Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Grand opening at new kitchen center

By Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 06 - October 1, 1998

The kitchen is often called the heart of a home. It is also the portion of a house which most accurately reflects new family roles and societal changes. Last Thursday and Friday, the Department of Near Environments in the College of Human Resources and Education hosted the opening of its new Center for Real Life Kitchen Design, a university and industry collaboration which will support a variety of educational endeavors.
Five fully operational kitchen settings within the center give students, researchers, and those in the kitchen design and construction industry the opportunity to learn about new applications of products, materials, and technologies used in residential kitchen design. The center also has multi-media teaching capabilities for classes in housing and interior design.
The kitchens in the center reflect a variety of price levels, life styles, and use of space. They also illustrate new ways of accommodating a wide range of abilities and ages, as the number of older people and children who prepare meals increases.
"The Center for Real Life Kitchen Design will get students to think about kitchen design and how space is used in real, working kitchens," said Julia Beamish, associate professor of housing and coordinator of the kitchen-and-bath-design specialization program at Virginia Tech. "It will also give us the chance to research how kitchens are used today, and what will work for real people."
The center will also be used by industry professionals for training and continuing education. The Center for Real Life Kitchen Design is the first facility of its kind in the nation, and the university/industry partnership which made it possible is a unique endeavor.
The grand opening of the Center for Real Life Kitchen Design provided the opportunity for representatives of the more than 20 industries which contributed to the facility to talk with Tech faculty members, students, and researchers about the new joint venture.
The event Thursday included a panel discussion focusing on "Industry Trends and University Collaborations." On Friday, the event continued with universal design demonstrations and activities and classes on kitchen-design critique, environmental hazards for kitchen re-modelers, creative uses of stock cabinets, and appliances for the new millennium.
Leslie Hart, director of new business and custom publishing with Miller Freeman and formerly publisher of Kitchen and Bath Business, spoke on "Visions for the Future."
The centerpiece of the 1,500-square-foot Center for Real Life Kitchen Design is the General Electric "Real-Life Design" kitchen. With innovative universal design features such as an adjustable height sink, pull-down cabinet shelves, multiple-height counters, and a cook top with space underneath, the GE kitchen is user-friendly for children, older people, and people with disabilities. "It was built to demonstrate what can be done to make kitchen space work for everyone. It's an idea center," said Brian Sherry, GE's manager of contract market development and a member of Virginia Tech's Kitchen and Bath Advisory Board.
Sherry said GE decided to contribute to Tech's Center for Real Life Kitchen Design because of the high-quality programs Tech offers in residential property management, kitchen and bath design, family and consumer sciences, consumer foods, and consumer studies through the College of Human Resources and Education.
Other contributors to the center include American Woodmark, Bosch, Crossville Ceramics, Custom Kitchens, Dacor, Hafele, Home Depot, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Kohler, LesCare, Maytag, Merillat Industries Inc., Plain & Fancy, Reico Distributors Inc., Sterling Plumbing Group Inc., Sub-Zero, and Wilsonart.
In addition to GE's universal design kitchen, the center also includes working kitchens designed for urban upscale apartments, suburban families, and gourmet cooking, as well as laundry facilities, storage and display space, and classroom and lecture areas.