Ellen Cheever: kitchen designer
Ellen Cheever, a national authority on kitchen and bath trends, has spent the last 37 years redefining the kitchen and bathroom, and offers some interesting insights as to how kitchens have evolved and what’s in store for the future. Recently in Nashville for a continuing education seminar for members of the local chapter of the Association of Interior Designers and the local chapter of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, Cheever took time to discuss trends.
She clearly visualizes kitchens today as they are designed to fit one of five demographic groups she’s identified, and discusses the open look so popular today. It is, she says, here to stay, with a caveat.
“The largest kitchens in the largest homes, or the homes in which entertaining is an art form, are moving to the inclusion of a small kitchen, perhaps a galley kitchen, behind the large family and entertaining space,” she says.
This scullery kitchen is designed for those who might retain caterers or others to help prepare or stage a meal, and this space, taking its name from the space in Victorian homes where the scullery maid would be responsible for scouring the family’s pots and pans.
To make today’s kitchen more inviting, Cheever suggests that the space might be designed with fewer wall cabinets and replacing them with a traditional pantry to hold all the bulk products today’s homeowners buy.
The island will remain an important part of the kitchen, she says. She suggests that adding the sink to an island makes perfect sense in an era when the cook is more likely to be focused on the room in front of her where family and guests are found, rather than on the home’s outdoor spaces, as it was when windows were the focal point of a kitchen.
Cheever is a fan of organic contemporary spaces and says that she believes glass countertops and back splashes are not long-term trends. And big metal hoods? “I’m already so tired of them,” she says. As part of contemporary organic spaces, look for walnut countertops instead of oak butcher block.
Cabinet trends favor lighter, tightly grained wood species, and Cheever says homeowners presently prefer the warm brown tones of walnut and are avoiding the red tones of traditional cherry finishes. Brushed nickel and stainless steel will remain popular, she adds, but not antique bronze.
Other trends in today’s kitchens, according to Cheever, are large tiles on the floor, manmade quartz countertops for durability and easy maintenance, and LED lighting.
The days of large gas cooktops are numbered, Cheever says, pointing to the greater efficiency and safety of induction cooktops. “We’re going to look back in a few years and think about the open flames in our kitchens and say ‘what were we thinking?’“ Induction cooking takes less time to saute vegetables, brown chicken, or bring soup to serving temperature. Using electromagnetism heats pots and pans, not cooktops, and it performs the task much more quickly—in 25% to 50% less time, on average. All that reduced energy also means less heat build up in the kitchen.
With induction cooking, there is no flame—so no grease fires, no gas leaks, and far less likelihood of the cooktop itself causing a burn to a person. Cooks fond of gas for the control of temperature it offers will discover that induction cooktops offer the same responsiveness and far more precise control of heat and better performance at low settings. Combine these benefits with a smooth finish that seldom gets very hot and you have a remarkably easy clean-up.
One thing homeowners struggle with, she says, is the cost of a kitchen remodel. “Most don’t understand the cost of redesigning a kitchen and the fact that it’s a job that must be done all at the same time. There’s no way to remodel a bit of the kitchen this year and another bit in a couple of years. All the parts of a kitchen are so related to one another that once you decide to remodel it’s all or nothing.”