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HOME DESIGN : A SPECIAL ISSUE OF ORANGE COUNTY LIFE : Foreign Flair Comes to Kitchens as European Features Flourish

August 12, 1989|EVAN CUMMINGS | Evan Cummings is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Orange County is taking notice of the beauty, quality and efficiency of European kitchen design.

German-made cabinets, British cooktops and ovens, Swedish dishwashers, Swiss faucets and sinks, and American countertops and floors blend together to create a fresh, universal appeal, making a kitchen that can be as functional as it is elegant.

Ettie Ettinger, owner of Kitchen Gallery in Laguna Beach, says European kitchens began growing in popularity, first on the East Coast, about five years ago. "In New York, kitchens are usually quite small--at least compared to here. One must make the most of every available inch of space. In Europe, kitchens are even smaller, and energy is at a premium, so people learned to be resourceful."

It was that resourcefulness that led to the creation of such space savers as frame-less cabinets, shallow pantries and corner cabinet carrousels. Innovative cabinets offer such features as built-in pullout bread and snack bins, deep drawers that pull out for easy storage of pots and pans, cooking hobs that allow access from three sides, and swing-up storage bins that lock into place during use.

Cabinets are available in a variety of woods, laminated finishes and lacquers. Hundreds of cabinet fronts and handle combinations make it possible to completely change the style of the room. Charlotte Barnhoorn, a Laguna Niguel-based interior designer, says that a dramatic effect can be achieved by simply changing a kitchen knob or handle. "You can take a basic lacquered cabinet, and by changing handles, toe-kicks, light valances and crown molding, anything from country to contemporary can be achieved."

Bill and Brenda Graham of Laguna Niguel recently moved into a newly built home in Coronado Point. Brenda asked Barnhoorn to decorate the home, emphasizing her taste for a contemporary, eclectic look. The smooth, cream-colored, lacquered cabinets are set into a slim frame with narrow groove and finished with hand-dipped brass knobs. Countertops and back splash are of black granite. A cream-colored marble floor completes the design.

The Grahams enjoy cooking in their new kitchen. "The cabinets are wonderful for many reasons," Brenda says. "They are fingerprint-resistant, and shelf height is adjustable. The granite countertop is indestructible, and like the floor, you just use plain water to clean it." Brenda says that storage drawers for pots and pans make for easy access and eliminate bending, stooping and reaching for frequently used items. Cabinets are maintained as with any fine wood--dusted regularly and polished occasionally.

Ettinger believes that European-style kitchens--which can be installed in existing homes at a cost of $20,000 to $50,000--are ideal for homes that are being remodeled. "Many people are remodeling homes that were built in the 1940s, '50s, '60s. Many of the homes are in Laguna; the kitchens are very, very small and they have less amperage. With this system, you can accommodate existing amperage and plumbing without the cost of having to add to it."

Dave Busk, founder and president of Busk Development in Dana Point, has current projects at Ritz Cove and Laguna Niguel and several remodeling jobs in Monarch Beach and Newport Beach. He began using European kitchens a year ago, when he saw them exhibited at a design and trade show. An architect had drawn kitchen plans for a house he was developing. Wanting to maximize efficiency, Busk asked that the plans be modified. "What I ended up with was something completely different--more sophisticated, a slicker look. Within the next five years, I believe that most custom homes will emulate the European flair for design," he says.

Kevin Bradshaw, territory manager for Schreiber, a Southgate-based company that distributes Creda cooktops and ovens, believes that Creda--a British company and a division of General Electric of the United Kingdom--and other foreign brands, such as Gaggenau, Miele and Asea, have surpassed American large appliances because of their efficiency and styling. "We believe our products, Creda gas glass cooktops and ovens, are the most sophisticated on the market. The entire unit is only two inches deep and is designed to fit wherever you want it to go. It can be fitted over a drawer or dropped into a cutout space."

Bradshaw believes that a fundamental advantage of foreign cooktops and ovens over American brands is efficiency. He says that these appliances use 30% less energy and cause 80% less spills. Sealed spillage wells keep spills out of the cooktop interior and stop them from seeping over the surface, Bradshaw explains. "The advanced burner design combines the burner cap and burner ring," he says. "This gives a greater performance. High-speed burners and low-speed burners are capable of the highest boil or the lowest controlled simmer."

Cooktops and ovens are available in white or charcoal. White models are finished in high-quality optical glass, providing a vivid, "white-on-white" look.

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