It's been said that food is the way to a person's heart.

If that's the case, then a well-designed, comfortable and functional kitchen in order to cook the meal has got to be the paved highway to that heart.

This may not have been what Raymond Girard had in his mind in 1961 when he opened a designer kitchen showroom in Pound Ridge, N.Y., but he must have known the kitchen was a room that would become one of the most important in the home.

"It's probably the one room in the home where people spend the most time," said Carrie Deane Corcoran, co-owner of New Canaan's Kitchens By Deane. "Everyone is always in the kitchen. It's the center of family life."

This year is a banner year for the Deane family, who is celebrating the 50 years in Fairfield County one of the premier luxury kitchen designers in the area. The company has gone through many changes in its half-century of existence. It all started in Scotts Corners back in 1961 when Girard opened a dealership for St. Charles Kitchens, an elite manufacturer of kitchen cabinets.

Later, his son-in-law, Peter Deane, joined him, and opened a St. Charles dealership in Darien, and later in 1980 moved the showroom to Stamford. In 1988, the name changed to Kitchens by Deane, and in the spring of 1998 the company opened a new showroom at 198 Elm St. in New Canaan under the leadership of Deane's children, Peter Jr. and Carrie Deane Corcoran.

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"We're celebrating 50 years of our family being in the industry," Deane Corcoran said, adding that their grandfather Girard passed away in January, making the milestone more of a tribute. "We gained a lot from him over the years."

According to Deane Corcoran, the kitchen, or "command center" of the house, has always been the cornerstone of the Deane business, but over the years the business has evolved into a design firm that specializes in all rooms in the house. Today, the company's team of 10 designers -- some who have worked there for more than 20 years - help clients not only their dream kitchen, but also master bathrooms, playrooms, and bedrooms.

"People did originally come to us to design their kitchens," said Peter Deane. "You develop a sense of trust and then they take us into their other rooms."

Deane said the expanded business led to a rebranding of the company in March 2011. The company is now known as Deane Rooms Everlasting.

Deane, who has worked every aspect of the cabinet building business -- from designing to building -- since graduating the University of Delaware in 1992, said new technology and materials has allowed the company to custom design rooms for some of the most discerning tastes.

For instance, he said fish tanks built into cabinetry, kitchen decor matched to antique furniture, and even a kitchen color scheme matched to a client's BMW are all projects that the company has accomplished.

"Anyone can go pick up a cabinet at Sears, but this is going far beyond basic layout to functionality," he said. "There are a lot of things that look great but don't function."

Technology has changed as well. Ever since the introduction of the AutoCAD system and other computer programs, clients can actually see a computer-generated rendering of what their completed design will be like. Before that, hand-drawn designs and the imagination gave the only idea of what the completed work would look like.

But despite that change in technology, simplification is the latest trend. Clients, he said, seem to now go for a simpler look, with stone, glass and wood being the materials of choice.

"The jewelry of the kitchen is the hardware," he said. "People are becoming more cautious in their investments and less risky with colors."

Customer service is also a company tradition that the brother and sister team says has always been a hallmark of the Deane name. Each project gets assigned a designer, project manager, and a field supervisor to form a team with multiple layers of responsibility to manage the projects each step of the way.

"That's how we are approaching each project different from even 10 years ago," he said.

Moving ahead, both say they are happy to call New Canaan home, and the company has no plans to move. Both Deanes are New Canaan natives, still live in town, and are active members of the community. Peter's wife of 16 years, Julia, follows her passion as a chef running Deane Culinary, a catering service and cooking classes in the company showrooms.

"The key to our longevity is good employees and a belief in what we are doing," Deane Corcoran said. "This is a fabulous community which is why so many people come back here to raise families."