What’s going on in today’s kitchens? Pretty much everything. Not just cooking and casual dining, but also entertaining, TV-watching, working, doing homework and just hanging out with friends and family, according to the recent Houzz Kitchen Trends Study.
The design website surveyed more than 2,400 of its users, all recent kitchen renovators, and found that we’re spending more time in our kitchens and doing more different things there — and designing spaces accordingly.
“It’s surprising to me how much entertaining is going on in the kitchen,” said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. Half of those surveyed said they plan to entertain guests in their new kitchens.
That dovetails with what Minneapolis designer Charlie Simmons, Charlie & Co., is seeing locally. “We’re seeing a trend away from formal dining rooms,” he said. “People are incorporating dining function into the kitchen, with seating at an island, an informal dining area and built-in banquettes.”
With more activities taking place in the kitchen, more features are being added to accommodate them, including dining tables and chandeliers, desks and workspaces, wine refrigerators and built-in stations for coffee/tea. One in five renovators plan to watch TV in their updated kitchen.
The open floor plan, with kitchens open to other living spaces, continues, with nearly half of respondents opening up their kitchen to another room, and 65 percent creating more connection between the kitchen and the outdoors.
However, some local designers are starting to see a countertrend.
“Opening up the kitchen is still common, to create a great room/kitchen, but I’m seeing a little trend the opposite way,” said Susan Palmquist, kitchen designer and co-owner of Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, Minneapolis. “It’s surprising to me, it’s been such a strong trend for such a long time. But people have lived in ’em now. They’re tired of having to clean up in the middle of a dinner party or look at the mess. They want to enjoy it. I’ve noticed more people saying, ‘I don’t want my kitchen out there. Tuck it away a bit more.’ They don’t want it to be isolated, but they don’t want it like a barn anymore.”
Simmons, too, is having more discussions with clients about compartmentalizing and defining areas within the kitchen. “What’s trending now is coming up with more creative ways to separate spaces without building a wall,” he said. “Soffits, lighting veils and strategic cabinet placement can create visual separation.”
With more people doing professional work and homework in their kitchens, Simmons also is designing more “mini-offices,” including cabinets with cellphone chargers and a small countertop where someone can sit down, pull up a stool and pull out a laptop or tablet. “We’re moving the secondary function off to a designated area,” he said. “Mom or Dad can keep an eye on kids doing homework [at the island] and not get in the way of meal preparation.”
Other “big ideas” from this year’s annual study:
Modern looks: Three in four homeowners are changing the style of their kitchen during the update, with a majority choosing transitional, contemporary or modern design over traditional. Even owners who want to freshen up kitchens in older, traditional-style homes are opting for clean, streamlined looks in the kitchen, Simmons said. “They want to be good stewards, but also to represent who they are.”
Lighting: Multifunctional kitchens require multifunctional lighting. Four in five renovating homeowners are updating their lighting, and more than half of the updates include three or more lighting types, including general lighting, recessed lighting, task lighting under cabinets, decorative lighting such as pendants and chandeliers, lighting inside cabinets and ambient lighting to highlight architectural features.
Materials: Granite continues to be the top countertop material, chosen by 45 percent, according to the survey, followed by engineered quartz at 26 percent. That’s not what Simmons and Palmquist are seeing locally, however. “We’re seeing more quartz coming up,” said Palmquist. Simmons cites growing interest in marble and soapstone.
The top flooring material was hardwood followed by ceramic or porcelain tile and engineered wood. A large majority of appliances (75 percent) are stainless steel.
Mix and match: Mixing of materials continues. “Butcher block is coming in, in combination with granite or quartz,” said Sitchinava. “Or built-in baking stations with a marble surface, then granite for the rest” of the countertops.
“It’s more interesting aesthetically to mix materials,” said Palmquist. And different tasks and activities call for different surfaces. Sitting at a counter and resting an arm on cold stone is less comfortable than a wood surface, she noted, especially during a Minnesota winter. “Granite is so hard. There’s no give to it.”
Storage: Homeowners prioritize storage above all other functions, with 60 percent saying ease of storing and finding things was the most valued aspect of their new kitchen. Specialty storage is increasingly popular, including pullout waste or recycling cabinets, cookie-sheet organizers and spice organizers.
Cabinets: Shaker-style cabinets are the most popular, chosen by 40 percent of renovators. And well-made cabinets are an investment in longevity, according to Palmquist. “Don’t skimp on cabinetry. A kitchen is a workroom. You’re using it hard, opening and closing. People are spending a fortune on appliances and countertops, and the cabinetry has to hold up a lot of stuff. People are remodeling seven-year-old kitchens because the cabinets are junk.”
Colors: Neutral colors continue to reign in kitchens, according to the study, with white, beige, gray and natural wood finishes topping the preference list. “White and off-white are most common — always have been, always will be,” said Palmquist. “That neutralized base feels clean, light and bright.” But navy blue cabinets are gaining ground, as is a “beachy driftwood” look.
Simmons is seeing more strong contrast in kitchen color palettes. “We’re still doing white or off-white walls, but with more black or dark gray cabinets,” he said.
Budgets: And now the bottom line: How much does a new kitchen cost these days? A third of homeowners are spending $25,000 to $50,000 on their kitchen renovation, according to the study, and another third spend more than $50,000.