When I decided to remodel the kitchen in my historic Savannah home 10 years ago I was presented with a dilemma stylistically speaking. Since I was gutting the space, I had a blank slate with which to work. Weeks were spent exploring different layouts to maximize counter and storage space and to create an efficient work area. Once I had exhausted all the possibilities for the location of appliances and fixtures and had decided upon the best arrangement, I then had to decide on a style in which to execute the design. I found myself facing the same question I pose to my clients, “Where do we want to go with this as far as the look and feel of the space?”
I knew I did not want a “period” themed kitchen. My home was built in 1890 in the Queen Anne style and while I do embrace the high ceilings, detailed moldings and ceiling medallions found elsewhere in the house, I did not wish to replicate an old-fashioned Victorian kitchen. There would be no pressed-tin ceilings, no old-fashioned style appliances, and absolutely no “hokey” nods to the past. I wanted a modern, bright, clean-lined space to indulge my burgeoning hobby of culinary experimentation. Contemporary was the way to go.
The layout of my home has the kitchen somewhat segregated from the rest of the house so it was easy to make a change in décor. Since the new floorplan of the space required closing up an existing window, I gave careful consideration to the finishes. Natural maple cabinetry with simple detailing was chosen to keep the mood light as was a “barely there” green color for the wall paint. The only concessions were a darker green accent wall and Ubatuba granite for the countertops. Stainless steel appliances add a subtle matte-silver sparkle and are echoed in the stainless steel sink and simple, round cabinet and drawer knobs.
The options today for contemporary styled kitchen design are endless. The proliferation of television shows and shelter magazines devoted to the subject abound and today’s consumer has a multitude of styles and influences at their fingertips. Whether you are a serious cook or just want to look like one, your kitchen can be your laboratory and playground, a showplace to wow your family and friends.
The European design trends are leading the way; think Italian, German, and Scandinavian. Form follows function as is exemplified by asymmetrical layouts, intelligent space-planning, and slick execution. The appliances are celebrated and not disguised or hidden with cabinet panel fronts. Dishwashers are elevated for ease of use as are microwave drawers. Exhaust hoods are incorporated as focal points instead of hidden behind fake cabinetry. Appliance garages are just that; a space to park toasters, electric can-openers, and mixers when not in use and to keep clutter to a minimum, maximizing counter space.
Slab-front cabinet doors in glossy enamel or exotic veneers such as Zebrano wood or bamboo are alternatives to the more traditional cherry or oak options. Frosted or ribbed glass inserts offer a different choice and look wonderful when lit from within. Full-height backsplashes of granite or man-made materials replace decorative tile and mosaic ones and provide a grout-free surface for ease of cleaning. Simple bull-nosed or eased-edge countertops are less fussy to their beveled and ogee edged counterparts. The lack of superfluous molding and ornamentation pares down the kitchen to its ultimate function. The celebration of simple forms brings forth the idea of the kitchen as a space to focus and prepare food, which is, in a sense, what it is all about in the first place.
A decade later I am still happy with my choices. The design has held up well and still feels fresh and timeless. It has provided me with an efficient and functional space to cook and entertain my guests with my culinary endeavors, which have greatly improved as well, no doubt from the confidence the well designed space affords me.
PHOTO CAPTION: This slick and modern style kitchen, designed for European clients, brings many hallmarks of contemporary kitchen design to the Lowcountry, including a mix of light veneer and dark enamel cabinetry, a stainless steel appliance garage door, and over-sized, sleek hardware.