Q: My kitchen is seriously dated and I’m thinking about a major upgrade to something a little more cutting edge. What features should I be looking for?

A: If you’re thinking about upgrading your kitchen, it’s worth considering all the options at your disposal, especially the latest features and design elements that will make your life easier. Before we get to the kitchen of tomorrow, let’s take a brief look at the features most associated with the kitchen of today.

Using a work triangle. The kitchen work triangle is formed by three key areas of the kitchen: refrigeration (fridge/freezer), washing station (sink) and cooking area (cooktop/stove/oven.) This idea originated with the modernization of the 1940s “kitchen of tomorrow,” but the concept has not seen much improvement since its invention.

Centering the sink. For a long time, having the perfect kitchen meant having sinks centered on an exterior window so you could watch squirrels frolicking in the backyard while washing dishes. This concept was very popular in the 1950s because most kitchen time was spent at the sink. Today’s homeowners typically spend more time in front of a cooking appliance, thanks in part to the advancement of the dishwasher.

Utilizing corners. The invention of the lazy Susan solidified the corner cabinet as a key kitchen design solution. To maximize space, homeowners use corner cabinets, often multiple corner cabinets. Unfortunately, corner cabinets usually just mean having more cabinets without necessarily offering more usability — and with a higher price tag.

The future of kitchen design

Will we have fully autonomous cars and robot home-chefs in the future? Hard to say. But what is certain is that our kitchens will make more efficient use of space, feature a bevy of technological conveniences, and showcase attractive and seamless modular-design elements.

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Drawing on the best in contemporary European design, these are the up-and-coming features to look for.

Space-saving features that increase efficiency:

• Substantial, centrally located workstations, counter spaces and islands so that items do not have to be moved over large areas and can be set down easily.

• Appliance-workstation integration whenever possible, so the sink and dishwasher are easily in reach with one hand while the cooktop and oven are in reach of the other.

• Spacious prep area for chopping and cutting with easy access to mixing and cooking appliances as well as compost for waste disposal.

• Integrated pantry and storage.

• No corner cabinets and better use of space planning. Corner cabinets and storage solutions cost more due to their complexity and are far less efficient (225% higher cost for 10% less storage).

Technology that makes the kitchen experience easier and more seamless:

• Handle-less cabinets with electric assist features, allowing access to cabinets without the use of one’s hands.

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• Integrated lighting that not only accentuates the beautiful features of the kitchen but add a layer of comfort. Practically integrated lighting allows better overall visualization of surfaces for cooking, cleaning and safety. Lighting control and energy efficiency allow consumers to make smart choices.

• Smart-home automation integration — imagine walking into your closet and having your virtual assistant turn on your closet lighting, or walking in with an armful of groceries and being able to turn on your cabinet lighting via voice command. Integration with cabinet lighting is already available on the market.

Modular design elements that make the kitchen experience less stressful and more attractive:

• Work units that generate visual interest while offering practical usefulness in the form of cabinets and worktop surfaces.

• Advanced styling marrying warmth with ease of use and cleaning — tone-on-tone or contrasting finishes employed to dazzling effect.

• In the high-end markets, kitchens as functional art; dramatic spaces with unique textures and concepts that will filter their way through all levels of the market.

• The integration of minimalist techniques to create calming spaces free from the chaos of daily life.

 

Dave Giltner is with Bauformat Seattle, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS), and HomeWork is the organization’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.