WHEN YOU HOST DINNER FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY, the kitchen is where you prepare the feast you sit down to enjoy. But it also tends to be the place where people gather to sip wine, snack and chat with one another beforehand.
That’s especially true today, since many homes feature an open kitchen layout, where hosts can chop a salad and check the pork tenderloin while mingling with guests.
To create a welcoming vibe, homeowners may consider renovating the kitchen by replacing countertops and cabinets, adding modern appliances and ultimately designing a room that’s spacious, bright and practical.
“There are several reasons why people decide to renovate their kitchens,” says Nancy Norton, vice president of Singer Kitchens (231 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-486-0067; www.singerkitchens.com). “One of the reasons is lifestyle improvement. You might want to knock out a wall to make it more open for your family and create an open bar where your kids can do homework.”
When Singer Kitchens begins a kitchen renovation, consultants generally start with the cabinets and move on to the countertops. The cabinets usually are the first thing people notice, Norton says.
Usually, clients prefer simple, wooden Shaker-style cabinets, a five-piece door with a recessed center panel. Most clients opt for white cabinets, but shades of white with blue or gray undertones have become popular.
“The look now is more streamlined,” Norton says. “A lot of people want open shelving and open cabinets, so there are more compact storage options that can give your kitchen an open look.”
New cabinet styles are equipped with greater storage possibilities, including ample space to stash pots and pans, pullout trays and mixer lifts — an inner cabinet shelf that can hold a large electric mixer or other kitchen appliance. It can be extended and raised to countertop level when in use.
As for countertops, the most popular surface options include marble, granite, quartz and wood. Granite, a natural stone, is available in shades of blue, brown, red and shimmery black. It’s resistant to bacteria and the effects of heat.
Engineered quartz (also called silestone) is a less expensive alternative to both marble and granite. According to Singer Kitchens, although some quartz countertops are made of quarried slabs of the natural stone, engineered material is actually created through a manufacturing process that mixes approximately 95 percent ground natural quartz with 5 percent polymer resin. The result is a hard, low-maintenance, natural stone-looking countertop available in a variety of styles and colors. Silestone quartz resists stains and corrosion from cooking oils, liquids and most household cleaning products, so there’s no need for periodic resealing.
Norton says clients have been leaning toward silvery white Carrara marble, but since marble crushes and stains easily, homeowners should consider engineered stone that looks like marble.
“It goes really well with painted cabinets, but you also have the lower maintenance because they’re able to make (the countertop) noncoarse and stronger,” Norton says.
Bin Hang, owner of BC Kitchen & Bath (3939 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504-338-6227; www.bckitchenbath.com), says quartzite — a durable, natural stone — is another popular-but-pricey option for countertops, so many people stick with quartz or silestone.
“A lot of contractors or homeowners, even if they [are renovating with the intent] to sell the house, are leaning to purchase the quartz, because it’s less expensive,” Hang says.
To keep renovation costs down, she suggests replacing countertops, but repainting (rather than replacing) the cabinets.
Hang says clients with high ceilings may decide to remove the furr down, the enclosed area between the top of a kitchen cabinet and the ceiling. Removing the furr down creates a more open feel in the room. Crown molding can be added to the wall above the cabinets, and home decor items such as woven baskets can be displayed in the now-open area.
On the other hand, some people choose to extend the top cabinets, so they reach the ceiling.
“Generally, people’s tastes are changing,” Hang says. “New Orleans people are very traditional, but now, especially for kitchen cabinets and countertop styles, they are leaning towards more contemporary styles.”
After choosing a basic style and theme for the renovated kitchen, add the bells and whistles. There are built-in wine coolers and cutting-edge counter appliances, such as an incubator that can grow an indoor herb garden.
Randall Shaw, owner of Nordic Kitchens & Baths (1818 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504-888-2300; www.nordickitchens.com), says combi-steam ovens are “the rage right now.”
Miele’s MultiSteam oven, for example, is a built-in oven that cooks with an even distribution of steam to prepare several small dishes or entire meals in a single cooking process. Combi-steam ovens have the baking and roasting capabilities of a standard oven as well. The oven’s built-in warming drawers can keep meals warm before serving, but they can also be used for slow, low-temperature cooking.