Friday, March 18, 2011

Not As Easy As It Looks

The contemporary look in kitchen design is very definitely in: clean lines, smooth surfaces and uncluttered detail with nothing to take the eye away from the colour and texture (or lack thereof) of the cabinetry. I was discussing such a design with a client earlier this month, and while she agreed it was stunningly beautiful, she made a very telling comment:

It’s so simple it must require hardly any effort from you.


I can’t blame her really. Many of these contemporary designs look as though they were simply pulled from a box of Lego and stuck at will to the wall. And that’s really part of their appeal isn’t it? There are no heavy crown mouldings, pilasters or turned furniture feet to make us “ooh” and “aah” at the high level of craftsmanship that went into the installation. But make no mistake, the contemporary kitchen requires just as much, if not more attention to detail as its more traditional counterpart.

The first question I ask when faced with a contemporary design is “what appliances are being used?” Typically this style of kitchen involves at least one integrated appliances. An “integrated” appliance is one that is either hidden behind doors that match the cabinetry, or actually built in to the cabinetry itself. The idea here is to make the appliance disappear.

Sounds simple enough, but when I’m dealing with integrated appliances I know there’s going to be a high level of detail required to design a cabinet that will fit the appliance perfectly. Remember, there is almost no room for error when dealing with these appliances. It’s not as though you can send a steam oven back to the shop and have it trimmed by 3mm. At the very least I’ll create one set of custom drawings for every integrated appliance. Using a CAD programme like Sketchup is incredibly helpful since it allows me to model the very appliance I’m trying to install. I can “see” how it will fit before I’ve even built the cabinet.

For me, the most important part of a contemporary design is how well things line up. Because the doors are typically very simple, the lines between the doors and drawers must line up perfectly. For a standard run of base or wall cabinets, this isn’t much of an issue; even stock cabinets will line up if properly implemented. The challenge arises when we start working with the integrated appliances we’ve so carefully fit into our custom pieces.

While most integrated appliances do a very good job of fitting into “standard” cabinet configurations, many of the best manufacturers make things a bit more challenging. Sub Zero’s 700 series with drawer storage requires drawer heights that are not “standard” in any cabinet line I’ve ever seen. So unless you work with a cabinet manufacturer that customize, your drawers won't line up. No, it’s not awful. But it would look so much better if everything lined up, and for that, you require custom.

Contemporary kitchen design has been strong for at least 2 years now. Recent trade shows in Europe indicate several advancements in this style which will require even more attention to detail. When you meet with your kitchen designer, come prepared with as much information as possible to make the design process go smoothly. Knowing what appliances you plan on using, will go a long way to creating a contemporary kitchen that looks like it “required hardly any effort” from your designer. Only you and your designer will know the truth.


Raina Cox said...

That first one is super sessy.

Arne Salvesen said...

Thanks Raina! It's one of our firms ... high gloss Zebra Wood, and Black enamel. It was a pain to photo because the apartment was so sunny and the cabinets so shiny.

Becky / @ecomod said...

Those are both gorgeous! While I totally appreciate craftsmanship of all kinds, the simplicity of contemporary design especially requires attention to alignment. There is no ornament or trim to distract the eye, but I love the perception of blocks of cabinets in chunks as opposed to individuals.

jb @BuildingMoxie said...

I heart the phrase "super sessy" -- leave to raina . . . but as I was saying...

I'm not the most contemporary guy there is and whatever contemporary I had in me my Country Living Magazine reading wife beat it out of me. gorgey kitchens Arne impeccably designed and I can assure you the effort is not lost on me . . .or on your past clients.

Arne Salvesen said...

Thanks guys! jb, it`s not the past clients I`m worried about. It`s the one`s who want this look for $20 and completed in a weekend!

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