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What’s Cooking in New Kitchens? : Homemakers Turning Them Into Entertainment Centers

Times Staff Writer

October is National Kitchen and Bath Month, and with the current momentum in building and remodeling, our consumer focus for this section is kitchens, which generate the biggest expense and greatest interest in any home interior project.

As more and more homeowners admit that the heart of the home is the kitchen, many are converting this vital space from a work room into a showcase for entertaining. “The market is exploding. I’ve never seen it this strong since I started the business in 1972,” said Kenneth Rohl, president and chief executive officer of Western States Manufacturing Co., a kitchen and bath appliance distributor in Santa Ana. “In the last year we’ve seen a rapid escalation of remodeled home kitchens, and we expect to see over 5 million kitchens remodeled through 1989.”

With property values increasing, the option to renovate over that of moving to a more expensive home seems more attractive to many. As a consequence, the field is increasingly attractive to designers, contractors and even those from other professions. At a National Kitchen and Bath Assn.-sponsored kitchen specialist training seminar held in Los Angeles recently, one former schoolteacher interested in kitchen design said, “I want to go where the money is.”

Sees a Lot of Growth

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Stewart Fair, president of the Southern California Chapter of the (NKBA) and owner of Kitchens by Stewart in Pasadena, foresees extensive growth in the industry and in consumer interest. “What excites me is the trend to do an upscale kitchen,” said the former master cabinetmaker. “The kitchen is a party room now, a place for social gatherings. We have to make kitchens big enough for guests, the majority of whom flock to this room. We’re also doing a lot of kitchens with butler or service pantries so caterers don’t have to be seen.”

An influx of new gourmet appliances continues to replace old ones in kitchen showrooms, with luxury items now being treated as necessary. “Keeping up with new products is a job in itself,” Fair said. “Among these are the halogen cooktops (electric halogen elements that let you cook with the instant on and off response of gas) and GE’s Monogram appliances. Also, more and more people are going for solid countertops such as granite and Corian.”

“There’s a lot more interest today in upgrading sinks and faucets,” Kenneth Rohl explained. These finishing touches, he added, are usually overlooked in the planning stage of the project, yet are among the most conspicuous and most often used pieces of equipment in the kitchen.

Designers are choosing faucets with pull-out spray features and sinks in single, double or triple bowl configurations. “The KWC faucet, for example, has four feet of hose extension with both aerated and needle spray,” Rohl said. “Now you can bring the water to the pot rather than bringing the pot to the sink.” Rohl described Euro-design sinks that are made of stainless steel, cast iron or newer space age materials, which are heat and stain resistant. He was referring to the Blanco, which is made of a pure silicate quartz called Silacron.

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And just what is the public buying? A survey of area design and product trends in kitchens and bathrooms conducted this year involved a regional sampling of more than 250 dealer members of the NKBA. Participants were divided into five geographic groups: Northeast, Midwest, South, West Coast and Southwest.

West Coast Findings

The following findings reflected the taste of West Coast customers: In overall kitchen colors, 37% preferred white, followed by almond (19%), wood (16%), gray (9%) and pastels (7%). Earth tones were preferred only in the Southwest region.

In kitchen style selection, traditional and Euro-contemporary ranked the same (36%) while country motif rated 8%.

The West Coast led the country in the average installation size of kitchens at 301 square feet. Another region that devoted more space to the kitchen was the Southwest, averaging 220 square feet.

Bay windows and greenhouse windows were found to be the most popular; miniblinds were the treatment most often selected, with louver drapes second.

In appliance color, 41% of kitchens featured almond, 31% white and 28% black. A high percentage of kitchen remodeling jobs included appliances, with major preference for built-ins over free-standing appliances.

Favored Kitchen Accessories

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The most favored kitchen accessories included pull-out shelves, spice racks, appliance garages, pantries, tilt-down sink fronts and lazy Susans.

The top-selling cabinet materials were wood (66%, preferably oak), and laminates (34%).

The most popular counter materials were solid surfaces (33%), laminates (29%), tile (28%) and granite (7%). In recent months granite has been increasing in popularity, not just for looks but because of its durable properties.

The most popular flooring materials are vinyl (36%), followed by tile (34%) then wood (29%).

Wallpaper and paint were the most frequently chosen wall treatments. (Interestingly, in the Northeast and South, tile ran close in popularity with the above treatments. In the West, interest in tile is practically nil.)

The average age of customers undertaking kitchen renovations ranges from 40 to 45 years old, according to the survey.

An ongoing strong trend, according to both Stewart and Rohl as well as kitchen designers, is the light or white kitchen, as seen in white appliances and whitewashed or white lacquered cabinets.


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