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The Art of Kitchen & Bath Design

With the average cost of a new kitchen at more than $50,000 and a new bath at more than $18,000, it’s wise to focus on the most desirable features before you plan any redesign for these two essential rooms. We checked in with two award-winning architects for their take on the fundamentals of good design for the kitchen and bath.

John Senhauser, FAIA tells us that we “can account for the rise in costs of these two rooms not necessarily due to rising prices, but rather due to an increase in the use of better quality products.” The owner of John Senhauser Architects points out that homeowners are leaning toward higher quality products and more durable appliance brands that come with higher price tags but longer life spans.

And with larger kitchens, the use and flow of the space has changed. “The work triangle is less important,” Senhauser notes, “because of better, more highly organized work centers. There might be more than one area for food preparation, for example, or more than one cleanup center. The ability to place refrigeration in more than one place is a big factor here.”

Rob Busch, architect and principal of Drawing Dept., says kitchens used to be service rooms, often merely attached to the house or relegated to the least desirable spaces. “Now they are an integral part of the house, replacing the hearth as the ‘heart of the home.’” His design sense emanates from the philosophy that the kitchen is as much or more a social gathering spot than it is an area for food preparation.

Sleek lines in both the kitchen and the bath, and ease of keeping elements clean, were mentioned by both as one of the top requirements for kitchens and baths, along with LED lighting, hygienic surface materials, such as quartz, and large-format ceramic tiles.

Take note of these other design tips:

In The Kitchen
• Base cabinets with drawers or roll-out shelves are easier to access, particularly for those who plan on staying in their homes as they grow older. Senhauser points out that the cost of cabinet drawers is less than cabinets with doors and sliding shelves. Many appliance companies are now offering beverage drawers, warming drawers, icemakers and wine coolers. Microwave ovens over the range are being replaced by microwave drawers.
• Fewer wall cabinets mean more pantries. “Wall cabinets tend to make the kitchen look thick,” Senhauser says. “The kitchen can be made to look more open without wall cabinets.” Busch suggests open shelving to achieve an open feeling.
• White cabinets are back. In Sub-Zero Wolf’s recent design competition, of 54 regional winners more than 60 of the cabinets were white. Painted cabinetry has become a more desirable option, too, with less need to worry about matching hardwood flooring.
• More recycling centers are being integrated into the kitchen design, rather than trash compactors.
• Lots of working surface; islands are often larger than 10-feet long.
• Kitchen planning centers are moving to the home office; recharging centers are necessary, though, as well as a place
for a laptop or tablet computer.

In The Bath
• Barrier-free, curbless showers and wet room areas are desirable.
• Find linear drains in wet areas, which pair well with large-format tile surfaces.
• More heated elements are available: floors, towel bars, shower benches.
• Free-standing tubs are replacing whirlpool-type baths.
• Wall-hung toilets and cabinets create free floor space below.