75 to $100," says Taylor, whose firm specializes in high-end, environmentally friendly urban spaces, both new and retrofitted.

Blue Arnold, co-owner of Kitchens by Request in Jarrettsville, served as a judge in the National Kitchen and Bath Design Competition, held last November in Princeton, N.J. White wood cabinets, the color green, and chandeliers and pendants over islands were popular.

Unlike the white cabinets of the past, the new ones were mixed with woods such as a dark-brown walnut. All shades of green, from light to dark, turned up in decorative hardware, granite and marble countertops, as well as in tile and glass backsplashes. The color purple appeared in wall paint and fabrics.

Wall cabinets all included task lighting underneath. One manufacturer even offered preset lighting "scenes" that included morning, nighttime, party and welcome home.

Richard Rice, of Mill Valley Kitchens in Hampden, is doing two- and sometimes three-color kitchens. The perimeter cabinets are one color, the island is another and the countertops are a third shade.To illustrate, Rice pointed to a recent job in which the perimeter cabinets were cream-colored maple, the island was dark cherry and the countertops were two different, light-colored marbles. The floor was marble tile and the range hood was concrete with a limestone look. The refrigerator panels, cherry wood with a green stain, were designed to resemble an armoire.

"It was the funkiest job I've done in awhile," Rice says. It was also one of the most expensive: the 24-foot-by-18-foot kitchen cost $150,000.

Peter A.R. Wilson is a principal in The Ateri Group, an architectural firm in Baltimore that specializes in environmentally friendly design. He says that because the kitchen is now multifunctional, people want as big a space as they can get. In an existing house, that means either building an addition or incorporating adjacent nooks and crannies into the room.

As an example he offers a kitchen in a circa-1918, Georgian-style house in Roland Park, which he just finished. The original kitchen was in the basement, with food brought to the main level via dumbwaiter. Subsequently relocated to the rear of the house, the kitchen Wilson started with had laminate cabinets, Formica countertops, a linoleum floor and outdated appliances.

Wilson gained space by removing a wall to an adjacent butler's pantry. He installed double ovens in the original brick chimney and, for drama, used gray wood cabinets with black insets and a red granite countertop with black veining. The now 20-foot-by-15-foot kitchen has an eating area, a work area and two built-in window seats. The price: $80,000.

Houck has her own thoughts on cost. As far as she is concerned, anyone can have an expensive-looking kitchen without paying a fortune.

"You can create the look of a high-end kitchen at various price points or by doing one special feature," Houck says. "The high-end kitchen has filtered down."

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Published: Thu, Apr 1, 2010

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