We’ve all seen them…the decorating TV shows that trumpet the latest high fashion trends in kitchens — from glass countertops to microwaves that double as flat screen televisions. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype for the latest high-priced item, but what trends are worth your attention and investment?
While industry experts often disagree on style issues, they all agree on one thing: the trend of bigger, more open, more important kitchens in the U.S. is here to stay.
“A generation ago, kitchens were thought of as the place where mom cooked by herself, then brought the food out to the rest of the family. Now, kitchens are the hub of the home, where the entire family gathers in the evenings, after work, to do homework, share meals, and entertain friends. Everything we’re seeing in kitchen design is just another way to make kitchens more multifunctional and welcoming,” said Ellen Cheever, ASID, a well-known kitchen designer, educator, and frequent contributor to industry publications like “Kitchen and Bath Design News.”
Trend #1: The Kitchen Within a Kitchen. As more Americans build homes with kitchens that are open to living and dining rooms, kitchens are being treated more like any other room in the house, with elaborate moldings, specialty lighting, and finely crafted floor and ceilings.
“People need their kitchen to be expandable and collapsible, too,” Cheever added. “On the weeknights, they need to be able to navigate their kitchen quickly when they’re just warming up a simple meal. But on the weekends, they need it to open up enough so they can prepare a fancy gourmet meal and entertain a large group of friends while they are cooking.”
As a result, designers are creating quick prep areas where a small sink, cutting board, and microwave are close together. Larger homes are often using a small butler’s pantry off the main kitchen for this purpose, with a clean up sink, microwave, prep area and small refrigerator. The butler’s pantry has the added convenience of keeping dirty dishes out of the way while entertaining, and storing large amounts of serve ware, linens and china.
Cheever noted that customers are also putting in larger sinks in the island, to make a food prep zone, and placing larger farmhouse sinks along the back wall for more elaborate “clean up centers.”
“The days when kitchens always had one sink right under the kitchen window appear to be over,” Cheever said.
Trend #2: Eclectic Is In. Customers of all kinds are interested in the new, unusual and artful, according to Jan Aufderhar, semi-custom manager for MasterBrand Cabinets in Jasper, Ind. MasterBrand Cabinets makes many of the built-in cabinets sold in the U.S., including its upscale semi-custom Decora line, sold through more than 1,000 dealers nationally. While the upscale markets are often driving innovation, these trends are now becoming common at all price levels, Aufderhar said.
“Instead of having a solid bank of cabinets with a standard look, customers are mixing and matching finishes, putting cabinets up on feet to make them look more like freestanding furniture, and choosing exotic woods and hardware,” she said. Decora alone offers more than 1,000 different finish and door combinations. The company’s knobs and drawer pulls are often a focal point in a kitchen, providing a “jewelry-like” panache with more expensive and quality made materials.
“White cabinets are still popular, but the sales are going down for those as customers go for painted finishes like chili pepper red, or rich, hand-rubbed finishes like dark cherry,” Aufderhar said.
Customers are adding more display area into upper cabinets as well, putting in clear or art glass inserts into their door fronts and gallery lighting inside the cabinet to show off prized ceramics or hand-blown glass collections.
Trend #3: More Tall, Less Wall. As customer’s floor plans continue to be more open, there is less space to mount above the counter cabinets. As a result, manufacturers are creating more height options for cabinets to help break up the space between rooms.
“We’ve been installing a lot of pedestal cabinets — these are cabinets which are taller than the rest, usually 42 inches or more, that act almost like a built-in-pedestal at the end of a long run of under the counter cabinets. It’s a great post for a column or other architectural element for the room,” Cheever said.
She noted that designers are also creating counters with two levels. The high level breaks up space between kitchen and living room areas and reduces the appearance of counter clutter. It also provides a handy place to pull up a barstool to do homework. Designers are also creating “baking centers” with lower than standard counter heights perfect for kneading bread or making candy.
Trend #4: Expanded Office/Work Desk Areas. “Used to be, there was a desk in the kitchen so mom could store her recipes and work on the bills,” Cheever said. “But as more homes got wireless internet access, mom didn’t like being cooped up at a kitchen desk.” Today, customers are forgoing tiny kitchen desks for larger desks that wrap around into the family room — perfect for watching the kids while they surf the internet and paying the bills while enjoying TV with the family.
Trend #5: Everything at Your Fingertips. “Customers today are no longer satisfied to have cabinets that merely look good. They want them to work efficiently for them, too,” Aufderhar said. Decora was one of the first in the semi-custom cabinet market to offer a full line of cabinet storage options, from overhead wine racks, to pull out spice racks and chopping boards, and more. The ACCESSories line, Aufderhar said, has been very popular with the gourmet cook who doesn’t want to scramble around in the back of a cabinet for a pot or pan during a dinner party.
Appliance manufacturers have been quick to capitalize on the trend too, as they develop warming drawers, beverage chillers and more for under the counter.
By offering customers options like buffet storage for linens, fine glass storage, beverage centers, and the like, Decora has made it possible for customers to design more complex areas in their kitchens. “Instead of the kitchens with just a traditional cook, prep, clean-up, and food storage areas, customers can use their kitchen cabinets to create a formal dining area, a casual dining space, a homework area, a wine service/bar area, or anything they need, just by carving out a corner of space in their kitchens. It’s the products and the planning that are truly key to making the open-concept kitchen trend work. It’s a trend that truly reflects how people are living these days, and I think it’s a way of life that will be around for a long time,” Aufderhar said.