Friday, October 22, 2010

Lexington, MA - Buyers Want Cozy, Connected Kitchens

Kitchens and living rooms are combining to create a new look for kitchens.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, Realtor Magazine October 2010

The kitchen isn’t just for cooking. Today it’s used as a gathering place for families, a central work space, and an open area to pursue craft projects or entertain.

"Living room and family room activities are merging into the kitchen, and it’s changing how kitchens look," says Susan Serra, a home designer in Huntington, N.Y., who specializes in kitchens. "Particularly as homes are getting smaller, we’re using the kitchen for much more than we have in the past. Home owners want a more versatile floor plan."

The walls in kitchens started coming down in the 1980s and 1990s, Serra says. First to go were walls separating the kitchen from the dining room and now home owners are saying goodbye to walls between the kitchen and the living room. Kitchens also are being designed in a less utilitarian way with larger windows, fewer cabinets, and softer lighting.

What if your home doesn’t have these elements? There are simple things you can do to create that cozy, social feel that buyers are seeking.

Install a kitchen island. Kitchen islands not only have functional benefits but also provide space for entertaining, informal dining, and extra storage. If your home doesn’t have one, consider a portable island, which can range from a butcher block to a breakfast table with bar stools.

"Just make sure that the style you choose is consistent with your existing decor in the kitchen and the size is appropriate," says Ashley Whittenberger, founder and owner of Interiority Complex, a Texas–based staging and design company.

She recommends at least 3 feet between the island and walls so there’s plenty of space to move around. If the kitchen island is large, add chairs to show it can serve as an extra gathering place.

Look for comfy chairs. Skip the typical wooden stools for an upholstered bar stool with a back, recommends Whittenberger. Switch out traditional chairs around the kitchen table for wing chairs, a love seat, or even an upholstered bench.

Soften the light. Use accent lights and sconces, usually associated with a hallway or den, Serra says. Numerous small lamps also will create a softer effect. Whittenberger suggests hanging a chandelier or light fixture over the kitchen island.

Add storage. Buyers are always drawn to extra storage. Add a standalone cabinet, cupboard, buffet, or wall shelving. Stage cabinets with craft supplies to show that the space can serve many purposes.

Display quality pieces. Take the artwork you may have once reserved for the living room and display it in the kitchen. Accessorize shelves with collectibles or books.

Make sure the basics are strong. "If the bones of the kitchen aren’t strong, fix those first," Whittenberger says. "The condition of countertops, hardware, flooring, appliances, and cabinets aren’t going to be covered up by creating a cozy atmosphere."

Theresa D'Antuono

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