When it comes to uninspired, drab and barely functional kitchens, Benjamin Ouellette, an interior and kitchen designer in Waterloo, Ont., has seen them all.
Luckily, there's much he can do these days to turn those outdated kitchens into comfortable, glammed-up spaces with personality.
"The beauty of what's going on right now, is that we're able to do stuff that's outside the box," he says. "It's such a fun time to be a kitchen and interior designer."
That focus on innovation and fun stems from societal change. Forget focusing only on the traditional kitchen triangle — fridge, stove and sink. Clients are now asking for open spaces that reflect how they now actually use the room, whether that's working on homework or entertaining 30 of their closest friends.
"The kitchen has exploded into a complex space. We use it for much more than cooking," says Mr. Ouellette, who runs Benjamin John Ouellette Interior Design.
Kelly Lam, vice-president of marketing at Miele Ltd., agrees, explaining that time, or the lack of it, is pushing kitchen design to become more subtle and soothing. "The reality is that our lives are so busy that the one place people find solace is with their families, around the table, having a chance to talk," he says.
In other words, as we turn to our kitchens to nurture, entertain, connect and cocoon, it's important to create a space that's many things. Fortunately, there are many ways to create this kitchen, whether through functionality or décor decisions, says Mr. Ouellette.
Cool yet comfortable
On the design and décor side, contemporary kitchens are taking a page from cool and sleek European stylings, but Canadian designers are turning down the dial on the high gloss, modern and minimalist look.
"We're taking that concept and we're making it more texturized," he says. "We're using materials that are not high gloss. We're making the kitchens a little bit more comfortable."
That means using barn wood, textured cabinet doors, and heavily grained wood in white oak, ash and walnut. And classic white is getting new competition with clients moving toward coloured cabinetry in blues, greens and even purples.
Then there's the new interest in rose-gold hardware and mirror. But again, rather than relying on a wall of mirror to create some glamour, designers are more likely to turn to mirror with an antique finish.
Subtle and sophisticated
Elegance and sophistication are also found in kitchen appliances. Rather than installing restaurant-inspired stainless steel stovetops and ovens, there's now greater emphasis on appliances that seem to live quietly in the space. It's all about subtle integration, whether that means hiding a refrigerator behind a panel or choosing unified and ageless machines, explains Mr. Lam.
"When we design a new generation of appliances, they're not intended to be a fad design," he says. "We always talk about that classic black Chanel dress that's timeless."
Even so, today's top-tier appliances are all about innovation when it comes to their purpose: cooking, freezing and washing. Today's trends in appliances can be boiled down to one word: multi-purpose.
Take steam ovens. With today's focus on healthy eating, ovens that cook with steam are perfect for retaining moisture when heating up leftovers or creating a nice crust on baked bread. Miele's combination steam-convection ovens give home chefs and bakers options and convenience no matter what they're cooking, steaming, braising or broiling.
There's greater emphasis on appliances that live quietly in the space, or offer innovative solutions, such as smart-phone controlled dishwashers like Miele's EcoFlex. (Credit: MIELE)
Then there's the new generation of speed ovens that merge oven and microwave technologies. Have a frozen lasagna you want to cook at the end of a long day? The microwave defrosts the dish and then the oven kicks in to bake it. Miele's oven with microwave options even has lasagna and popcorn programs built in.
And for families who seem to always have a full dishwasher — and often forget to turn it on before leaving for work — the company's EcoFlex dishwasher uses smart home technology that links to phones or tablets so the person can control washing while away from home.
Beyond rose-gold décor, smart appliances and sophisticated lighting, there are also a few more offbeat ways to add a touch of glam to a new kitchen, such as kitchen tile glitter grout. These days, anything goes.
"Personally, I don't know how I feel about glitter grout," says Mr. Ouellette, laughing. "But by all means, go nuts."
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's and Mail's editorial department was not involved in its creation.