Cherry cabinets, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances have been the holy trinity of upscale kitchen materials for at least a decade.
But now there are signs we're ready to move on. The latest trend survey from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) reveals a hint of fatigue, at least with cherry and granite.
Cherry is still widely used but "designers are slowly shifting away from it," according to the NKBA's survey of member designers, who were asked which materials, products and styles they incorporated into their designs during the final months of 2011.
Granite is still the No. 1 countertop material, but its lock released ever so slightly, from 91 to 87 percent in kitchens and 84 to 71 percent in baths.
To get a local perspective on kitchen and bath trends, we weighed in with Jolynn Johnson, president of Crystal Kitchen Center Inc., and Lynn Monson, owner of Dream/Maker Bath & Kitchen and Monson Interior Design.
Cherry wood in decline
"Really? That's not us," Johnson said. "Cherry is our No. 1 wood. I don't think you can go wrong with cherry." Minnesota is more traditional than some other markets, she said, which may explain cherry's enduring popularity here.
But other woods are gaining favor, according to Monson, including quartersawn oak and exotic wood veneers, such as zebrawood, rosewood and black walnut.
Darker finishes on cabinetry
Dark finishes remain popular, but mixing of dark and lighter finishes are even more so, Monson said. Many homeowners are opting for dark lower cabinets and light upper cabinets, or dark cabinets used below an island, with lighter cabinets on the walls. "Cabinets should look like furniture -- more of an unfitted look."
"Glass tile is strong," Monson said. But solid-glass backsplashes create a very contemporary look and aren't widely used locally. Minnesotans generally favor glass as an accent, often mixed with stone, Johnson said.
Currently available LED bulbs are a little too bright for recessed lighting, according to Johnson, although "they're getting better." LED lighting is most popular for accent lighting, such as under cabinets, she said.
"High-quality ones are fantastic," Monson said, but there are many inexpensive models that don't work well, so buyers should shop with care, he cautioned.
Monson is not a fan. "No. There are so many bad ones," he said. Minnesota bathroom makeovers are more likely to include a mirror flanked by sconces over the sink. "If we can sink them [medicine cabinets] into the wall, that's much better," Johnson said.
KITCHENS AND BATHROOMS
Transitional over traditional
Monson is definitely seeing more transitional kitchens. "It goes to the casual side of how we're living now," he said. But most homeowners take their cue from the style of their home, Johnson said, with owners of older homes opting for traditional kitchens and baths, while those in newer homes are likelier to favor a lighter, less ornate look.
"Granite is still clearly No. 1," Monson said, with quartz a strong No. 2. Glass countertops also are coming on. "I love the look of glass," Johnson said, "but the upkeep is more; you can see fingerprints." For that reason, glass vanity tops are better for a guest bath than a master bath.
Shades of gray
"It's the new neutral; anything you put with it works," Monson said. "It's a comfort color, and doesn't have the upkeep of white." But today's gray is not your mother's cool '80s gray. "This is a warmer gray, like taupe."
Polished chrome is back
Brushed nickel is still the most popular hardware finish, but polished chrome is close behind. It's classic, Johnson said. "Gold comes and goes, but polished chrome is safe for the next 100 years." And unlike antique copper, which comes in a wide variety of shades and tones, polished chrome "always matches," Monson noted.
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784