Kitchens 1-2-3

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Kitchen styles can vary dramatically just by having different woods, hardware, cabinets and flooring. Photo courtesy of Pittam Associates, Inc.

So you??ve decided to remodel your kitchen and you??re ready to talk to some contractors and designers. But then it dawns on you that you??re not exactly sure how to describe what you want. Afterall, sometimes it??s easier to explain what you don??t like than to describe what you do like. And the task can seem even more daunting given the overwhelming amount of options there are for the kitchen. But there is good news. While some designers may disagree, there are three basic kitchen styles: contemporary, traditional and rustic/country.

So how do you know which of the three you like best? Designers say one of the easiest ways to help find out is to begin saving magazines with photos of kitchens you like??even if you like one element of the kitchen.

Another good thing to do is actually see a variety of kitchen displays. There are several showrooms in town that feature functioning appliances placed in different kitchen styles, and there are designer showrooms that showcase everything from cabinets to countertops and more. These are great for getting ideas, testing out appliances and seeing the final products in place.

Finally, you should think about how the cook in your family likes to use the space, and determine what role your kitchen will play in your home.

The more traditional-style kitchens have cabinets made of warm woods such as cherry. Photo courtesy of Joshua Kitchens.

Cabinets are important because of their dominance in the kitchen, so choosing them first is a good starting point to design the rest of the kitchen. When deciding on which style of cabinetry to use, take clues from other rooms in your house, as well as from your house??s architecture, so that the cabinets become a natural extension to rest of the home??s design.

Linda Pittam, president of the Georgia Chapter of ASID and owner of Pittam Associates Inc., also says quality is critical, and says all homeowners, even those on a budget, can choose stylish cabinets. ??The quality of the cabinets should always be a priority because of the major financial investment being made,?? she says. ??Most people don??t redesign the kitchen on a whim, so they should really consider the long-term use and style of the cabinets.??

Functionality is also important to any good kitchen, regardless of style. A functional kitchen should have efficient floor and counter space, useful task lighting, a handy space for food preparation, and easy access to sinks, cooktops, ovens and refrigerators.

Just keep in mind, what??s functional for one home, might not be for another. ??Kitchens should be designed one way for large families and another for empty nesters that love to entertain,?? says Mitch Zeitner, owner of Joshua Kitchens.

Many traditional-style cabinets, such as these pictured, have feet and toe kicks, and are styled to look like furniture. Photo courtsey of RLS Construction.

Rich in tradition
Now it??s time to talk styles. If you want a kitchen design that is good for resale, think traditional. It is the most common kitchen style, and it appeals to the largest number of people.

So what makes a traditional kitchen traditional? First, they often have cabinets that are made of warm woods such as cherry, or have wood finishes that make the kitchen look as if it evolved over time. The cabinets are sometimes ornately detailed with architectural elements, including crown molding and raised wood paneling (see below).

??Details like the carved corbels and intricate crown molding add to a more traditional look,?? Zeitner says. ??The wood is also more ornate and detailed.?? Other artistic elements, such as pull knobs and handles, are added and can blend the look with the rest of the house.

??Kitchen cabinetry used to actually be furniture,?? says Jan Studdard, principle designer at RLS Construction, and that furniture look ??stuck,?? which is why many traditional cabinets have ??feet?? and 6-inch toe kicks (below). This space between the floor and cabinet was originally intended to allow room for toes, but now is more of a design feature. Finally, rich, warm tones on the countertops, flooring and cabinetry are common to give traditional kitchens a refining appeal.

And just because a kitchen is traditional doesn??t mean it has to look like other traditional kitchens. Each can vary tremendously by having different appliances, countertops, flooring and accessories. And you can, of course, have a kitchen with new, top-of-the-line appliances that is functional, efficient and modern, and has the look and characteristics of one that is traditional.

This european contemporary kitchen has sleek lines and reflective surfaces throughout. Photo courtesy of Schuon Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

Make mine contemporary
While most everyone can find something appealing in traditional styles, most either do or don??t like contemporary style, and they usually know right away.
In general, contemporary styling is very simple with straight lines and a reflective quality??usually through stainless steel surfaces and appliances. The main elements to the kitchen are mostly asymmetrical with varying heights and depths, but are simple in design and free of clutter. Contemporary kitchens often have ??slab door cabinetry paired with linear hardware,?? says Emily Robbins, associate designer at Schuon Kitchens and Baths Inc., and are dominated by light, neutral colors.

And even contemporary styles can be divided into different types: European, thought to be more cold and stark, and American, which is more functional and warmer looking. In this kitchen (pictured right) designed by Robbins, the kitchen has frameless cabinets that are typically European-contemporary. Many of the cabinet doors have frosted-glass fronts that are also typical in contemporary style.

Countertops are generally some type of high-glossed marble, granite or even stainless steel, and oftentimes bold-colored accessories will add a flash of color to the design. Finally, track lighting and pendent light fixtures are common in contemporary designs.

Beaded board, brick and exposed beams are common design elements found in rustic kitchens. Photo courtsey of Bourget Innovations.

Think country
One of the most unique kitchen styles, and one that??s fairly common in Atlanta, is rustic or country. The simple designs exude a very warm and inviting feeling of simpler times. The colors most commonly found in country and rustic styles are muted, earth tones, but don??t be surprised to find some with bold colors.

Cabinetry generally has inset doors and drawers, and is commonly found in stained woods like pine, oak or maple. Some may have simple crown molding to add an extra bit of detailing.

While many homeowners??or designers??don??t see a distinction between rustic and country styles, award-winning designer Victor Struminger of Bourget Innovations does. ??The biggest difference is the knotty pine and little details on the cabinets, like apothecary drawers and matching crown molding, that are common in country styles,?? he says. On the other hand, he says, beaded board, exposed beams and bricks, and knobby pulls are more typical in rustic styles. Just don??t be surprised to see many of these elements together.

Blending of all three
While each style certainly has its own key design elements, it??s important to keep in mind that it is rare to see a kitchen that is strictly contemporary, traditional or country/rustic. Instead, you??ll find kitchens that incorporate different elements of several styles.

This mixing of styles occurs because of many reasons. Current design trends??like stainless steel surfaces that are so common today??will always dictate popular styles. And, today??s lifestyles??and kitchens??are so different from those 100 years ago. ??Like America itself, the kitchen is a melting pot of many influences from many geographic and architectural time periods that share a common theme,?? Zeitner explains.

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