Kitchens have become one of the main attractions in a person’s home. Designing a kitchen should be done with the residents habits in mind. QMI Agency file photo

Once upon a time, the kitchen was a humble and simple space, but times have changed.

“A typical kitchen used to have four drawers, a sink, a stove, a fridge and that’s it,” says veteran kitchen designer and builder Mike Smith, owner of All About Kitchens in Bracebridge. “Back in the early 1970s, I could pull up a piece of 2×6 to mark the measurements on, design it that day and install it the next. Now, it’s two or three months just to plan.”

Today, Smith says, the kitchen is the room in the house.

“It gets far more attention now than it used to, because people live in the kitchen/great room area. It’s no longer the place for the woman to go to work; it’s now where everybody goes to work. That’s why it gets all the fancy things that make it work better. It cost $1,200-$1,500 in the early 70s. Now we sometimes go over $100,000.”

If you’re building anew, or if you’re renovating and your space allows for it, think expansively.

“Make the kitchen really big,” advises kitchen designer Kevin Bonner of Northern Kitchen Studio in Bracebridge. “Anytime you have company, they all gravitate to the kitchen, so you have to have lots of space for them.”

Designing a kitchen should be done with the habits and inclinations of the residents in mind. James Pitropov, architect and owner of Smith Architect in Huntsville, draws on his experience designing houses:

“Have a list of the way they entertain, how many people they invite, how often they entertain, are they wine drinkers, do they want a space to sit and reconvene afterwards? Do they have a family heirloom like an old china hutch? Sometimes these unique items are what add a lot of warmth and character to the place.”

Do you want to cook while looking at the lake, or the driveway, to see guests arriving? That is crucial, obviously, to kitchen placement.

A central concept in kitchen design, Smith explains, is the “work triangle” – the arrangement of stove, fridge and sink in relation to each other.

“One thing you want to avoid is putting an island in the middle of that,” he says. “I had a kitchen like that and it turned out to be a pain, because you had to go around it.”

Bonner suggests putting one corner of the triangle on an island, instead.

Islands remain exceedingly popular, providing conveniently placed extra work space, storage, and seating. If you have the space, they can be as big as 10 by five feet, incorporating sinks, gas burners and more.

“What is popular is antique finishes,” says Smith.

Or, those who have a painted finish on their main cabinets might opt for a wood finish for the island. Having a different countertop, perhaps butcher block, on islands is also trendy.

If you have the resources, the island can even be a spectacular focal point. Chervin Kitchen and Bath in Parry Sound is working on one with a countertop that is an irregular piece of solid walnut, about nine feet long, five feet wide and three inches thick. The island cabinetry underneath is being shaped to match the natural contours of the tree, with curved wood and glass.

“It’ll be a one-of-a-kind conversation piece,” says Dave Frey, sales representative and designer with Chervin. “We just put a temporary top on it, and they’re already getting all kinds of comments from friends and neighbours.”