UTILIZING NOOKS & NICHES

The Wired Kitchen
Talk about multitasking. This 5-foot-long custom built-in by Front Row Kitchens functions as a media center, a message center, and a mini home office all in one. Positioned on a back wall that's open to the kitchen, the hutch extends its range with a flat-panel TV that swivels out 180 degrees (1). On it, the homeowners can watch CNN, or review vacation pics when a digital camera's memory card is popped into the computer tower. The desk is equipped with file drawers down below (2) and is designed for convenience at 36-inches-high (3), rather than a standard 30 inches. That way family members can grab a stool from the kitchen island just 3 feet away and check e-mail on the laptop (4); visit a kid away at college via the clip-on webcam (5); download tunes or video on the MP3 player (6); or check the day's calendar on the Internet-enabled "smartphone" (7). Shown here: LCD TV by Samsung; PowerBook G4 laptop by Apple; PD-1170 webcam by Creative Lab; iPod 30G and Universal Dock by Apple; PCS Vision/Smart Device PPC-6700 by Sprint.

Easy Access
When there wasn't enough space to add a library, Hinsdale, Illinois, architect Ann Nowotarski got creative and carved this computer alcove off a great room. To keep the 7½-foot-wide, 6-foot-deep nook off the TV area looking like the rest of the Nantucket-style house, homeowner and interior designer Ann Kohout continued the kitchen's cabinetry (1) and beadboard splashback (2), and concealed cords and computer equipment. The hard drive sits on a pull-out shelf behind a vented file drawer (3), and wires are snaked into the kneehole (4). Faux mini-drawers overhead (5) are actually one tilt-out cabinet door, exposing five pigeonholes where family members tuck cell phones and sunglasses. "Some might say that granite is a cold surface," says Kohout of the hard-working desktop (6) that can seat two. "But if the kids leave a drink out on it overnight or there's a spill, it's fine."

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