It’s the year of the kitchen, according to the Parade of Homes, the annual rite of spring for Twin Cities home-gawkers.

Say what?

Don’t brand-new homes always have shiny, updated new kitchens?

Sure. But with more homes (431) this year than on any tour since 2008, builders are betting there’s a lot of pent-up, post-recession demand for state-of-the-art culinary shrines. This year’s kitchen-focused Parade guidebook, highlighting the latest trends and gadgets, is designed to whet your appetite, while providing food for thought — and planning.

So what coveted kitchen features will visitors see in this spring’s Parade homes? We asked Katy Baar, Parade style editor, and Tracy Foslien, designer with St. Paul-based Lampert Lumber, for their takes on the latest trends:

Cabinets

White-painted cabinets remain the most popular choice for local homeowners and buyers, but other hues are filtering in. “I’m seeing bolder color choices in kitchens,” said Foslien. Gray, ubiquitous in kitchens for the past several years, is starting to trend down, while earthy tones and “funky colors” like royal blue and sea green are trending up, she said.

All blues, from deep navy to pale grayish blue, are on the rise, according to Baar, along with mixing and matching cabinets. Think pops of color, such as a bright-red island in a mostly white kitchen.

Open shelving also is gaining favor. “It’s a polarizing trend,” said Baar. “We’re definitely seeing more of it, but it’s not for everyone. You have to be organized — and have pretty dishes.”

 

Countertops

“Granite is still the king,” said Baar. But granite’s lock as the default choice for countertops is starting to wane, and there’s an heir to the throne. “Granite is going out, and quartz is coming in,” said Foslien. Baar also reports a return to butcherblock countertops, particularly on islands.

 

Appliances

You’ll still see a lot of stainless steel, but a new “white stainless” finish looks fresh in today’s white kitchens. “Another element people really like is the 60-inch refrigerator,” said Foslien. Almost twice the size of a standard refrigerator, it’s a 5-foot-wide behemoth with a fridge on one side and a freezer on the other. “People love it,” she said.

For those who like their groceries to make a dramatic statement, there’s also a new refrigerator with a black interior. “It’s really sleek and cool-looking,” said Baar.

 

Lighting

Bigger and showier is better when it comes to kitchen lighting. “People are getting away from three tiny pendants and going with one big chandelier — one big focal point — over the island,” Foslien said. “It’s more like dining-room lighting with shades and dangling bling,” said Baar.

 

Storage

Specialty storage solutions — from pull-out shelves to built-in wine or bar storage to drawers designed for cookie sheets or spices — are a must-have in more kitchens today. So are charging stations, with storage, to accommodate cellphones, tablets and other tech devices, while eliminating countertop clutter. “It’s the easy way to hide all your cords and make it beautiful,” said Baar.