Do you remember the first time you imagined the ideal kitchen? If this seems a trivial, if not odd, question to pose, bear with me a moment — and think about the role that kitchens have played in your life. I’ve lived in a lot of homes over the years, and while many of the rooms that served as a backdrop to my life story have passed out of memory, I can sketch the layout of every kitchen I ever spent time in with surprising accuracy, going well back into my childhood.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that from an anthropological perspective, our kitchens may tell us more about our cultural values than almost any other room in our homes. Which leads me back to my opening question. Do you remember the first time you imagined the ideal kitchen? Being a child of the ‘60s, the first idealized kitchen I can recall was straight out of Disney’s Tomorrowland. It was space age, chrome, and all about instant gratification with little or no labor. Meet George Jetson.
It will probably come as no surprise, then, when I confess that my ideal kitchen has come a long way since the space race. I don’t foresee giving up my microwave, but my childhood obsession with automation has evolved into an emphasis on connectivity that goes beyond the digital. If you believe, as we do at STRITE, that form follows function, than my ideal kitchen looks quite a bit like those we have most recently created for our clients: spaces with forms that serve the function of nurture — in ways that go well beyond dishing up healthy meals. They are, in addition, focal points of family life, social hubs, and places of intimacies born of the act of sustaining ourselves communally. While you might argue that the bedroom is the locus of intimacy, it can hardly celebrate that virtue as publicly as the kitchen — not, at least, with similar propriety.
If you need more than just anecdotal evidence to prove the case for the kitchen’s profound transformation over the decades, consider the latest cost vs. value figures from Remodeling Magazine. (The cost-value ratio expresses resale value as a percentage of construction cost. When cost and value are equal, the ratio is 100 percent; when cost is higher than value, the ratio is less than 100 percent; when value is higher than cost, the ratio exceeds 100 percent).
According to the survey for 2014, kitchens were a star performer in the ratio’s strongest increase in nearly a decade. In its trends summary, Remodeling Magazine noted that, “In general, kitchen projects outperformed bathroom projects, regardless of cost. One indication is the Major Kitchen Remodel.” The article further notes that, “Despite its hefty $54,909 price tag, its cost-value ratio of 74.2 percent ranks it second among the seven K&B (kitchen and bath) projects, just above Bathroom Remodel, which is about one-third the size. And the $109,935 upscale Major Kitchen Remodel project ranked higher than the other three much smaller bathroom projects.”
Our own experience at STRITE over the past couple of years underscores this trend, as you’ve probably discovered in our more recent case study blog posts. In fact, in recognition of the current cost vs. value survey findings, we thought we’d use this blog to share some of our more recent kitchen remodel projects, and what we think they say about the role kitchens play in our lives.
Bring the kitchen out of the cloister
Back when folks were concerned that what happened in the kitchen stayed in the kitchen, it made sense to sequester this working space from the more tender sensibilities of, say, the parlor. Of course, back then you might also have had domestic staff to handle the utilitarian functions for which the kitchen was designed. Increasingly, clients are asking us to reintegrate their kitchens with the other public spaces of their homes, since cooking, rather than simply dining, has taken on a more communal nature. This is a good example of bringing the kitchen out of the shadows and into the family fold.
Go with the flow
As more homeowners embrace cooking as a pastime and not just a necessary evil, they are spending more time in their kitchens — and being able to move around easily in that space, as well as between spaces where food migrates, is of increasing importance. We recently finished a remodel that was at the lower end of the budget spectrum compared to some of the other examples in this blog, but that neatly solved a problem our customers had with the flow in and around their kitchen.
Focus on the art
If it seems an exercise in hyperbole to suggest that cooking has been raised to the level of performance art, then scan your cable channels and look at the number of cooking shows we turn to for entertainment. It stands to reason, then, that folks want a well designed stage for their own domestic performances. At the 2013 Tour of Remodeled Homes, STRITE showcased a Boise home whose owners had wanted to transform their interior from a Tuscan theme to a contemporary European style. In the process, they asked us to improve the layout of their kitchen, since both husband and wife enjoyed cooking and didn’t want to be “upstaging” one another. Note that this case study also highlights another kitchen trend: the use of non-traditional materials (think cork flooring).
Being in the present while honoring the past
Given the number of remodels we’ve done over the last four decades that have involved restoring vintage homes, it’s good to see the that so many of our customers want their kitchens to honor the original style of their homes, while fulfilling more contemporary functional needs. Here in Boise you don’t have to look too much further than the North End for great examples of remodel projects that have met that criteria.
Connecting the outside and the inside
Perhaps this is simply a corollary of our first observation, but just as clients are wanting their kitchens to join the rest of their home, they are also more interested in making light and view as much a part of the decor as decorative back splashes. In this case study from the 2014 Tour of Remodeled homes, addressing this desire started with bringing down the walls.
Bring on the drama
Although it’s hard to keep up with the Jetsons when it comes to a truly “out of the world” design, our clients typically want their kitchens to make as bold a statement about their esthetics as any other room in their home…if not more so.
One common feature that is often hidden below (or above) the surface of a number of the remodel examples we’ve shared in this post is the need for “structural intervention” to pull them off. We like to think of the meeting between design esthetics and engineering know-how as STRITE’s “sweet spot.”