Let’s start with smart: Internet-connected appliances will save you time and steps. They let you know (through your tablet or smartphone) when they need your attention, such as when the water filter in the fridge needs to be changed or when your dishwasher should run a special cleaning cycle. Plus, you can check on the cycle status of the dishwasher, lock the dishwasher controls, or change the fridge temperature remotely.
Loaded with storage, the island is anchored by the sink and dishwasher and is also convenient to the range, keeping the cook in the center of everything -- including the conversation. Drawers trump doors when it comes to what's new in cabinetry. They're more convenient because they pull all the way out so nothing gets lost in the back.
Also for ease: The countertops look like marble, but they are made of durable, stain-resistant quartz-surfacing. Just wipe with water and mild soap. And say good-bye to sticky handles; the faucet operates with a wave of your hand. You can reach all corners of the sink using the pull-down spray head.
All great kitchens start with a focal point. Here, it's the range wall, which is dressed up from counter to ceiling with budget-smart ceramic tile. Think of subway tile like a neutral: You can use a lot of it, and it won't overwhelm a space. In place of upper cabinets, display shelves turn everyday dishes into decorative accents and keep the kitchen from feeling top-heavy.
A hutch made from two cabinets with a quartz-surfacing countertop between links the kitchen and dining area. With the look of a freestanding piece, it offers the warmth of cherished furniture and is a workhorse, displaying glassware and dishes and stowing table linens. Wallpaper applied to the panel inside adds a decorative touch.
A flexible table eliminates the need for a second dining area. This maple table has two leaves; it can morph to more than 8 feet long for a dinner party. Pull it away from the bookcase to make room for another guest. Chairs in a contrasting finish avoid a formal or fussy look. Battery-operated window shades add ease. With an app, you can raise or lower them together or adjust individual shades.
Today’s most popular eat-in kitchen seating -- a built-in bench with a cushion, aka banquette -- provides comfort and storage. An assortment of pillows lets each family member create his or her comfort zone when doing household paperwork or schoolwork. Bonus: Because it faces the TV, this comfy spot offers extra seating on movie night.
This dining area is more than a pretty space. Storage and tech essentials let it double as a workstation. Hiding office supplies but keeping them handy is as easy as using decorative containers, such as deep baskets and lidded boxes. The variety of holders and the way they’re mixed with accessories keep these shelves from looking business-y. A USB charging receptacle (in place of a conventional outlet) lets you repower your devices where it’s convenient.
Key to the family room plan was balancing the electric fireplace and the flat-panel TV. Painted stripes make a striking statement on the fireplace wall (no chimney required for this unit), while raw-wood beams that resemble mantels showcase art and accessories on the TV wall. Everything you need for a multimedia experience is contained in a few high-tech pieces: an Internet-connected TV and gaming system, both of which respond to verbal commands and gestures, and a speaker system that provides home-theater sound and wirelessly streams connected music. Sensors embedded in the windows work with a security system to share an alert if a window is left open or unlocked.
A walk-in pantry off the kitchen is neatly packed with function. Shelves keep most-used items within reach, but there's also hidden storage, such as an undercounter corner cabinet. An apron-front sink brings knockout style, and it's practical for taking care of food prep, serving drinks, and washing dishes when the island sink is in use. The flooring switches from engineered hardwood in the kitchen to luxury vinyl tile here, good for resisting scratches and water. To echo the painted fireplace wall, the 12x12-inch tiles were laid in stripes.
Internet-connected laundry appliances make cleaning clothes easier. The washer will send your tablet or smartphone a message when the cycle is done so you’ll know it’s time to move the load. And when the dryer finishes a load, you can "tell" it to tumble your clothes so they don’t wrinkle before you can get to them.
Made from a cabinet base, a bench in the mudroom offers a place to take off shoes -- and drawers to store them. An awning window operates by remote control. Plus, when it senses rain, this window closes itself. Even the paint on the walls goes high-tech: A special formula reduces household odors.
A counter just inside the back door functions as a drop zone -- a handy spot for tossing mail, charging phones, or setting groceries. With a stool and drawers on one side and bookshelves on the other, this new take on a kitchen desk is also convenient for making a shopping list or looking up a recipe. And, the mini peninsula is close enough to the kitchen to save steps.
The message center goes modern. A sleek board was made from a piece of glass that’s painted on the back and framed to resemble a window. Messages written with dry-erase markers can be wiped off easily.
To create the BHG Innovation Kitchen, we teamed with Jen Ziemer and Andrea Dixon of Minneapolis-based Fiddlehead Design Group, who like to take a fresh approach to classic style and popular kitchen components.
Special thanks to our project partners:
Sinks and faucets: Kohler
Window shades: Hunter Douglas
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