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Image: Hamptons kitchen
Sothebys
This posh Hamptons estate has a kitchen worthy of Gatsby-esque parties. This professional cooking quarters was designed by restaurant consultant Mark Stech-Novak.
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updated 3/14/2011 1:28:14 PM ET 2011-03-14T17:28:14

You need do no more research than watch a rerun of reality show “The Osbournes” to confirm that kitchens are the epicenter of American family life. We use them to cook, eat, congregate and mingle. So it's no wonder that home buyers fork over top dollar to create lavish spaces to dish out food.

Forbes has compiled a list of 15 U.S. homes for sale with dream kitchens a professional chef would salivate over. Our friends at Realtor.com, Trulia.com, Sotheby's International Realty and Coldwell Banker Previews International nominated dozens of luxury homes for the list. All contenders offered delectable cook spaces, but those selected from among homes ranging in price from $2 million to $68 million stood out for unique amenities or jaw-dropping layouts.

Forbes.com slide show: America's most decadent kitchens

The one thing all of these kitchens have in common is high-tech luxury appliances: Sub-Zero refrigerators, top-of-the-line ovens with six-burner ranges by Viking or Dynasty (to name a few), multiple dishwashers usually by Miele. Many decadent kitchens also boast built-in java machines, wine coolers and butler pantries. Sotheby's new San Francisco listing at 1823 Jackson St. touts a built-in La Cornue rotisserie oven. The home at 410 Lovell Ave. in Mill Valley, Calif., has an adjoining garden with kefir limes, figs and Meyer lemons.

Kitchens are one of the most popular upgrades to existing homes. That's not surprising the rooms get so much use and can start to show their age, explains Elizabeth Mendenhall, vice president of committees for the National Association of Realtors. Forbes.com: 10 tips for first-time home buyers

"It's an easy way to bring your house up-to-date to compete with some of the newer homes on the market," she says.

Coldwell Banker Previews International, a luxury real estate brokerage selling residences priced at $2 million and up, just started a monthly e-zine for clients called, "Luxury from the Inside Out." The February edition focuses primarily on the kitchen, highlighting Coldwell's own "Dream Kitchen" listings and sharing celebrity chef Todd English's tips for hosting at-home dinner parties around what he calls this "social gathering place."

Forbes.com: 10 best home renovations for the money

English suggests incorporating high-top and counter seating–something he uses in his restaurants and personal kitchen. Many of the kitchens we included on our list have expansive stone or steel bedecked islands that double as food preparation stations and eat-in countertop spaces. Examples include Sotheby's Santa Barbara Glass Pavilion estate's sleek high-top counter, Paragon Real Estate's converted firehouse with cozy kitchen loft and Coldwell's 1328 Aberdeen Lane listing with 14-foot granite-topped island.

Christopher Peacock has built an entire brand around his kitchen designs. You can see why gazing at his culinary masterpiece in the Frick Estate's $68 million Stone Mansion. Others, like Greenwich, Conn.'s Northwood estate, rely on the creative eye of bespoke designers like Clive Christian. Others, like Long Island's $58.5 million Water Mill Mansion-Estate, choose restaurant-quality layouts designed by commercial kitchen consultants like Mark Stech-Novak.

Forbes.com: 10 worst home renovations for the money

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Poggenpohl, a 118-year-old German company renowned for pioneering luxury kitchen design, has experienced a marked uptick in remodeling projects stateside, thanks at least in part to the economic downturn.

"Kitchens have become the number one selling feature when a home is on the market," says Ted Chappell, president of Poggenpohl U.S., Inc. The company's U.S. business currently consists of 60% remodeling and 40% new construction.

Forbes.com: Jobs you can do in paradise

Fancy appliances, elite design consultants and rare construction materials mean luxury kitchens cost anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. These rooms may conjure up delicious visions among would-be celebrity chefs, but that doesn't mean sellers will necessarily recoup their investments. In fact, homeowners who invest in a major upscale kitchen remodeling project get back just 60% when they sell, according to the National Association of Realtor's 2010-2011 Remodeling Cost-Vs-Value Report.

For those on a budget, it may leave a nice aftertaste to know that less expensive kitchens in less expensive homes do better, returning 70% of the cost in a major remodeling and 73% in a minor one.

Forbes.com: Surprising home-energy hogs

© 2012 Forbes.com

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