Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

Shimmery Simmer

During the holidays -- especially when the kitchen is the apex for activity at home -- sleek designers are creating spaces that really shine.

As an open floor plan becomes more prevalent in American houses, homeowners want the kitchen to reflect a modern aesthetic, which is found in the rest of the home and in European design, says Amir Ilin, director of North American sales for Pedini USA, based in Paramus, New Jersey.

"In the United States, kitchens that were traditional are moving into transitional styles," he says. "A modern style with a clean, unadorned interior is moving toward the ultra-modern, to the point where the kitchen cabinetry is like fine furniture that blends with other spaces in the home."

While all that glitters may not be gold, cool metallic accents of pewter, copper and rose- and champagne-gold are also hot in today's contemporary kitchen, Ilin says.

"The modern movement with clean angles and flowing curves of Italian design never went out of style in Europe," he says. "Italy brings the world the sleek design of the Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars, and that same design principle is found in its kitchen cabinetry and stand-alone islands."

Outside the Box

Europeans use frameless cabinet manufacturing techniques, which offer greater accessibility to store items by eliminating front stiles and frames traditionally found in American kitchen cabinetry. Flat metal door and drawer fronts create a sleek, simple European aesthetic, which is treated in metallic colors, ranging from ultra-matte to high-gloss finishes.

Ilin says many European metal cabinets are powder-coated. This is a finishing process in which pigments and resin are electrostatically charged and sprayed onto the metal during the manufacturing process. The parts to be coated are electrically grounded, so that the charged particles will adhere to the metal. The coated piece is then placed into a large commercial oven, where it is baked. The heat causes the powder to melt onto the surface of the designed metal piece, and, as it cools, the coating becomes a durable finish.

Items can be powder-coated virtually any color, with any finish, ranging from matte to glossy. Curved cabinetry or kitchen islands with lines that are reminiscent of a high-end sports car are a custom-made design that can really get a homeowner's motor running.

Space to Spare

Today's thoroughly modern mantra in the kitchen is echoed throughout the entire home. "The idea that the kitchen is an intricate part of a home's design has never left the European sensibility," Ilin says. "Generally, many kitchens in America have been constructed so that every square inch of space is utilized, which can lead to a boxy cabinet design that is cut off from the rest of the home."

But homeowners don't have to undergo a total remodel or spend a golden egg to enjoy the custom-made benefits of a modern European kitchen redo, Ilin says. "Even the simple use of open shelving on walls, as opposed to having wall-to-wall cabinets, does a lot for a kitchen design," he says. "In a modern design, it is about creating a balance in the space -- what you have in place is as important as the uncluttered space that surrounds the pieces you have."

High-end appliances with built-in cooktops, ovens and cabinet-clad refrigerators extend the modern Epicurean illusion. Under-the-counter refrigerator drawers and customized shelving that rolls out for greater accessibility keep clutter out of sight and functionality top of the mind.

Epicurean Environment

The overall modern kitchen style is uncluttered and contemporary. But by incorporating natural elements into an otherwise austere atmosphere -- wood, stone and natural light -- a warm, intimate feeling can be achieved.

Ilin says porcelain is one of the most popular countertops in today's European-style kitchen, which can be fabricated in all shapes and sizes, without the ongoing maintenance of sealing stone.

Another popular choice is quartz countertops, also known as engineered stone, which is a manufactured surface comprised mostly of quartz. The remaining ingredients include high-performance polymers, resins and pigments that are colorized for a monochromatic look or made to mimic natural stone or concrete surfaces. Both quartz and porcelain are nonporous, waterproof, and stain-, heat- and scratch-resistant countertop choices.

If possible, keep windows bare or have window treatments installed so outdoor views are unobstructed. Another bright tip is to install unadorned, almost-industrial light fixtures -- whether over the kitchen island or the dining table -- to illuminate and accentuate this simply sophisticated style.

"The kitchen is the last room in the home where everyone still congregates together," Ilin says. "Today's modern kitchen should reflect your sense of style and not be a cookie-cutter design."

Contemporary Kitchen

To find a contemporary kitchen showroom near you, go to PediniUSA.com and select SHOWROOMS.