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•Design a multi-functional kitchen.
•Get tips on how to blend the kitchen into the rest of the home.

Walk into any American home on Saturday night, and chances are the hub of activity isn't the living room or dining room but the kitchen. Formerly the cordoned-off space where the home's cook toiled in solitude, the kitchen has become an informal, friendly place to eat, chat, cook and lounge. Whether it's day-to-day family life or weekend entertaining, it's all happening in and around the kitchen, the new center of our homes and lives.

Moving beyond the traditional workspace of sink-oven-countertop, people increasingly want their kitchens to match the way they really use the space. This could mean making dinner while catching the latest DVD release, helping kids with homework at the kitchen table, or centering the party around a kitchen island. "The days of the kitchen being closed off from the rest of the house are gone," says Brian Gluckstein of Toronto's Gluckstein Design Planning. "We're seeing seating in the kitchen: big comfy chairs in front of a kitchen fireplace. We're seeing the dining room table right in the kitchen."

As our socializing and family life shift to the kitchen, it's only natural that the room reflects the personality of the people who live in it. Whether your taste runs toward the chef-chic gleam of stainless steel, the old-world warmth of a Tuscan-style kitchen or the distinct lines of Art Deco, the choices are nearly limitless.

New shapes, styles and colors make it easy to create a kitchen that blends seamlessly with the rest of the home. Classic neutral tones are still strong, but they've been updated. The KOHLER Black 'n Tan sink, for example, uses a hot enameling process to mix blacks, browns and tans for a look that complements a variety of other colors and textures. Cashmere™ and Sandbar are two more KOHLER sink colors that are neutral yet rich. These colors will never go out of style, and details like pulldown faucets, marble countertops and undermount sink designs keep the overall look fresh and current.

"Whether it's appliances, sinks or cabinetry, clients are becoming very conservative with color in any permanent fixture fittings," Gluckstein says. "But they're interested in being adventurous when it comes to the decorative details. I always recommend to my clients: stay classic with the things that are expensive to change."

Whether you use your kitchen most often for cooking elaborate meals, sipping a hot cup of morning coffee or catching up on e-mail, it's more likely than ever to be the focal point of your home. The party always used to end up in the kitchen. Now it starts there.


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