What's hot in kitchen design now?
For a recently completed kitchen in the Trump Tower for Adam Dayan, founder of Consumer Law Group LLC in Chicago, Scott Dresner used high-gloss Parapan, a solid acrylic made in Austria that can be produced in 20 colors. He chose Alpine White. "It looks like white lacquer," says Mr. Dresner, who handles 30 custom kitchens per year, sourcing materials from Europe. "It doesn't yellow, scratch or chip. And it's as white as white can be."
Trimless spotlight cans are "the coolest," says Mr. Dresner, who specified them for Mr. Dayan's kitchen. "It looks clean." To create tension between modern and traditional, Rebekah Zaveloff, founding principal at Kitchen Lab in Chicago, hunts for unique, vintage fixtures. A fabulous light fixture in a kitchen is a must, she says. Wall sconces are showing up in kitchens, notes Susan Brunstrum, owner of Sweet Peas Design Inc. in Libertyville and the Gold Coast. "I'm seeing them over the sink, on either side of the window or beside the stove and hood. Interesting, because they were always (only) in hallways and foyers."
Clients are asking for fewer upper cabinets and more drawers, says architect Joan Craig, whose Lichten Craig Architecture & Interiors has offices in Chicago and New York. Without cupboards, "rooms are opened up with shelving and artwork," she says. "Back splashes extend to the ceiling; it's often a major design feature with natural stone or beautiful tile." So where does all the stuff go? Larger pantries. And for easier access, drawers now hold microwaves, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers.
Though Mr. Dresner has used a lot of gray-toned oak the past five years, he determined that Mr. Dayan's kitchen was bright enough to warrant varnished black ebony. "There's a ton of light in that kitchen," Mr. Dresner says. "Half the house is windows." Hard surfaces need the warmth of wood, Ms. Zaveloff says. In white kitchens, she uses wood for floors and brown, orange or red accents in a countertop trim or in bar stools.
"People are getting a bit more daring: Granite has been around forever," Ms. Brunstrum says. She's using quartzite, "a natural stone that has a wonderful depth to it." Too, she's seeing quartzite slabs cut horizontally, which produces a striated effect. Elsewhere, Ms. Craig is using lava stone hand-extracted from Auvergne quarries in France for a client's kitchen. "Incredible colors!"
A kitchen table is built into the island in Mr. Dayan's space, creating a split- level piece. "I hate clutter," says Mr. Dayan, 38 and single, who founded and heads two other legal and banking businesses in Chicago as well, Community Tax Relief and National Funding Group. He uses the microwave and refrigerator but cheerfully admits he hasn't cooked even one meal in his dazzling, high-in-the-sky kitchen. Still, he appreciates its unfussy layout and chic design. "It's quite functional and indestructible."
Forget the six-burner cooktop and the double-wall oven: Stainless or enamel ranges with big knobs are all the rage. "It's a statement piece," Ms. Zaveloff says. "It's the heart of the kitchen; it speaks to something so basic." She steers clients to ranges with a colorful enamel to add interest to an otherwise neutral space. For cooking use, designers look to ranges that offer both steam heat, for healthier meals, and convection, for browning and roasting.
There's a move away from standard running-brick tiles, Ms. Brunstrum says. In vogue: circle, zigzag and large-format tiles. "It's fresh," she says, "a way to update a kitchen quickly." Tile pattern and color are "the fingerprint" homeowners put on an otherwise white kitchen, Ms. Zaveloff says. "People are taking more risks with tile. They'll use turquoise and red accents: very vintage."