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Hot Zones in the Kitchen

Spice up your cooking area with these tricks

More in Kitchen

Photo 1 of 4Nestling the stove in an alcove creates a dedicated arena for cooking.

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Written by Susan Millar Perry
Produced By Nicole Sforza

Whether you're contemplating a total kitchen makeover or just want to spruce up a section of the room, follow the pros and start with the cooking area. "The stove itself is almost secondary; it's the elements around it that create an eye-catching focal point," says John Troxell, director of design at the Kreamer, Pennsylvania–based Wood-Mode, a custom cabinetry company. A handsome vent hood and a dramatic backsplash are simple details that can put an exclamation point on the site. "If you can't go all out, this is the one spot where a splurge will pay off," says designer Claudia Penna of Cabinets Plus, a kitchen and bath design firm in Palatine, Illinois. Redoing this work area also offers utilitarian benefits, like added storage, increased lighting, and the convenience of a pot filler. Read on to learn how to infuse your stove surround with style and stature.

Build a Nook
Here, the arched wooden surround conceals overhead ventilation and lights with gracious old-world charm.

Create a Focal Point
Take advantage of the space between wall studs to mount a display and storage shelf behind the cooktop. The top of the recess echoes the curved surround.

Factor in Function
With the main sink in another area of the kitchen, this handy, swing-arm pot filler reduces heavy lifting.

Create a Striking Backdrop
One of the easiest ways to distinguish the stove is to set it off with a knockout backsplash. "It's a natural spot to put something beautiful," says kitchen designer Robin Denker of Calabasas, California. Consider installing a mural of ceramic or stone; some companies will create tiles by imprinting a scenic design from your own photo library. For a sleek, industrial look, a gleaming swath of stainless steel or metallic mosaic tiles can match commercial-style appliances. And for a classic touch, adorn the backsplash with the same color tiles used elsewhere in the room—but with a twist. Penna suggests running the tiles on the diagonal and setting them off with a border in a contrasting hue. "The effect is like hanging a framed picture over a mantel," she says.

Choose the Right Ventilation
You have two options with the vent hood: Hide it or highlight it. For a minimal look, conceal the unit within a wooden surround that matches your cabinetry. Or, accentuate the structure: "A statuesque vent hood visually anchors the room," says Los Angeles designer Peter Dunham. Your choice of finish can help it blend in with the style of your space. "Tempered glass or stainless steel are fresh and contemporary, while a plaster-clad hood evokes an old-world Mediterranean or a southwestern motif," says Dunham. The decorative objective of a vent hood is to enhance, not overpower, the kitchen. As for capacity, vents are rated by cubic feet of air per minute (CFM). Choose one with a CFM specified by your cooktop or range maker. The bottom of the hood should be a minimum of 6 inches wider than the stove (to catch cooking vapors), and installed about 60 to 66 inches above the floor, though its top can soar as high as the ceiling will allow.

If space is tight above the stove, forgo a traditional hood and put in an over-the-range microwave with air vents on its underside. Also consider a downdraft version that rises from the countertop when you need it and is hidden when not in use.

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