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Luxury has a new domain as kitchens transcend their status from a functional prep space to veritable objects of desire.

The kitchen is the focal point of our daily lives. It's where we eat, meet and sometimes even work. For serious lovers of luxury opulence rules the roost, right down to the kitchen sink. Read on for the latest in sublime kitchen design.

A far cry from the housewife's gilded cage that it once was, the kitchen has become the heart of every home. As kitchens have become more capacious, incorporating open-plan dining areas, the focus within the home has shifted. Forget the living room, with its souped-up high tech TVs and unfathomable surround systems, socializing is the new scene and the kitchen is the place do it. As leading kitchen designer Johnny Grey explains, "Close your eyes and imagine your ideal kitchen. What you imagine is a place to go, not to cook. We don't go there to do repetitive tasks, we go there to live and spend time relaxing."

This year's models confirm that the proof of the pudding is indeed in the eating, or at least the eating area, as form no longer follows function in the modern kitchen. In the past this room has been judged not by its beauty, but by its gadgetry. But times have changed and so have our tastes. The kitchen has evolved and it is now more magnificent than ever. From decadent crystal extractor fans to bold, daring finishes, the message is clear - utilitarianism is dead, long live luxury.

GOING UP
Siemens' fantastic new LiftMatic oven means no more struggling with cumbersome doors. One touch of a button and down drops dinner, dumb waiter style, offering ease of use, not to mention hours of entertainment. Apart from a discreet control panel there are no handles or doors to speak of, resulting in a superbly sleek and streamlined look.

Siemens LiftMatic wall oven - www.siemensappliances.co.uk



BRIDGING THE GAP
Giorgio Armani's empire continues to flourish, as the highly successful Armani Casa range grows beyond furnishings. This year he has confirmed the kitchens' new elevated status as a style haven with the introduction of the covetable 'Bridge' range of modular installations.

Typically, il maestro pays exceptional attention to detail as he conceals tools and technology behind a sophisticated chromatic color palette of chocolate brown and natural woods, such as Brazilian Sukupira wood, combined with bronze metal surfaces. This is understated elegance at its very best.

Armani Casa Bridge kitchen system - www.armanicasa.com


DESSERT ISLAND
Made from Corian ®, a contemporary alternative to stone and formica, Zaha Hadid's fantastically futuristic Z. Island, created for Italian kitchen manufacturer Ernestomeda, is more Space Odyssey than space-saving, and certainly cuts a dash in the modern kitchen.

A stunning main island unit takes pride of place, incorporating a cool, white cooking and work surface with integrated LCD TV/computer screen, iPod and a touch control panel, all of which is spectacularly sci-fi. Matching storage units gracefully morph along the walls, creating long, sinuous lines for which the award-winning architect is famed.

Z. Island by Zaha Hadid for Ernestomeda – www.ernestomeda.it

CLEAR CUISINE
Ennio Arosio's Simplicity Project for Santambrogia Milano takes transparency to new heights. Using famous Saint-Gobain Glass (the same glass company which began making mirrors in the 17th century at the request of Louis XIV and more recently, the glass of the Louvre Museum's celebrated pyramid) the designer uses it for a number of functions, the most exciting being this beautifully sculptural hob and sink unit.

Near seamless joins create a fantastic illusion of invisibility, while the elements are boldly exposed as water and fire spectacularly float in thin air.

Santambrogia Milano's Simplicity Project by Ennio Arosio -www.santambrogiomilano.it


TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR
Dazzle guests with more than just your culinary skills. The beautiful new Star cooking extractor from Elica is a far cry from the conventional steel cooker hood which graces many a hob. Living up to its name, this breathtaking crystal sphere really is the star of any kitchen.

Star extractor by Elica. - www.elica.com

GETTING GRAPHIC
We're more used to seeing Alessi's iconic designs on top of the counter, but the unmistakable look has expanded into units too. This year the world famous design label launched its first kitchen furniture collection to a rapturous reception. Alessandro Mendini's Transparente combines the humor and design that has made Alessi one of Italy's best-loved houses.

Transparente by La Cucina Alessi - www.alessi.com

RAWHIDE
It may not be the most practical choice for a kitchen, but when it comes to matters of style, leather wins hands down. When London's luxury leather supplier, Alma Leather, was asked to upholster a kitchen in its magnificent chocolate cowhide, it was a sure sign that this is no longer the humble room at the back, but the piece de resistance in any self-respecting design devotee's home.

Leather enhances the walnut units with striking results and a look that's full-on glamour from any angle.

Upholstered leather units by Alma Leather - www.almahome.co.uk

MOSAICING A MEAL OF IT
Embracing an age old tradition, easy to clean surfaces have never looked better as mosaics get glossy in matt and polished effects. Bisazza's infinite variety of shades and combinations inspire endless possibilities, transforming a workspace into a work of art. It's time to shine.

Bisazza tiles, Labirinto design by Carlo Dal Bianco - www.bisazza.com

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