* File photo. Upgrade your kitchen: As kitchen spaces open up, the secret is to look for clever storage ideas.
* File photo. Upgrade your kitchen: As kitchen spaces open up, the secret is to look for clever storage ideas.
Kitchens are one of the most important rooms in the house when it comes to remodelling, selling and buying. Interest in them is so rabid that they command their own trade shows and gobble up a huge portion of HGTV's and DIY's online websites.

According to the Association of National Homebuilders in the U.S., improvements in these extensively plumbed rooms also carry one of the largest rates of return when houses are sold; 78 per cent of the remodelling costs are usually refunded, so builders, potential buyers and soon-to-be-sellers carefully watch the trends in kitchen design.

Kitchen trends

Here to share her insight on such matters is Elizabeth Falconer, owner of Position by Design in Fort Worth, Texas, who has been in the building business for almost three decades. She has completed hundreds of custom homes and more than 1,000 model homes and interior-design projects in 42 states. These are her observations on trends that are waxing and waning.

"Your home design dictates how you socialize," Falconer says and, in many cases, the kitchen has become the hub of the house, as well as a performance stage. She attributes this to famous chefs taking over the kitchen and making it as much a male preserve as a female one.

"It's more practical to put in two residential-grade stove/oven combinations. They give you the double cook tops, which are the benefit of an industrial-size cooking surface, plus the two ovens, and they actually cost less," she says.

n More appliances: Many kitchens are kitted out with two ovens, two work islands, two dishwashers or dishwasher drawers and two refrigerators. "Upscale homes will have additional features, including wine storage and built-in appliances like coffee makers," she says. Falconer also has seen double laundry rooms, "one for the master bedroom and one for the guest wing." Wondering where you'd put another side-by-side washer and dryer? No worries, Falconer says, "I expect to see European-style washer/dryer combos in the near future, and they take even less space."

"There is also a demand for morning kitchens in master bedrooms," she says, so that the homeowners don't have to pad downstairs to get their coffee

n Clever storage: As the kitchen space opens up, there is less wall space for upper cabinets, "so we will see an increased pantry size, and use of smart storage," Falconer says. She points to a drawer under the bottom shelf in the kick plate area, flush with the floor. "This is something you'd find on a boat where every square inch has to be useful." She pulls out photos of tall, narrow cabinets next to the stove that hold row upon row of single spice jars, each one easily found and neatly arranged.

n The end of the triangle: For decades, kitchen designers have been lauding the kitchen's "work triangle," which is the configuration between the stove, refrigerator and sink. Falconer says the "work triangle is a dinosaur. The triangle needs to be a trapezoid to include the most utilized appliance - the microwave." Incorporating this appliance necessitates rethinking relationships of use.

"The refrigerator should be on the outside edge of the space near the seating area," she says, because it gets a lot of kid traffic, and this keeps the non-cooks from crossing paths with hot food coming from the ovens.