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  • Lisa Jevens

Cooking up the ideal kitchen: Kitchen of the Year 2012

Every summer, House Beautiful magazine erects a pavilion in New York's Rockefeller Plaza and asks a renowned designer to make his or her ideal kitchen come to life there for a week. Called the Kitchen of the Year, it is open to the public as a demonstration kitchen and a showplace.

Unveiled in July, the 2012 Kitchen of the Year was created by Mick De Giulio of de Giulio kitchen design, based in Wilmette. De Giulio, an A-lister in the kitchen design world, is sought after by individuals and companies worldwide. De Giulio offered tips on how to make your next kitchen more livable, functional and beautiful using the Kitchen of the Year as an inspiration.

Choose a theme

When starting a new kitchen project, come up with a theme that will guide your choices. De Giulio's Kitchen of the Year was inspired by the casual aesthetic of a Scottish fisherman's cottage.

"The structure they gave me was a pavilion," De Giulio said. "It was a little bit like a cottage, so I went with that idea. It informed all my decisions."

The subtle, casual, clean look of a seaside cottage was achieved through deft layering of textures and materials in a serene, whitewashed color palette, De Giulio said. Sleek, snow-white appliances, pristine countertops and luxurious tiles contrasted with rustic and nautical light fixtures. A wood-beamed ceiling and dark walnut flooring completed the look. There is no doubt the Kitchen of the Year was big — 1,000 square feet, and a 10-by-10-foot butler's pantry. It featured a sitting area with fireplace, a dining table, counter seating and a breakfast bar called "la mattina" (the morning area).

"It's not just a kitchen. It's very open, with areas for people to hang out in," De Giulio said. "It's centered on the lifestyle trend that we live in our kitchens."

If you think a large kitchen won't fit into your floor plan, De Giulio said you could amass more space by totaling the square footage of a breakfast nook, dining room, sitting room and kitchen in a typical floor plan. You would likely come up with the necessary space for a live-in kitchen layout similar to the Kitchen of the Year.

"Many clients are forgoing formal dining rooms in favor of this approach," he said. This is also something to consider if you are remodeling.

Mixing materials

One trick you can use to generate visual interest in a kitchen is variation. For example, most people would buy all the same cabinet pulls for the entire kitchen. But the Kitchen of the Year featured crystal and stainless steel pulls. Other ways to subtly vary the look is by using different countertop surfaces and thicknesses. Don't be afraid to combine them in one countertop, such as the Caesarstone and wood that make up the island.

Instead of packing a kitchen with solid walls of cabinetry, use open glass shelving for a lighter look, such as the shelving above la mattina. (It makes it easy for guests to help themselves to cups and plates too.)

Light fixtures don't have to be in the same finish or style, either. "Varying the materials is intuitive. It is really about what you like," De Giulio said.

Artistic concept

Great designers think outside the box. De Giulio thinks outside the grid. "Approach the design a little more artistically and thoughtfully, and create something unique and not from a catalog," he said. "That extends into things like proportion and rhythm. "For example, all the drawers don't line up in a grid in the kitchen. The TV is not centered above the fireplace.

"I did a lot of offsets in the design, and that made it look more free," De Giulio said.

Simplicity of white

Don't be afraid of white in the kitchen. It can be a practical choice.

"White is never out. It is always a great kitchen color because it is fresh and clean," De Giulio said. "The neutral light color scheme leaves room for subtle variation. Nothing pops like things that are on white."

Keep in mind that functionality can be beautiful, even when it comes to the kitchen sink. The island sink was designed by De Giulio. This stainless steel sink is 45 inches long with a sliding teak cutting board, a slot to store knives, a colander holder and flatware tray for rinsing cutlery.

"With this sink, the plumbing can be in the far right-hand part of the cabinet. It makes the space usable below for bins, storage, etc.," De Giulio said. It is also the winner of the 2011 Interior Design Best of Year award for best kitchen fitting or fixture.

Originally published in Chicago Tribune, Money & Real Estate on September 2, 2012.

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