Kitchen style: New 'now' elements of design

This cabinet line from Smith River Collection in This cabinet line from Smith River Collection in East Hampton is called Freedom because it frees up the recessed toe space for storage. It stars at $45,000. Photo Credit: Handout

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As with cars, kitchen styles don't last forever, and innovations are continually cropping up. You may not want to turn in your kitchen every year for a new one, but updating it from time to time keeps you up-to-the-minute and adds value to your home. "Whatever you spend on your kitchen, you'll get back, plus more," says real estate broker Cliffeton Green of The Corcoran Group in Bridgehampton.

Whether your stylistic preference is for industrial, traditional or in-between, certain "now" elements are key. You can go for a quick cosmetic makeover, a nip and tuck, or a full face-lift, depending on your end goal and budget.

OPEN AND AIRY

First and foremost, today's kitchen is no longer merely utilitarian -- a place where the cook is hidden away, laboring over the risotto, while everyone else hangs out elsewhere. An updated kitchen boasts an open layout. "Living rooms are passé," says Green. "Now the kitchen, dining room and living room have turned into a single big, beautiful living space."

HOOD ORNAMENTS

Hoods have become as prevalent in kitchens as hoodies in gym lockers. Essentially a decorative element -- employed to disguise ventilation ducts that remove smoke, heat and moisture -- today's hoods are more than merely functional. A trendy kitchen boasts a range hood that makes a powerful visual statement, whether sleekly contemporary or elegantly traditional.

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LIGHTING

Even if your kitchen is traditional, Eileen Kathryn Boyd, of her eponymous design firm in Huntington, recommends installing a modern light fixture such as an over-counter pendant. "Anything edgy is the jewelry that makes it feel on-trend," she says. Hanging a pair of striking pendants over an island is tantamount to putting sculpture in your kitchen.

BACKSPLASH

For a quick fix, a new backsplash is the way to go. Clean, sleek, shimmery mosaic glass tiles continue to be in vogue, and are available for as low as $3.97 for a 6-by-6-inch tile at The Home Depot. Whether you lay the tile horizontally or vertically, each way offers a "different experience," says Boyd. Kitchen designer Scott Smith of Smith River Kitchens in East Hampton says he is not a fan of extending a marble counter into a backsplash. "It seems like overkill," he says. Instead, he prefers subway tile -- 3-by-5-inch glazed white tiles that, he says, impart a clean look. For a more contemporary touch, he advises the 2-by-8-inch version. He sells them starting at $3.50 a square foot.

COUNTERTOPS

Sag Harbor-based kitchen designer Robert Bakes of Bakes & Co. specializes in "Hamptons-style kitchens," which he describes as white paint, understated cabinetry and marble countertops. Though many homeowners are afraid of the porousness of marble, new sealing processes reduce stains. It may not be as durable as granite, but Bakes stresses it can be easily repaired. "And frankly," he says, "nothing looks quite like it." His company sells it for $150 to $270 a square foot. For more durability, Boyd will sometimes use a pale-colored granite or quartzite -- both resemble marble. Honed, as opposed to polished surfaces, are harder. (A polished finish is buffed to impart a glossy reflective sheen. Honed surfaces forgo the buffing stage and are matte.) Both Caesarstone and Silestone make an engineered quartzite that can be found in an array of dramatic pigments, from electric blue to apple green. "Silestone brings tremendous excitement to kitchen surfacing," says David Lyon, director of retail for Blackman, a regional decorative plumbing, lighting and tile store. "It comes in very large pieces, so it's seamless," says Lyon. It sells for $50 to $100 a square foot, including templating and installation, at all Blackman locations.

FLOORS

"Hardwood is the final finishing touch," says Boyd. If you don't want wood, she recommends ceramic tiles that look like wood. "You can create an old-world look with whitewashed faux wood tile." If you want to sell your house and are on a tight budget, Corcoran's Green recommends purchasing inexpensive black and white tile from Lowe's or The Home Depot and arranging it in a diamond pattern. "It requires more labor, but it opens the room and adds a graceful note that's well worth it."

CABINETRY

To work with existing cabinets, updating them with a new coat of paint or new handles from the likes of Ikea or a neighborhood hardware store will do the trick. Then again, you could replace the cabinets. Smith of Smith River Kitchens says he believes that if you could only update one aspect of your kitchen, it should be the cabinetry. Although contemporary kitchens are trendy, "kitchens lately are staying with traditional lines," Boyd says.

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FULL FACE-LIFT

For those who want to start from scratch and rebuild the entire kitchen with a distinctly modern feel, Italian-made Valcucine is one choice. With more than 100,000 components, the system is organized like Lego building blocks. Ultra-sleek and wildly innovative (it is Italian, after all), sliding cupboard doors instantly reveal or conceal the messy workings of a kitchen so that all the working parts, including gadgets, remain behind the scene until needed. Sagaponack-based architect Nick Martin, principal of Martin Architects, designed a kitchen using only Valcucine components with their "European sensibility" for a minimalist East Hampton house. The all-glass kitchen (except for a stone cutting board) allows the "cabinets, countertops and built-ins to seamlessly connect to the house so that the people, food and atmosphere become more important," says Martin. With the cupboards all opened by touch, hardware becomes invisible. Valcucine materials vary from lower-priced laminates to carbon-fiber finishes. Full kitchens range from $15,000 uninstalled to $200,000. "We build a kitchen to fit your budget," says Brian Jevremov, owner of Valcucine USA in Manhattan.

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