Picturing a home without a kitchen is nearly impossible. This one room is the heart of the home. Although its principal function is to prepare and cook meals, over the years, it has become so much more. It’s not a stretch to say the kitchen is the epicenter of the home.

When people entertain, it’s the room where folks gather. Large or small, formal or casual, kitchens provide a haven within the home that’s impossible to find in other rooms. It truly is the heart of the home.

It also runs the risk of becoming tired and dated, perhaps because it gets used so frequently, and because in some way, shape or form, every member of the family uses it – even if it’s just to zap a frozen entrée in the microwave, heat some soup or brew some coffee.

Design experts all agree that kitchen spaces should be welcoming and easy places for family members to congregate. In addition to all the other parts a kitchen plays in the life of a home, it sets the tone. Investing in updates and upgrades is sound, because it is the most important room when it comes to a home’s resale value.

Renovating an entire kitchen can be a fun and challenging project, especially when you update with the latest colors, finishes, hardware, backsplashes, cabinetry and appliances. We talked with Lane Applegate and Maureen Hodor, Certified Kitchen and Bath Designers, and owners of Kitchens by Design, on St. Simons Island, recently about several of their current favorite trends.

Color Clout

Colors – on walls, cabinetry or furniture, are one way to immediate update and/or upgrade a space. The colors used in today’s kitchens run the spectrum from pastels to primaries, with neutrals remaining a favorite.

A blue and white kitchen – utilizing either bright or light blue – provides an unexpected pop of color against the backdrop of basic white, and it always looks fresh. Another way to use contrasting colors is to pair white with light-stained oak, which packs an even bigger punch when accented with matte black cabinetry and dark-stained wood floors. Or, keeping with the light-stained oak, go for a more monochromatic look with floors, the island and the chair legs all in the same color family.

Make a Splash

When adding or updating a backsplash, Lane and Maureen suggest using tile that is different from the classic regular subway tile.“Try a square, geometric pattern or interesting shape,” said Maureen.

For example, in this all-white kitchen, the backsplash has little-to-nothing in common with a traditional backsplash. It still serves the same purposes – protecting the walls from cooking incidents and providing a lovely accent – but the installation of this solid slab has a rugged yet refined feel, which was accomplished by a wide, irregular grout pattern, in grey. Oftentimes, homeowners simply want an interesting pattern, which the graceful rounded pattern accomplishes.

Bright Spots

Choosing the right lighting fixtures can make all the difference in the ambience of a kitchen. First and foremost, there has to be functional lighting for the cooks in the family to be able to prepare food, but that doesn’t mean throwing away aesthetics. Lighting over the island and other gathering spots in the kitchen is important. White and gold-tone pendant lights are great accents for a neutral room. A lantern-style light can evoke a traditional feel, and when installed in a coordinating or contrasting color, can provide additional visual interest as well as helping to light the way.

Not so Basic

When updating a kitchen, appliances are a major consideration. People who love to cook want a kitchen that reflects their passion and installing a high-end kitchen is a reflection of that. Even though professional-grade ranges won’t automatically make anyone a better cook, they are generally more powerful, precise and versatile than regular ranges. They’re also more solidly constructed and manufactured with top-of-the-line materials – plus, they really add to the look of a kitchen.

Lane and Maureen have their favorite kitchen appliance packages, for sure.

“Wolf and Sub-Zero are really our favorites, followed by Thermador,” Maureen said.

Wolf manufactures stoves, cooktops, wall ovens, warming drawers and ventilation equipment, whereas its corporate partner Sub-Zero manufactures refrigeration, wine storage and other under-counter units. Sub-Zero was one of the first appliance manufacturers to make refrigerators that allows buyers to install kitchen cabinet panels on the doors to match the rest of the kitchen, making them appealing to discerning designers and homeowners.

The kitchen pictured was not designed by Kitchens by Design; it is from the Wolf website and provides an example of the manufacturer's appliances.

Finishing Touches

Just as a fabulous necklace can make the simplest dress a standout, and completes the look, feel and vibe of the location its installed. There are two categories of cabinet hardware – pulls and knobs.

Three of the Lane’s and Maureen’s favorite finishes are satin brass, polished nickel and black.

Satin brass is a muted brass, with a textured finish. The finish is close to a golden-brown color. It is more flexible color-wise than other finishes and can be used in both traditional and modern homes.

For those who prefer a silver-tone but don’t want the brightness of silver or chrome, polished nickel is the answer. It is durable, and perfect for homes with children, as it doesn’t show fingerprints or water spots like some other finishes.

Black hardware is stunning in a kitchen, and can be manufactured from a variety of metals, including oil-rubbed bronze. It provides great contrast on white or light-colored cabinets, and a monochromatic feel with black cabinetry.