October 2020

What’s Cookin’? Trends in kitchen design

Author: Cheryl Alexander

While following most trends may feel like trivial pursuits, kitchen trends typically outlast their time in the spotlight, and the return they offer will make the investment worth both any time and money spent. From cabinetry to the kitchen sink, from backsplashes to countertops, from flooring to lighting, if you are planning a kitchen makeover, here is everything you need to know about what is hot right now.

While kitchen remodels are always popular projects among homeowners, the amount of money people are spending on kitchen projects is on the rise, according to the 2020 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, with median spend on major kitchen remodels completed in mid-2019 at $35,000, up 17 percent from a year ago. However, while many homeowners opt for complete kitchen overhauls, the breadth of kitchen renovations has been scaled back for the second year in a row. For example, upgrades to countertops and sinks are not as widespread (89 and 83 percent, respectively) compared with two years ago (94 and 90 percent). Similarly, most folks are not choosing structural upgrades, including opening the kitchen to other interior rooms, changing kitchen layout, or adding square footage.

“It is remarkable to see median spend on kitchen remodels grow by double digits for the third year in a row,” said Nino Sitchinava, Houzz principal economist. “Combined with a two-year decline in the scope of kitchen remodels, spend increases confirm our findings of significant price inflation in the home remodeling industry due to changes in international trade policy. Homeowners are dealing with increasing product prices by substituting materials, as indicated by slower growth in the use of engineered quartz and a decline in the popularity of engineered flooring materials, highly impacted by tariffs on imported materials from China.”

The study from Houzz lists the 2020 kitchen island as the crown jewel. The survey of nearly 2,600 U.S. homeowners found that nearly two-thirds of renovated kitchens feature an island. One third of homeowners add an island during renovations, while nearly a quarter upgrade an existing island. Islands are not only big in popularity, they are also sizable features, with a third measuring more than seven feet long and another 39 percent measuring six to seven feet long. In addition to their substantial physical presence, islands are a hub of activity from dining (58 percent) to entertaining (49 percent) to socializing (45 percent).

Appearance-wise, many homeowners select island finishes that stand out from the rest of the kitchen, opting for an island cabinet color that contrasts with their main cabinets. Contrasting with gray comes in at the top, followed by blue and black. If you want a completely different material on your island countertop, butcher block is the trend at the top of the list. As well, nearly all new islands (98 percent) are featuring additional storage, and a little over half have built-in appliances including microwaves, dishwashers, garbage disposals, cooktops, and beverage refrigerators.

Contrasting countertops throughout the kitchen are also popular updates, including white and medium wood. Quartz is quickly becoming an affordable and low-maintenance alternative to marble.

While the all-white kitchen will probably never go out of style, natural elements are trending with some pops of color. Blue in kitchen walls is an emerging trend, appearing in seven percent of upgraded kitchens (up from five percent last year). And, if you have been wanting to layer in more natural elements, try “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” items. Many companies offer green solutions for cabinets and shelving, as well as handmade tiles in materials like terra-cotta and cement.

Style-wise, among the 85 percent of renovating homeowners who change their kitchen style, transitional, contemporary, and modern top the list, while the formerly famous farmhouse style is losing favor.

Farmhouse-style sinks, though, are still high on homeowners’ list of must-haves. And now that faucets and other hardware are available in a wide choice of colors and finishes, sinks are following suit. Sinks have risen on the scale of importance in kitchen design and to meet homeowners’ demands for both function and definitive style. Look for bold sinks in rich gold and brass finishes to gain popularity.

Bold backsplashes are in, with one of every 10 homeowners upgrading a backsplash by installing it all the way to the ceiling. Another 63 percent install tile from their counter to upper cabinets or range hood. When it comes to color, white is the most popular, followed by multi-colored, and gray.

Shaker cabinet door styles are by far the most popular among upgraded cabinetry (61 percent), followed at a distance by flat-panel and raised-panel (21 and 18 percent, respectively).

The top two floor choices among those upgrading their flooring are stained or unstained hardwood and ceramic or porcelain tile. Vinyl flooring, the third overall choice in renovated kitchens, continues a three-year climb from 10 percent in 2018 and 12 percent in 2019 to 14 percent in 2020.

High-tech faucets and appliances are still wildly popular upgrades; however, their growth has slowed slightly. Half of upgraded faucets are high tech, boasting water efficiency, no-fingerprint coating, or touch-free activation. Similarly, a quarter of new major appliances purchased feature high-tech features, with wireless controls leading the pack.

Recessed lights reign king among the light fixture upgrades, followed by under-cabinet and pendant lights. Not surprisingly, almost all homeowners who are upgrading their islands also choose new lighting above the island, with pendants, not surprisingly, as the most common option.

Also, not surprising is that more than four out of five homeowners are opting to hire the professionals to do their kitchen upgrades and remodels. General contractors top the list, followed by kitchen designers, interior designers, architects, and kitchen remodelers.

And finally, the Houzz study revealed that more than half of homeowners who were in the midst of a kitchen renovation or design project when the coronavirus pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020, were able to continue with their renovations (52 percent). Not a bad finish and one that will likely boost the statistics for any studies reflecting the number of couples who stay married in 2020.

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