At Home Places

Homeowners are turning their kitchens into the social center of the home. This kitchen was created by Mark Wishnow of Wish Kitchens and Baths for Roger Schlossberg of Hagerstown, who loves to cook and entertain.

Kitchens That Really Cook

Open Spaces Create Entertaining Options

written by Lisa Tedrick Prejean
photography by Ric Dugan

Kitchens are becoming the social centers of the home. Cooks want more room so their guests have places to congregate while food is being prepared. The changes allow the cook to be part of the predinner conversation and the guests to be part of the final preparations.

Many homeowners want to open up their houses, bringing the dining room into the kitchen, says Mark Wishnow, owner of Wish Kitchens and Baths, who recently worked on a kitchen remodel for Roger Schlossberg in Hagerstown.

"I wanted to use the room the way I use it. I love to cook — I'm not much of a chef, but I love to entertain," says Roger, a partner in Schlossberg, Mastro and Scanlan law firm. "The most underutilized room in the house is the dining room."

Kathy Martin of Hagerstown wanted a kitchen where her entire family could work together on meal preparations. She worked with David Lobley of Hagerstown Kitchens Inc. to remodel the kitchen and increase the available work space.

Submitted photo

Roger, who also is one of the principal owners of Mike's Tavern on North Prospect Street, needed more space in his kitchen so he could work while guests socialize. By opening up the kitchen, he gained a lot of space that he did not have earlier. "In order to work at the island, no one could walk behind me." Now there is plenty of room to cook and congregate around Roger's newly designed kitchen island.

Kathy Martin of Hagerstown wanted a kitchen where her entire family could work together on meal preparations. She worked with David Lobley of Hagerstown Kitchens Inc. to remodel the kitchen and increase the available work space. "We all six can be in the kitchen doing different things."

Homeowners who want a new kitchen might feel hesitant about a redesign because they are concerned about how long the work will take, the task can seem overwhelming, and it is difficult to know where to begin. The kitchen remodeler should be able to provide the homeowner with an expected amount of time that the homeowner will be "without a kitchen." Select someone trustworthy with references and ask to see photos of completed projects. "I want to recommend to you what I want to take pictures of when I'm finished," says Bob Bechtel, general manager of We Do Kitchens in Waynesboro, Pa.

Curt Spicher, president and owner of Spichers Appliances, Electronics and Security, suggests collecting ideas from magazines or online sites. "Start looking at ideas other people have created so you don't need to reinvent the wheel."

The kitchen designer will want to know several things from the homeowner. Before designing a kitchen, David says, he will ask a homeowner several questions. "How much entertaining do you do? How many people are in the house? How much cooking do you do? Do you have children and do they help when you cook? What are your goals?"

Roger Schlossberg selected a zoneless induction stovetop, which heats cookware through an electromagnetic field. The induction stovetops are very thin, and because the heat is not generated in a conventional way, the space underneath the stovetop can be utilized. A pullout spice rack under the stovetop provides an added convenience to the home cook.

It's also helpful to go to home shows to see displays and meet the designers, says Nancy Allman of Martinsburg, W.Va., who recently worked with Bob on the remodeling of her kitchen to make it more functional and guest-friendly. While she doesn't "love" spending time at a stove, she does "cook to eat," and enjoys entertaining. "I have parties, and you know how everybody gravitates to the kitchen."

Getting started

Once a homeowner has set goals for a remodeling project, the next step is considering the cost. Businesses that specialize in kitchen redesign can work with most budgets, but customers need to be upfront and honest from the start about their expectations. "I can give someone a $10,000 kitchen remodel or a $100,000 kitchen remodel. It stems from the budget," Bob says, noting that labor rates are basically standard within the industry. Materials make the difference.

Customers who are looking for a complete kitchen redesign typically start with appliances and then select cabinets to complement, but sometimes cabinet design alters appliance selection, Curt says. "It's normally like a pingpong back and forth — which comes first — the chicken or the egg?"

Most homeowners select a refrigerator or a stove and then build the rest of their kitchen redesign around one or both of those items, says Curt, whose company has locations in Hagerstown, Chambersburg, Pa., and Winchester, Va. Customers range from those who want to replace one item to those who want a complete kitchen makeover. "Sometimes a little fix-it-up project turns into a big remodel."

Curt suggests that homeowners measure current appliances and spaces before going shopping. "We have people come in and say, 'I like this refrigerator.' We'll ask, 'How big is your old one?' They'll say, 'I don't know.' " Sometimes the new appliance is several inches wider than the existing appliance, which is a problem if the homeowner doesn't plan to remove a wall or eliminate cabinet space.

Designers will plan a layout around standard appliances, so if a homeowner plans to select a specialized stove or a large-capacity refrigerator, that should be mentioned before the remodeler begins working on the new kitchen plans. "Sometimes a customer will come in and say, 'Here's the specs on our appliances, go ahead and design around them,' " which is helpful to designers, Bob says.


When it comes to appliances, appearance and practicality count. Stainless steel remains the most popular finish for appliances, and homeowners are selecting colors in slate or dark gray shades, Curt says, noting that people like the new fingerprint-resistant surfaces that are available now. An increasing number of people are also interested in refrigerators that feature bottom freezers.

A wet bar provides another area for guests to congregate in Roger Schlossberg's kitchen.

Many cooks prefer gas stoves because the temperature can be easily regulated. Kathy said one of the features she really likes about her gas stove is the griddle, which her family uses to prepare pancakes and to grill. She likes having the gas burners on each side of the griddle because more than one person can be working there at the same time.

Another increasingly popular option is an induction stovetop. Roger selected a zoneless induction cooktop for his newly designed island. Induction works as the surface elements heat cookware through an electromagnetic field, which excites the metal properties of a ferrous pot, Curt explains. Only certain types of cookware will work with this surface. To determine if a piece of cookware will work with an induction surface, Consumer Reports recommends testing the bottom of a pot with a magnet. If the magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of the pot, it is induction-capable. The induction top itself doesn't get hot, Curt explains. The pot gets hot. "It heats very quickly. It's very controllable, similar to gas. When you turn it off, it's off." One caution to homeowners: If a hot pot is on a surface for any length of time, that surface will become hot as well. Cooks appreciate that the cleanup with an induction stovetop is easier. Spills don't typically burn and stick on the top of the stove. Also, induction stovetops are very thin, and because the heat is not generated in a conventional way, the space underneath the stovetop can be utilized. Mark installed a pullout spice rack under Roger's induction stovetop, which provides an added convenience.

For ovens, some cooks prefer convection. Conventional ovens rely on heat from top and bottom surfaces. Convection ovens have internal fans that circulate air and distribute the heat evenly. "Whether you're roasting a turkey or baking cookies, it just comes out better," Curt says. Double ovens are still popular with some homeowners. "They want to have a place to cook sweet potatoes when their turkey is in the oven," Bob says.

Microwaves, traditionally placed above the cooktop, are being displaced by stove hoods, which are functional and decorative. Some alternative placement options include installing the microwave in place of a cabinet or inserting it in an island. Families like the island microwave feature because it is easier and safer for children to reach down than to reach up to use the microwave.

Countertops, Backsplashes, Flooring and Lights

Homeowners are often torn between granite or quartz countertops, kitchen designers say. Granite is natural and porous, which can result in stains. Quartz countertops are nonporous and should not stain easily. Quartz is scratchand chip-resistant because its consistency gives it more flexibility than natural stone. However, unlike granite, the resin is not heat-resistant, so homeowners can’t take pans from the stove directly to the countertop. Both are very hard materials, though granite is easier to chip if a heavy object is dropped on it.

"Crazy patterns" for countertops are being selected to complement the simplicity of cabinetry and appliances, Mark says. Likewise, stone, glass and geometric looks are popular for backsplashes, says Anita Hornbaker, sales manager for Burkholder's Flooring America in Hagerstown.

For flooring, hardwood and tile continue to be popular, but vinyl, with an updated appeal, is still an option. While there is very little sheet vinyl anymore, vinyl planks or vinyl tiles are being selected by homeowners who want a hardwood or tile look, Anita says. "Things are becoming more streamlined, not as busy, not as stone-looking — a little lighter and airy looking for décor. We are doing a lot of tile back splashes."

Nancy is pleased with her backsplash, which is clear glass except for a 2 ½-inch strip that contains a pattern. Recessed lights are being favored over decorative kitchen lights, and many of the lighting systems are becoming high-tech. Roger opted for remote-control lighting, which he can regulate through a wireless home-control system or from an app on his phone.

Tying it Together

Homeowners are looking for two-tone accent kitchens, Mark says, referring to the newest trends in colors as "50 Shades of Grey." A few years ago, gray cabinets and appliances were available on the market, but choices were minimal. Now, manufacturers offer pretty much any shade of gray that a homeowner wants, Mark says.

There are endless choices for styles, colors and types of cabinets and accessories. The door style drives the price of the cabinet. Painted cabinets are popular, particularly in neutral or natural shades. "A lot of people are after that natural look," Bob says. "Some people want more retro." The blend of neutral colors continues to have appeal. Kathy opted for a combination of cherry and beige, and she loves the beautiful effect of those two tones together. For accents, such as trim or crown molding, Bob recommends mixing in the color of the island for appeal.

Sleek designs with little to no detail and cabinets that extend to the ceiling also are popular, says Bob, explaining that "people are designing kitchens based on what's easiest to clean." The basic Shaker style or flat panel are popular choices, David notes.

Some customers insist on solid wood cabinets until Bob shows them doors made from MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard. MDF cabinet doors are made in one piece and are not susceptible to warping in areas with high humidity. Solid wood cabinet doors are made in pieces, so cracks can show at the joints as the wood expands and contracts.

There is no exact science to deciding whether to use knobs or handles on drawers or cabinets, Bob says. Knobs can be used on drawers, and handles can be used on cabinets, and vice versa. One trend that Bob has seen is using larger handles on drawers, which he thinks is a wise choice. "The smaller it is, the cheaper it looks," Bob says. "I always tell people to splurge on the hardware. You can make a bigger impact," for a minimal amount.

The bottom line is this: If you’re considering a kitchen remodel, dream about what the room could be, come up with a plan and fill in the details as the work progresses.