A new era in snacking


The heart of the home is undergoing a transplant. The kitchen is on the move. Not just small appliances, but more permanent kitchen fixtures now are in other rooms not traditionally reserved for cooking or food preparation.

In recent years, kitchen design options have expanded in style and sophistication, with furniture-like cabinets, sleek and stylish appliances and a cozy relationship with neighboring spaces, particularly the family room and the outdoors -- deck or patio.

"A lot of manufacturers are making products so well-designed, they're more conducive to [use in] other rooms," said Kate Schwartz, editor of kitchens.com, an online service that tracks trends in the industry.

That's particularly true in multilevel homes, where walking all the way down the stairs to the kitchen is less convenient than, say, brewing coffee somewhere near your bedroom. If you want a midnight snack, a nearby fridge and microwave make it easy.

Lack of space isn't necessarily an issue. A few years back, at a furniture show in Paris, an Italian manufacturer displayed an entire kitchen in an armoire. Behind the doors, which were fitted with shelves for dishes, spices and pots, there was a cooktop, sink and mini-fridge.

Among the catalysts for satellite kitchens is the drawer technology developed by Sub-Zero and Fisher & Paykel. Sub-Zero's all-refrigerator or all-freezer drawers, part of its 700 series, are designed to be totally clad with cabinetry, with not even a strip of metal trim or framing showing.

Measuring 27 inches wide and 24 inches deep at counter height, or 36 inches, the drawers fit flush in a run of cabinets. Designers love the disguise feature, which permits the appliances to blend into other unlikely spots.

"The design allows you to have a refrigerator drawer in the bedroom next to the bed," says Schwartz. "You can keep sodas in it, and the cabinets will integrate fairly seamlessly."

Applications are numerous: Refrigerator drawers may be nestled into a wall of cabinetry clustered around a big TV and electronic equipment; within a closet wall in a bedroom; below the counter of a vanity wall in a bath; in an island of an activity room; part of a wet bar in a home office or library.

Although refrigerator and freezer drawers are pricey (nearly $3,000 for one set), there's a considerable price range in small refrigerators. A handsome stainless-look model sells at Home Depot for about $99. If you really want a built-in look and don't mind opening two doors, a cabinetmaker can build the cabinets out from the wall (to add the depth required) and create an extra door that blends with the rest of the panels.

Any place where dishes or glassware may accumulate is a good candidate for another dishwasher. A nifty feature of Fisher & Paykel's trademarked Dish-Drawer is that a single drawer can be installed or a pair can be split by a sink, which frees up the areas beneath for storage. A pair work like two dishwashers in one, for example, by allowing a delicate cycle for finer crystal and a heavy cycle for soiled pots to operate simultaneously.

Since they were first introduced, the DishDrawer prices have come down, and now a single drawer can be purchased for around $800. They are available in stainless steel or designed to accept matching cabinet panels; only a control is visible, and that's available in chrome, satin, brass or black finishes.

Many home builders now feature multiple kitchen spaces: one for the master bedroom, one on the main level. According to Schwartz, satellite kitchens are definitely on the rise.

"As we move toward comfort," she says, "we really want our homes to be as relaxing as possible. Extra refrigerators (or icemakers) allow hosts to socialize with guests without running back and forth to the kitchen."

In addition, Schwartz says, warming drawers are finding other uses. "People are putting them in the bath to warm towels," she says.

All the conveniences that have become part of kitchen cabinetry -- built-in spice racks, drawer dividers, pull-out baskets, pull-out trash receptacles, Lazy Susans -- have uses beyond the kitchen.

"The kitchen has long been the center of the home," said Schwartz. Now its most convenient features no longer are limited to one room -- they can be enjoyed throughout the home.

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