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The sum of all faucets

The number -- and complexity -- of specialty spigots is the latest indicator of kitchen chic.

June 02, 2005|Valli Herman | Times Staff Writer

When Cam Starrett was designing her dream kitchen, she planned for it to handle every meal, party and contingency.

The Mediterranean kitchen now features a fireplace, a television, a dishwasher for fine china, a six-burner professional range, a double farm sink built into the 12-by-20-foot limestone island with its own instant hot and cold water dispenser and single-lever sprayer faucet. A secondary bar sink is surrounded by a wine refrigerator and ice machine. The room-sized pantry includes a rolling island, a heavy-duty dishwasher for pots and one farm sink; there's another sink outside by the grill.

Though visitors are taken with the kitchen's size and elegance, the stealth luxury that makes this kitchen ultra-deluxe is its five faucets (with plumbing for a sixth), including a pot filler, the now-fashionable cold-water-only swiveling, telescoping spout built right into the backsplash.

As kitchens have been increasingly outfitted with commercial-grade appliances and cookware, they are now remodeled with an equally professional quantity of spigots. Specialized faucets, many in customized finishes, are the latest indicator of our sophistication, status and style -- or perhaps our yearning for them. Yet, carefully plotted, a bevy of spigots can become a cook's favorite convenience.

It's almost a given that in addition to the main faucet, a new kitchen will include a separate one for instant hot and cold water, one for filtered water, a built-in dispenser for dish soap and multiple permutations of faucets and sprayers.

"There is not a day that goes by when that swing-arm faucet doesn't get used," says Starrett, a Nestle USA executive who often entertains at her 10,000-square-foot Pacific Palisades home. With no sink near the stove, she fills her teakettle, and without taking a step, can pull a pot from nearby storage, settle it on a burner and fill it on the spot.

Whether you're feeding six people hot dogs or 60 foie gras, multiple faucets help manage the traffic flow to keep the cooking, drink mixing and dishwashing functions separate. That's almost a necessity as showplace kitchens stretch ever larger and change the way we approach cooking and entertaining, says Silver Lake architect Ricardo Accorsi.

"It's an assembly line. There are simultaneous activities -- someone washes the salad while another washes glasses for drinks at the bar sink," he says. Each workstation reflects what Accorsi calls the "pervasive specialization" that now influences many areas of design.

Others view today's highly specialized faucets as window dressing, not necessities for well-utilized kitchens. "As we started to entertain more, and gain more status, the kitchen grew into not just a room that would be operational and functional, but one, like the bath, in which we luxuriate," says designer Billy Rose.

"I have one client that put a pot filler in and six months later, she's never used it," says designer Joe Nye, who helped create Starrett's kitchen and home. "The irony is that a lot of people build these incredibly expensive and complex kitchens with all of these gadgets and they never cook. They tend to be kitchens that are more for show than for actual use."

Specific-function faucets subtly illustrate wealth. After all, only the largest kitchens can accommodate more than one sink and the variety of entertainment functions that have little to do with eating or cooking. Further, only kitchens that have been remodeled down to the studs can contain the complex and pricey network of plumbing that spans our roller-rink-sized kitchens.

At the $4.2-million Hollywood Hills mansion that Rose bought and redesigned, the kitchen was expanded to become a "great room" with space for upholstered seating and a wall-mounted plasma television. The faucets help straddle the stylistic bridge between the 1916 home's history and its new look. The Newport Brass faucets in polished nickel boast Belle Epoch curves and separate cross handles with white porcelain plates, their labels in French. Yet, these marvels of engineering can swivel, telescope and run a sprayer and faucet simultaneously at different temperatures.

"I like to think of it as keeping the Old World charm but updating it with modern conveniences," says Rose, who also is a gourmet chef in touch with how design trends affect cooking.

"The pot filler, while certainly a nice and functional piece of equipment, is more of a bell and whistle than anything else," Rose says. "When you are boiling a large pot of pasta or something else and you boil away a portion of the water, you can refill it instead of taking a hot pot off the stove. But how many people cook for 30?

"I had pot fillers in many of my homes, and I rarely use them," he admits. "They're really just another piece of jewelry."

When Lisa Bonbright gutted and remodeled her Beverly Hills kitchen, she skipped the pot filler.

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