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Kitchen update should accommodate lifestyle

Step back a bit and it’s plain to see how radically American home design has changed in the past 20 years.

I’m not referring so much to styling as to the introduction of various electronic devices in virtually every room of the house. Some forms of technology — television and the telephone, for example — were present in nearly every home in the 1980s, but they were nowhere near as sophisticated then as they are now.

Kitchens and bathrooms especially, the two most frequently used spaces in a home, function far differently today as a result of technological innovations. Just look at all the electronic options that have become available, including lighting elements that bear little resemblance to your parents’ incandescent bulb.

Q: Our outdated kitchen badly needs some new appliances. What initial purchases would make the most sense for homeowners with a limited budget?

A: Retaining the services of a kitchen designer may seem a luxury in your circumstances, but it can actually prove to be money well spent. Look around for a professional designer who knows about new technologies, and, more importantly, who understands how to tailor your kitchen to fit your lifestyle.

Cabinetry is also an area of design that should be carefully reviewed. Kitchen cabinet storage options are very sophisticated today and can make meal preparation much easier.

The latest appliances are desirable only insofar as they enable their users to perform frequent functions more easily and efficiently. Don’t buy a state-of-the-art coffeemaker, for example, if you actually prefer tea or a smart looking new stove unless it performs better and has the needed features the existing one does not have.

The same common-sense standard should be applied to home-entertainment devices. Do you like to listen to music while cooking? Then, yes, maybe you should invest in a set of high-end speakers and some state-of-the-art video equipment.

The Taunton Press recently published a short book called “Style to Go: Kitchens” that you may find inspirational as well as helpful. Author Josh Garskof shows how to adapt a variety of technologies to even a traditionally styled kitchen.

Some of the suggested designs involve electronics, while others simply update products and fixtures that have long been integral to any kitchen. The photo illustrates one way that storage systems, for example, have come to accommodate more than pots, pans and tableware. In this instance, Garskof explains how to retrofit a base-cabinet drawer to hold a laptop computer.

Considering how many tasks I perform at once in my own kitchen — including reading and sending e-mail messages — this strikes me as a highly practical idea. In fact, I’m now planning to install this very type of drawer.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at rsca@ritastclair.com.

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