Hot Appliances, Cool Kitchen Countertops

An Outdoor Kitchen
It's not enough for a home to have a huge kitchen anymore. Now home chefs want two of everything: two ovens, two sinks and, yes, two kitchens.

A second kitchen, known as a scullery, is usually adjacent to the main kitchen behind a wall. "While the clean main kitchen would be used for entertaining and gathering, the scullery is where a homeowner might prep the meal and keep the mess," says Susan Serra, a certified kitchen designer in New York.

The dueling-kitchen concept is just the start of a host of changes taking place in the home kitchen.

Another developing trend is a kitchen that is easily accessible from the outdoors. This makes it easier for guests to take part in, say, flipping burgers on the grill or roasting marshmallows during a backyard barbecue. This is especially appealing as casual dining more and more takes the place of formal sit-down dinners.

In recent years, of course, kitchens have become much more than a place to cook. Kitchens "are a center for entertaining, a room where kids can do their homework and a place where they can have their friends over and all cook together," says Heather Johnston, a residential architect in La Jolla, Calif.

Goodbye Living Room, Hello Live-In Room

Homeowners, Johnston says, are remodeling their kitchens so that there is space for a home office, a computer and plenty of seating available so people can sit and participate while the cooking is going on. Serra also says she sees the décor in the kitchen becoming more personal, with softer furnishings and expensive artwork being hung on the walls.

"Luxury clients have expectations that the entirety of their lifestyle needs will be answered in the design of their kitchen, no matter how small the detail," says Serra, who has also started her own blog called " The Kitchen Designer".

For those who are strapped for time -- and who isn't? -- kitchen-appliance makers have introduced products ranging from quick-fire cooktops and ovens to speedier dishwashers to reduce the time it takes to cook and clean. "Families don't often have the time to cook long, elaborate meals, although they want to eat healthy, so there is an emerging trend in faster cooking appliances," Serra says.

The TurboChef ( OVEN) oven, which promises to roast a 12-pound turkey in 42 minutes and steam asparagus in 45 seconds, can cook a three-course meal in a matter of minutes, Serra says. This luxury appliance, she says, costs $8,000, but it can save hours in the kitchen.

Similarly, induction cooktops are all the rage.

These cooktops, which use the technology of induction cooking to make metal pans their sole heating targets, are both quick and energy-efficient. And these days, as Johnston points out, green equals stylish.

"People are more and more looking to go energy efficient," Johnston says, and they aren't satisfied with just ensuring that the kitchen has handy locations for recyclables.

"People are really paying attention to energy efficiency ... from the budget -- say Whirlpool ( WHR) -- appliances all the way to the higher-end German ones."

When it comes to floors and countertops, granite is losing its appeal, Johnston adds. A lot of countertops are solid-surface materials made from everything from resins to recycled glass and recycled stone.

"The good thing about many of these finishes is that they are more durable than many of the natural collections," she says. "They are more stain-resistant ... and shipping is more convenient because they are made locally."

Keeping It Professional

For the professional look, "people are asking for two wall ovens in addition to a cooktop and almost always a second vegetable sink," Johnson says. "People are also moving more and more into storing wines properly and in an accessible way."

To a lot of people, professional appliances mean foreign-made ones, such as those made by Gaggenau and Electrolux, Johnston adds. "There's some sort of sex appeal there."

One innovation that Johnson thinks isn't really catching on: refrigerators with an in-built high-definition television. "I can't say for sure, but more people think it's a gimmick," she says. "It takes up valuable storage."



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