Saturday, November 10, 2012

The kitchen in the modern home

Modern Day Construction for custom homes Part 11

In today’s modern world of construction things are changing year to year faster than they did decade to decade in any other previous time period. In this multi part series I will traverse through an entire house starting with the foundation and working my way up to the roof and then to the finishing’s. I will explain what has changed in the last twenty years in custom home building.

One thing that you should be able to take away from this is how important it is to not just hire the right general contractor to build your custom home but how important it is to hire one that is up on today’s building methods.


Twenty years ago most kitchens were made out of plywood or press board. They had laminate or tile counter tops and golden oak cabinet doors where all the rage. As long as the kitchen functioned for the preparer of the meals then the kitchen was well designed.

Today kitchen’s are considered the heart of the home. Kitchen’s today are getting larger and more open to the rest of the house. Kitchen’s today routinely flow right into the main living area or have a large eating area in them.

Design of kitchens is a major business with so many new ideas that a lot of contractors have trouble keeping up with the latest and greatest trends. Here are some examples of the big trends now days compared to

twenty years ago;

Multiple ovens. Gone are the days when you had one stove or a wall oven and a cook top. Today’s kitchens have multiple ovens, warming drawers to keep cooked food hot, gas burners on the cook top and electric ovens beneath. Also there are in wall ovens that have a steam cooking function.

Range exhaust hoods. Every year exhaust hooks get more elaborate and larger. They are ultra efficient at removing the gases and smoke from the cooking area, but they have become so powerful at venting to the outside that they can depressurize the house. Fresh air sometimes needs to be feed to the range hood and dampers installed in the HRV pipes to help regulate house pressure. Range hoods now have lights and can be made to look more like art and less like a piece of exhaust equipment.

Microwaves. Microwaves have changes a lot in the last two decades. They have become bigger, quieter and more efficient. Microwaves now can be mounted above your stove and used as an exhaust hood. They have a built in venting and exhaust hood motor that when piped properly will vent everything outside. They can also have lights built into the bottom just like range hoods. Microwaves also can be mounted under the counter out of sight. They are then used by top loading with a power drawer that comes out at the touch of a button.

Dishwashers. Twenty years ago everyone had there one dishwasher that was either installed under the counter or was on wheels and rolled out of the corner and attached to the kitchen sink. Today kitchens still have the dishwasher mounted under the counter but gone are the days of the roll out model. A lot of kitchens now have multiple dishwashers. Also there are multi level dishwashers to help save on water and power. There are even dishwashers that are built into the drawers of the cabinets. So you put your dirty dishes back in the cabinet where they always go and then you turn on that drawer or cabinet. Then all the dishes in that draw get washed at the same time and you never have to worry about pulling out that seldom used pot with dust in it.

Today kitchens are mostly built out of press board and not real wood or plywood. There is less shrinkage and it also allows designers to do more elaborate designs while keeping the costs down.

Cabinet doors are not golden oak anymore. There is such a wide verity of colours and stains today. Cherry is popular and so is fir. A big look in custom homes is the distressed look in kitchens. It is when they paint the kitchen with multi layers of paint, every layer with a different colour. Then they take a sander and at certain spots in the kitchen they sand wear spots into it. This reveals the next layer of paint and gives the kitchen a lived in and aged look.

Islands have become the norm in kitchens. Kitchen islands are now designed to be completely functional. They have sinks installed in them to help with food preparation. Islands are now built in multi levels so that there can be a food preparation on one side and on the other side it is a bar area for people to sit on stools to eat, drink and socialize with the cook. Storage is a big thing in islands too with more drawers and cabinets being built into the underside of the island. The island has been transformed into a gathering area for the house.

Twenty years ago there was the one sink in the kitchen, it was usually placed under or near a window. Today the big kitchen sink is still placed near a window, but there can be two or three other sinks in the kitchen depending on the size of the kitchen. Sinks are now coming in all shapes and sizes depending on style and what you want to do with it. Smaller sinks are placed in islands for washing of fruit and vegetables. Larger main kitchen sinks can come with side sinks to help dry dishes and there are even corner sinks to help maximize space and help save on counter top usability.

Today laminate is barely ever used in custom homes in the kitchen. The trend for the past decade is granite. But there are a lot more options then there was before depending on your budget. Butcher block tops are becoming popular again. Recycled glass with a painted finish underneath is a popular trend and manufactured counter tops like ceaser stone are really taking hold. The manufactured stone is very durable and comes with a great warranty, it is easier to maintain then granite and doesn’t need to be sealed annually. A lot of kitchens these days have one type of counter top material underneath the cabinets and a different one on the island. Or if its black granite on one then it’s a white granite on the other.

Drawer design and hardware have come a long way in two decades. Gone are the days when you would have lazy suzans in the corners. They have corner drawers that are hinged so that when you open the corner door the shelving is hinged to come forward into your view so that you can see everything in the cabinet. There is now cabinet door hardware that allows the door to go straight up out of the way instead of opening to the side. Little specialty drawers are now placed everywhere in kitchens to maximize the space. Drawers like a small drawer 4 inches high by the width of the kitchen sink and only 2 inches deep to hold your scrubbing brushes and steel wool abrasive pads. Vertical spice drawers have become popular because they can be installed anywhere you need them to be and they are a great way to fill in that empty space between two appliances.

Fridges have changes a lot in the last 2 decades. They still do what they were originally designed to do which is keep things cold, but they also do so much more. Fridges now make ice, dispence water, have LED screens in them for controls or if you want to watch television. They are also bigger then they have ever been, with some models having built in wine chillers on one side. There are also fridges with no freezer in them, the freezer unit which can be just as big as the fridge can be installed standing next to it or in another room.

There are other specialty things that have become popular in kitchens. Things such as instant hot water taps, so that you can have tea without boiling water in a kettle. This requires you to install what we call a “little butler” water heater under the counter. Then you install a separate tap next to the normal kitchen taps at the sink.

Look for part 12 coming soon....

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

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