Spicing up the Kitchen

By staff April 1, 2004

The wall-to-wall windows in the living room overlook an incredible 180-degree view of the bay. The back windows admit spectacular Gulf views. In between, however, this two-level '70s-era condominium needed help. The dull, inefficient, outdated kitchen definitely didn't make the grade for gourmet cooking or entertaining.

The new owner of this second home on Siesta Key devoted an entire year to a massive renovation that incorporates the latest trends in kitchen design. The result is a kitchen that's stylish and efficient, a model representative for the joy of cooking.

From boring to brilliant

The original kitchen shared a wall with the entrance hall behind it. Each space was a straight and narrow tunnel, typical of the era in which the building was built. The galley-like kitchen needed restructuring before any aesthetic improvements could begin.

As part of the new design, the entry wall was pushed back into the kitchen, creating a "V" shape that gave the hallway more space and visual interest for the owner's art collection. At the same time it created an airy zigzag shape in the kitchen that livened it up and created the perfect built-in space for a new SubZero refrigerator.

The plumbing and electrical supply that were already located in the walls couldn't be moved, so those walls had to stay. But that limitation was a blessing in disguise. Tim Walton, sales representative for Lubé Sarasota, the kitchen designer, notes, "We couldn't move the electrical or plumbing already in place but that gave us interesting angles, a character. We actually used these two things to advantage instead of their being liabilities."

Double the Pleasure

Though the kitchen flows as one space, the restructuring permitted a subtle division of labor. One section became the cook and preparation area; another was designed to function for casual entertaining.

The work section includes the owner's desk, located under a window to take advantage of Gulf views. This area also has a door leading to the utility room, since the old entrance off the front entry had been closed when the hall was renovated. To avoid disrupting the smooth flow of cabinetry, the bifold doors are created from the same design, making it look like another pantry.

The front of the kitchen is strictly for fun. It overlooks the living room with its expansive bay views and features an island the size of Majorca. Its hexagonal shape is dramatized by the lustrous Black Galaxy granite countertop with a deep beveled edge. Barstools fit under the overhanging edge to keep guests comfortable while they chat with the cook. Guests notice the beauty of the island, but the owner appreciates that underneath it are drawers and cupboards that supply extra storage. Nearby, the wine cooler is built under a section of the kitchen counter, where it's handy for entertaining.

The Trend For Transitional

While it does incorporate the newest features, the kitchen is not strictly contemporary. The cabinetry represents the latest trend for "transitional" style, which combines the simplicity of contemporary with a favorite classic material, wood. "Natural wood is coming back with a vengeance," says Walton. "People are leaning back toward the warmth of natural wood, even when the design is contemporary."

The flat door fronts are a European walnut, much lighter in color than the typical American walnut. For variety, some cupboard and pantry doors were replaced by etched glass framed by the same walnut. Stainless steel handles on cabinetry match the stainless steel in appliances and, in keeping with the "transitional" design, add a dash of contemporary style. "If we had used other handles," says Walton, "the look would have been completely different." The look of stainless steel is still growing in popularity. Although modern in look, it integrates with most classical design to provide the popular eclectic look.

Storage Magic

Kitchens aren't always large, but they can be efficient, as this residence proves. Werner Venter, CEO of Lube Sarasota, believes one of the best trends for Sarasota is the use of storage features that make more efficient use of space. "European accessories that utilize space better-magic corners, pull-out pantries, revolving pantries-work beautifully," he says.

The "magic corner" is tucked into an otherwise inaccessible space. A touch of a finger opens a curved door that swivels while shelves inside slide forward, bringing items to the back within reach. For the same reason, the kitchen takes advantage of pull-out wire baskets in cupboards. Italian Ribalta cabinets have doors that lift up to provide full access. Two deep pan drawers, situated directly under the cook top, make it easy to reach the pot or pan needed without bending.

Smart Appliances

Not only has the physical space been designed for consummate efficiency, so have the appliances. The 36" Thermador glass cook top features five burners with "smart" zones that can "read" the size of the pot or pan. The burners sense the actual diameter of the saucepan being used and heat only that area.

Another smart decision was the use of two Fisher & Paykel dishwashers that pull out like drawers. Stacked beneath the counter next to the sink, each dishwasher works independently or in tandem with the other. For the single owner, having two smaller units avoids the need to let dishes wait "until there's enough to fill the dishwasher."

The stainless steel Franke sink features a pleated drip pan on the counter. Under the sink, a pleated aluminum skirt lines the cabinet base to prevent damage to the wood in case of a leaky drain trap or garbage disposal.

Completing the kitchen's efficiency are double Thermador wall ovens that provide versatile cooking and a SubZero 650 refrigerator with pull-out freezer. All feature the continuing trend for appliances- stainless steel. According to Werner Venter, these days 80% or more of his clients want stainless steel.

Light Fantastic

This kitchen really shines thanks to the latest lighting designs. Lorie McGowan-Parker, manager of The Lamplighter Shop, notes, "Lighting shows off fine art in a gallery, and it does the same for the fine woods and granites in today's kitchens."

Under-counter Xenon lighting brings out the subtle textures of the walnut cabinetry and black granite counter to best effect. Xenon is the newest lighting source, prized for its clear, bright light; and McGowan-Parker is enthusiastic about its effect. "Xenon enhances the surface that it's lighting. If you have a granite countertop it will pull all of the details and flecks of metallic out of that and make it pop."

Thoughtful design that took advantage of today's newest trends gave this kitchen a whole new sense of style. Its elegance and efficiency put a lot more spice into cooking, entertaining and living.



Concrete countertops. Yes, concrete! It's pigmented and sealed but, admittedly, concrete is not the most maintenance-free surface. You won't find it in a home with children; more likely it will show up in a trendy kitchen whose owners dine out frequently.

Colorful cabinetry. Consumers are reaching beyond wood tones to a rich range of colors that suit their personalities and imagination

Exotic veneers. David Asher of Eurotech Cabinetry Inc. is seeing clean, simple lines and natural materials with exotic veneers like dark, striated wenge, reddish-brown sapeli and rift-cut white oak.

Built-in accessories. Hanging bars over the countertop hold utensils, spices or small drawers; they do double duty as decorative touches and additional storage. Drawers sometimes offer inserts that hold specialized utensils, each in its own compartment.

Vertical lighting strips. The newest lighting for custom cabinets is a vertical strip design that mounts on the interior.

Glass tiles. The colors sparkle like gems. Backsplashes are the most popular use for glass tiles, though they are occasionally used for flooring, too.

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