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The No-Trend Trend

If there’s a trend in kitchens, we haven’t been able to find it. We can tell you a few prevailing ideas—stone floors, granite countertops, commercial/residential stoves. But the best-designed kitchens vary with the architecture of the homes in which they’re found. In Southern California, that means contemporary, French country, Spanish mission or Craftsman. "Kitchens are so diverse," says Susan Bachand of Kitchen Expo, "there is no trend."

Well, she modifies that a little. "Black and stainless steel are hot," she says. "I haven’t used white appliances in years. And soffits are out. [Soffits join the ceiling with the upper line of the cabinets.] You don’t have to keep the cabinets all the same height. And you don’t have to line the walls with cabinetry. If you do, the flavor is lost.

"Stone floors are hot now, too—limestone, travertine, granite." How about ceramic-tile floors? "Out of five kitchens, I’ll do one in ceramic tile. Of them, domed, beveled tiles are the most popular." And wood floors? "Wood floors are not really wood," she says. "The most serviceable are wood veneer with vinyl layers on top. They have the look of wood and are the same price, but last longer. Wood doesn’t do well in traffic, and it gets water-stained. Vinyl-wood floors come in all the wood finishes—bleached, natural, cherry, whatever you want."

Bernard Freisler, a designer with European Kitchen Design in San Diego, misses the "honesty of material" he finds in his native Switzerland. "Californians mix their styles. They take from any time period and mix it in; nothing is really true." He remembers his grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen in Switzerland, where 12 to 15 people could gather—with a wood-burning stove and not much cabinetry. He likes the movement back to earthy materials—stone, granite, steel—or tumbled marble for a rustic look. And with wood used not as the dominant element but as an accent, to soften the architecture. "Like a curtain in a living room" is the way he puts it.

On these pages we show a variety of kitchens, from high-tech to homey, and a few baths that represent new heights in luxury pampering. Bathrooms are almost as large as kitchens these days. Or as living rooms. And they’re packed with the latest in conveniences, from body sprays to built-in televisions. It’s hard to find a newly designed bath that isn’t contemporary in design—no Old World baths that we’ve been able to turn up. When people put in baths these days, they want them to look exotic, like the ones they’ve seen at hotel resorts. But maybe Old World’s a trend we’re saving for the future.

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