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Future homes to center more on the kitchen

(ran HS edition)

If you could time-travel to the kitchen of 2010, chances are you would feel right at home, although you may wonder if you landed in the right room.

If kitchen designers' predictions are correct, the kitchen of the next decade will be more of a living room than ever. One will see more comfortable seating, lots of sofas, lavish entertainment centers, furniture-like cabinetry, high-quality fabrics and furnishings and elements such as islands assuming the beauty of art objects _ just as one would expect in a room where one spends a lot of time.

Convenience will be of maximum concern, and designers will work hard to provide it. For both beauty and maintenance sake, a greater mixture of gorgeous surface materials in varying patterns and colors will be used. There will be colors _ no all-white kitchens on the horizon _ although they will be soft, tranquil ones.

These ideas and more were dramatically expressed in a model environment created by Cameron M. Snyder of Kitchen Concepts in Norwell, Mass., for the Design Idea Center of the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show held in Chicago earlier this year. The Design Idea Center is an area of the show focusing on innovative design ideas, offering solutions to problems and showcasing new products.

"The overall theme was looking to the future and how families would be living in the decade to come," said Snyder, who in collaboration with Wood-Mode Inc. and with Woman's Day Special Interest Publications as sponsor, developed his imaginative and thought-provoking design for "All-In-One Living."

Most years' models concentrate solely on kitchens and baths; Snyder's project was a total living environment. The faux home in the center of the show included a super-functional kitchen, a dining area nestled in a glassed-in sun room, a media center, luxurious sleeping and grooming areas and a spa-like bath with whirlpool, sauna and steam room.

All the areas were interconnected, radiating from a central circular tile fire pit enclosed in sandblasted glass. Snyder wanted the fire pit visible from every area, evoking the time when the hearth was the center of the home, and people gathered close to it.

While having the kitchen open to other areas of the house was important to the designer, sliding pocket doors close off the kitchen from the rest of the house when privacy is wanted.

His vision was "based on the idea of home as a comfortable oasis, a place where people can retreat at the end of the day with every amenity available," Snyder said.

His design is highly adaptable for anything from an urban kitchen to a luxury guest cottage or cabin hideaway in the wilderness. Wherever it would be placed, the outdoors is meant to be brought in with skylights, windows and French doors.

The reason Snyder chose to give his kitchen more of a contemporary than a period look, he says, is that "we are starting to see a resurgence of contemporary, though not as high-tech as in the 1980s."

Colors are kept soft for tranquility as in the soft tan or stone-colored floors, while Snyder uses the deep blue turntable in the island for impact.

Since Snyder considers glass a futuristic material, he uses a great deal of it _ in the snack bar, the bar stools, the glass enclosure of the fire pit and a glass-topped table in a sun room in back of the island _ to bring in a feeling of light.

The spectacular bilevel, multisurfaced, multipurpose island, almost like an abstract, wing-shaped sculpture centered in an open area, is meant to be the place for folks to congregate.

"Kitchens are not laboratories but places where people socialize," says Snyder. "When you have other people over, the cook _ or cooks _ have to be part of what is going on. Most kitchens of the future will be fairly open."

Snyder saw double when it came to many appliances such as dishwashers, microwaves and waste-disposal units for the sake of multiple cooks living in the same house, a trend due to Baby Boomers retiring and staying home more.

There are no "smart appliances" in his kitchen, the bar-code reading refrigerators and microwave ovens linked to the Internet to keep track of food, recipes and cooking instructions, which manufacturers are working on.

"We did not integrate that, as it is just not here yet," said Snyder, though he believes that the kitchen of 2010 probably will have them. "In the next five years, we'll begin to see a lot of that."

Asked if he thinks time-pressed Americans are heading toward extreme minimalism in the kitchen, he said with a smile, "I don't personally think so. I don't think anything we do in this society is minimalistic."