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Anna G. Larson, Published November 09 2013

Area homeowners' newly designed kitchens bring features, people together

FARGO – When Kristin and Paul Erickson host holiday meals, they usually have 15 to 20 people at their home, and inevitably, everyone ends up in the kitchen.

“The kitchen area is the place we congregate,” Paul says.

The kitchen is the family room for the Ericksons and their two teenagers, and they kept their entertaining habits in mind when they worked with architect Chris Hawley of Radiant Homes to design their house.

Paul and Kristin knew they wanted an open floor plan so the kitchen, dining area and living room would meld into one large space for entertaining. Kristin, the cook of the family (Paul’s the griller), is able to prep meals while engaging in conversation with people in the dining area and living room.

Although some homeowners lean toward kitchens that are separated from the rest of the home, Hawley says that most of the time, people like the idea of all the spaces spilling onto each other.

“When you’re with a group of people, everything is happening all at the same time, and it’s sort of an integrated, overlapping experience,” he says. “All the things are happening together in harmony.”

Like the rest of the home, the spacious kitchen has a modern feel. Stainless steel appliances, shiny granite countertops and a glass-tile backsplash play up the contemporary theme. Reclaimed wood sourced by ICSS Design & Supply in Fargo lends a hint of rustic appeal to the space. A 100-year-old wood cabinet from Paul’s family also warms up the modern space and plays off the reclaimed wood shelves.

The shelves between the cupboards show off the family’s colorful collection of Fiestaware dishes, adding personality to the space. The wood is also carried over to the kitchen island, where it combines with a corrugated metal panel to create what Hawley calls a “sculptural element.”

Besides looking sleek in the kitchen, the large central island lends itself to entertaining purposes. The Ericksons had an island in their last home and knew it was an essential component to their dining and entertaining style. The two-level kitchen island allows people to sit at the counter as food is prepped on the lower level.

Determining if a kitchen needs an island depends on how people will use the space, Hawley says.

Some clients opt for two or three islands so they can separate prep from seating areas, and others find that one island meets their needs. The Ericksons chose a large central island so they could keep their space open.

“The single island idea that everyone gets to stand around and help out and snack while they’re making dinner – that’s kind of an interactive, old-school way of looking at it,” Hawley says. “I’m a big fan of the shared island for a family. I think that’s kind of where all the action stems from.”

Another Fargo home was also built with the kitchen island as the central hub, and designer Sylvia Lunski of Design Direction favors the extra countertop space for its function.

“Whether it’s for entertaining or homework or whatever it might be, you can visit and know what’s going on in the rest of the home,” she says.

The Mission/Shaker style kitchen designed by Lunski accommodates multiple cooks, and the large island is extra wide and extra deep to provide plenty of space for buffet-style dining.

Crystal and other special items are kept in glass cabinets that flank both sides of the island. Display areas also top the dark birch cupboards.

“Kitchens and dining rooms aren’t nearly as formal anymore,” Lunski says. “So we’re trying to get areas where they can incorporate display.”

Under-cabinet illumination generates a soft glow in the kitchen, and large, spherical pendants that hang over the island add interest to the central area.

“We’re seeing more of the large light fixtures over islands rather than three or four smaller pendants hanging,” Lunski explains.

The Ericksons’ kitchen also has layered lighting. Paul wanted unique fixtures that’d compliment the space – something more than what he calls “everyday lighting.”

Slender pendants dangle above the island in his home, and a large red fixture adds zing to the dining area and coordinates with the red accents throughout the home.

In the kitchen Lunski designed, there’s an under-counter beverage refrigerator in addition to the full-size fridge. Whether for wine or other beverages, Lunski says smaller, secondary refrigerators are becoming increasingly popular.

The Ericksons opted out of a beverage fridge for the kitchen and instead have a large commercial-size refrigerator.

“In terms of convenience, it’s like everything is there. It’s basically opening a wardrobe with all of your food in it,” Radiant Homes’ Hawley says.

The Ericksons also have a butler’s pantry off the kitchen where they store appliances like their toaster and coffee maker. The extra spaces were once reserved for glassware and silver, but now homeowners use the pantry for party prep, too. The Ericksons stash their clutter in the pantry so they don’t have to worry about cleaning counter tops before guests arrive.

Locally, the butler’s pantry is becoming standard in high-end homes, Hawley says, adding that he built one in his own home.

“We do the butler’s pantry 80 percent of the time. They’re just so convenient,” he says. “There are so many things that need to be a part of the kitchen that you use in a very limited way – coffee maker, toaster, small appliances. They don’t necessarily need to be a part of what I call the working kitchen – they’re kind of like a support space.”

The Ericksons debated installing double ovens in the kitchen and decided it was unnecessary, although Kristin could use the two ovens when she makes large batches of her well-loved candied bacon.

The couple chose a different convenience for their kitchen though – a pot filler situated above the glass top stove. The faucet eliminates trips across the kitchen, and although the feature isn’t standard yet, but Hawley’s seeing them in more homes.

The Ericksons still have some tweaks to make to their kitchen, like choosing a darker green paint for the walls, but when they look around at their space, they can’t help but say they “love it all.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525