Scripps Howard News Service
Everyone knows guests gather in the kitchen, but here's a twist: Sometimes they want to cook, too.
In 2011, designers are seeing more communal setups that include multiple sinks, refrigerators, even cook tops.
Unlike a century ago, when the kitchen was relegated to the darkest space in the back of the house, kitchens today have become the hub of the home, with islands, prep areas, seating and indoor-outdoor connections that allow people to participate or just talk, says Glen Jarvis, principal of Jarvis Architects in Oakland, Calif.
"Kitchens are much larger, so that they can suit four or five people," says Beth Laughlin of Laughlin Designs in San Rafael, Calif., who has noticed a "huge trend toward secondary cooking stations."
With more hands in the kitchen, Laughlin says, she has had to rethink the "work triangle," the sink-cook top-refrigerator triumvirate that has long been considered the anchor of good kitchen design. Laughlin finds that the refrigerator is the biggest offender, impeding traffic and work flow in a busy kitchen.
"When people are really stuck in the triangle, I recommend refrigerator drawers for the cook, and put the refrigerator in a place where everyone can get to it."
To accommodate additional cooks, San Francisco designer David Kensington likes to include extra sinks and keep prep areas off to the side.
In place of the island, he's seeing another trend emerging: The family table is moving in. "It brings people back into the kitchen and gets people more involved with food." Kensington likes the idea of plopping a farm table in the center of the room.
Another top kitchen trend? You'll find it in the trash. Kitchen recycling centers are more popular than ever.
According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, an estimated 89 percent of kitchens designed by NKBA members in the final quarter of 2010 include trash or recycling pullouts.
Kitchen design is also being driven by the economy. "People are simplifying everything -- from the style of cabinets to what they put in the cabinets," Laughlin says.
"There's not a lot of bling. People aren't spending thousands of dollars to make it look like a French kitchen."