Not too long ago, a typical Saturday in an ordinary American household would find the children in their bedrooms watching videos or doing schoolwork, Dad in the basement with one of his projects that maybe involved power tools, and Mom in the kitchen making dinner. If there was any doubt about where true power resided in the nuclear family just follow the money: what area of the house has been endlessly reinvented?
First the doors came off. June Cleaver and Harriet Nelson worked their magic behind closed doors—wearing pearls and dresses with cinched waists. Harriet’s kitchen did have a pass-through where she could talk to her family while she made cookies, but the pass-through had shutters, presumably closed when she had to do something less suitable for family viewing, like shoving stuffing into a defenseless turkey.
Then ceilings were raised and walls knocked down, and the kitchen opened up to the family at large. It replaced the “family room”, morphing into the “great room” where kids did their homework and guests drank their cocktails while Mom showed off her culinary prowess. (Sorry, dad. Power tools stay in the basement.)
Kitchens everywhere underwent makeovers usually reserved for HGTV. Sinks became work stations, stovetops were heated with electromagnetic force, countertops were poured concrete, and “statement” became an adjective. Architects and interior designers found a fabulous playground—and a hungry new client base.
“Kitchens are very complex spaces,” says Christine Ingraham. She is one half of the design team at Fletcher Cameron Kitchens; Gregory Spiggle is the other. Together they’ve been designing custom kitchens and specialty products for over 25 years. But technology, unique new building materials, and changing family dynamics constantly affect what happens in the design of what now really is “the heart of the house.”
“Staying abreast of R&D is critical,” Ingraham adds. Induction cooking, for example, may eventually make conventional stove tops obsolete. Here, an alternating electric current is passed through a copper wire under the cooking area. The resulting magnetic field heats the cooking vessel while the surface of the stovetop remains relatively cool.
“It has been around for a while but is catching on now as the latest way to cook,” she says. “The stovetop heats up rapidly and can be quickly turned off, so it sends less wasted heat into the kitchen. It’s fast and efficient and easy to clean.”
Homeowners may be surprised to see porcelain and concrete replacing marble as the go-to surface for countertops. They are clearly durable and unavoidably serious. But lighting and color are probably the areas where the new dream kitchen really sparkles.
Pendant lighting, the minimalist’s answer to the chandelier, is finding its niche in the kitchen. No longer content to simply do their job—light up the kitchen—a few well-placed pendant lights become a striking part of the décor.
Color adds to the energy. You see it in action when you open the Fletcher Cameron website. Among the bold additions of color, there is the vivid orange backsplash of a Branford residence, the plucky red walls of a kitchen in Madison, and the yellow cabinet doors in New Haven.
No longer the mysterious place from which Mom emerges with the casserole, today’s kitchens are an inviting and spirited combination of design and technology for the whole family. Or a couple. There’s room in the modern kitchen for everyone’s tastes—from décor to the preparation of your favorite dishes.