These days, kitchens have become an integral part of the home, and often are not even a separate room anymore but, rather, an extension of the living room. This is reflected in design trends that have become very trendy, besides being functional. For example, there is often an "island" with sink and or stove top that is surrounded by bar stools so you can have your breakfast or coffee in the kitchen, or just socialize with the cook. During the last few years, we've seen many kitchens with an ultra-modern look, consisting of plenty of stainless steel surfaces - especially on refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, or range hoods. This look often is combined with dark wooden or black lacquered panels. At the same time, there also has been a return to more classic country-style designs, utilizing wood panels. Among the new kitchen models at the Dekor kitchen stores is the romantic English kitchen, all painted in a creamy white color, with an island that has a massive wood workspace in the center. A similar design approach is the Provence model, made out of light-colored oak wood. The use of wood creates a warmer atmosphere than the colder futuristic urban look. On the more modern side, Dekor offers the "yuppie" kitchen, a combination of gray panels, a gray countertop and a light wooden workspace/bar that seems to be "floating" in the air, giving an impression of lightness. The classic country-style kitchen can also be combined with ultra-modern looking elements, such as a high, industrial size faucet that can be pulled out (a feature of the Provence kitchen design), or metal bar stools. At the Regba kitchen store in Jerusalem, several wooden models, in shades ranging from light to dark, are available. The new Regba collection, although not on open display yet in this store, tries to combine (they say) "the functional with the emotional, and the global with the local." To this end, Regba offers four different styles. The YOU model is modern looking in bright orange, light blue or green colors with glass doors on the top section that can be personalized by printing text or pictures (of your children, for example) on them. You can change these pictures later, if you outgrow them. The other Regba models are: ECO, using natural materials such as oak wood; MARRON, a dark wooden kitchen with an island that has a range hood and faucet that can be hidden with the push of a button; and WHITE, a retro-Bauhaus look supposed to evoke the Tel Aviv "White City" of the 1930s. Fancier (and more expensive) kitchen designs can be found at the Ziv stores, with such models as the Italian Effeti kitchens, which have a sleek, minimalist look. The prices for these kitchens though certainly aren't minimal, as they vary from NIS 60,000 to NIS 200,000. Less expensive options are offered by the Doit chain, which recently advertised a whole kitchen, consisting of 10 cabinets with wooden doors, a Caesar stone counter top, a stainless steel sink, and oven and stove top for just NIS 19,900 (www.doit-k.co.il). Ziv Kitchens also offers a kitchen especially designed for those who observe kashrut, which requires a complete separation between meat and dairy dishes, with two sinks, two identical storage units, including space for cutlery, at each side of the sink, storage options for Pessah dishes, a space for two dishwashers and cabinets that go up to the ceiling, for extra storage space. The price for this kosher kitchen starts at NIS 18,000. Several kitchen designers have come up with clever solutions to utilize otherwise empty space, or other gimmicks that make working in the kitchen more pleasant and safe. Ziv and Dekor kitchens have cabinet drawers with a hydraulic mechanism that ensures slow closing, so you won't hear the banging and fingers won't get caught. H.G. Sahar (Tel Aviv, Ga'ash) imports Novo Pro drawers by Grass, which also have this closing mechanism and, for super-easy cleaning, you can take off the front panel. These drawers can be opened all the way, so there's no problem searching for something in the back; prices start at NIS 205. At both Ziv and Dekor you can find kitchen cabinets without exterior handles, that can opened either by pulling a niche inside the door, or by pushing it on one side. Some cabinets with a carousel unit have a light that goes on automatically when you open the door, making the search for an item easier. In almost all kitchen stores you can now find clever solutions for that corner cabinet, where in the past you would usually see the carousel unit with the shelves that turn around. Now you have metal racks in the shape of half a circle that can be pulled out to maximize the space, or two units of metal pull-out drawers, one right in front, that can be pulled out and then pushed to the side, thereby positioning the one in the far corner to the front. As an alternative to carousel units for corner draw spaces, Dekor offers custom-shaped drawers that fit perfectly in a corner. Many drawers have interior units that hold plates and have compartments for pots or silverware and other utensils. If you want to use part of your kitchen space for another purpose, you can create niches with sliding doors in front, so you don't detract from the uniform look of the kitchen. This way, you can create a laundry space or even an office space that you hide by closing the matching doors. Sliding doors are integrated in several kitchen models, as well as pull-down front panels, behind which you can hide less attractive items when not in use. Frosted glass doors, which are not totally transparent but only give a hint of what is behind them, are a design element found in many kitchens these days, mixing in nicely with wooden panels. If you're not a very tidy person though, this wouldn't be a good choice. Some kitchens, for example in the Regba or Ziv store, have frosted glass doors that fold open upwards, hiding the dish rack behind them. Special storage units for specific needs can be found in most kitchen stores. For example, a pull-out unit that stores knives on the side, with a workspace on top where you can chop up the food is sold at the Bet Agami store in the Design Center in Tel Aviv. For amateurs of a good glass of wine, Dekor has an exclusive unit with a counter top of maple wood, with a space to slice bread and a drawer to catch the crumbs underneath; space to store a row of wine bottles; and storage drawers. You can order the unit to measure, in different types of wood. In the Hadekel kitchen stores, one of the kitchen models had a special cabinet for the mixer, with a shelf that pulls out and is then elevated to the height of the countertop, so you can get to work right away. Underneath this shelf is a tray that holds the parts of the mixer - a nice option, provided you have the extra space for it.