Homes & Living – The kitchen is where memories are made


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Confused by a mix of summer weather, pandemic guidelines, the need to be safe yet the need to be social, people are choosing to be out-and-about, enjoy staycations and/or develop more functional home spaces.

A key component of living has become the kitchen area, which is generally a focal point for most family gatherings.

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“We still see a lot of open design kitchens, with the family room and dining room sharing space with the kitchen,” said Kim Evans, general manager of Cranbury Design Center in Hightstown. “Large islands, two-toned kitchens utilizing blue and gray as contrasting colors are popular. Large windows that let natural light in are also big right now. Stainless appliances, beverage centers and pantry storage areas are in lots of the kitchens we are designing now.”

According to Elizabeth O’Leary, one of the lead designers at Cranbury Design Center, there certainly have been some design changes in kitchens due to the pandemic, Evans said.

“With families sheltered in their home spaces, we’ve seen kitchens become more multi-functional. Kitchen islands have become larger as some clients are using them as work-at-home spaces and for children’s schoolwork. The pandemic has led towards more home cooking and experimenting with different recipes (bread baking, garden-to-table meals and gourmet cooking) and our clients’ kitchen design and appliance choices reflect this. We’ve designed beverage centers in some kitchens for coffee stations and cold beverage storage out of the footprint of the main kitchen area,” Evans said.

If a homeowner is unable to redo their entire kitchen, there are certain aspects that are more viable or popular, or even less expensive than others.

“Hardware changeouts, adding or re-doing the kitchen backsplash, a new coat of paint and possibly upgrading the appliances are popular changes people can make to breathe new life into their kitchens,” Evans said.

However, construction has also been impacted by the lockdown and shortage of materials and employees.

“With the supply chain challenges, a lot of kitchen design professionals are having right now extended delivery times for appliances, cabinets, some plumbing, tile and lighting fixtures; kitchen renovation times have stretched beyond the usual 10-12 weeks we usually see. We work with clients to set a project timeline once we have confirmed delivery dates for appliances and cabinetry – these have the longest lead times in most kitchen projects right now,” Evans said.

Aside from making the kitchen more manageable and functional, renovations can also impact a home’s resale value.

“A newly renovated kitchen can be what separates your home’s value and sales price versus an outdated kitchen,” Evans said. “But kitchens are highly personal, so we advise our clients to make selections based on their personal style and to enjoy their kitchen space. If a client is looking to update to sell, we try to help them keep the remodel simple.”

Kitchens are a main component of a home because families tend to create and enjoy memories centered around food, Evans said.

“The kitchen has long been the gathering space of families to create these memories. No matter how big or small, the kitchen is where we all tend to gather,” Evans said.

Cranbury Design Center is located at 145 W. Ward St., Hightstown, owned by Frank O’Leary and Charlie Rini. For more information, visit

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