By Susan Serra
Pro appliances first made their appearance in the late 80s, the beginning of widespread adoption as baby boomers wanted new - better - more powerful toys with which to cook (and ok, the alpha status of a pro range was a slight draw too ... *cough*) We're talking about this topic on the Twitter chat, #kbtribechat.
Fast forward to 2013. We have a few years under our belt post-near catastrophic recession (just ignore the detail of possible financial armaggedon if the debt ceiling is not dealt with, oh, in less than 24 hours from now?) But I digress.
In a very small nutshell, the years since 2008 have taken us:
1. to cooking more in our homes
2. to knocking down even more walls or otherwise create as open a floorplan as we can, for social and non-kitchen related activities increasingly taking place in the kitchen
3. on an interesting, inviting, and addicting journey toward wanting ever more performance in everything - technology products, cars, clothing, cooking appliances and on and on.
The paradox, to me as an observer of kitchen design and social trends, is that while most of us want the open plan kitchen and are moving toward a cleaner, more modern aesthetic, we also do not want to give up performance in those alpha appliances. Yet, many of us don't necessarily need the range to be the focal point of the kitchen like we used to want - we are moving toward the kitchen as more of a seamless connection to surrounding rooms and less utilitarian in spirit. This is true for many, but of course not all, kitchens.
So how do you quietly integrate pro appliances into the kitchen? For this post, let's just talk about pro cooking appliances such as the range and separate rangetop and ovens. Here are some tips:
Look for true built-in depth - 24" is compatible with the depth of kitchen cabinetry. That said, note the depth of the door and handles.
Consider colors and finishes - Think of this on the front end of the design process. A brand like BlueStar has 750 colors and quite a few mettalic finishes as well, and you can also combine metals and do all sorts of quite smashing and chic custom looks. Coordinate colors with your cabinetry for a look that flows.
More on finishes - It had been my prediction early this year that we would see matte finishes in appliances just because of the open floor kitchen. I then went to the Architectural Digest show to see a couple of BlueStar appliances in a fabulous matte finish. This adds to an understated look.
Consider the hood - A trend in hood design, or ventilation design, also due to the open plan kitchen, is to create an invisible hood or one which is more of an integrated architectural element in the kitchen. This is not the best or only example, but you can see where it's going (imagine a pro range or cooktop is underneath):
Separate Rangetop and Ovens - For a less "big" look, use separate pieces. Use a rangetop and put the ovens under the counter, hidden from the family room or den, rather than up high. Sure, I hear you groaning already re having to bend down, and if that is a real problem, then don't do that. But, it's also my contention that aesthetics needs to be further up in status with function at the start of the design process rather than filling in the blanks as often happens after everything is designed.
A good thing? BlueStar has handles configured for a French door opening so that you can access the handle just under the countertop and swing it to the side and close it the same way. That is also a quasi-universal design feature.
I will add more tips over time, but this is a good start to get you to have it all - pro performance and an understated kitchen design.