Everyone knows that the heart of the home is the kitchen. More than a mere cooking zone, it’s where we bond with family and friends. It might be the place you sip coffee and admire your garden from a bay window in your breakfast nook; it might be where your family recounts the day’s events over a casual supper or where friends gather for drinks and appetizers before the big game.
As the summer months approach, the time might be right for taking stock of your own kitchen space. Is it time to upgrade or renovate? If so, you might ask yourself questions like “what would improve my current kitchen setup?” or “what do we want our new kitchen to look and feel like?”
We might not be able to write your dream kitchen wish list for you, but we can point you in the right direction in terms of what’s hot (and not so hot) right now.
For single-family and multifamily residences alike, a modern, traditional look is in – one with clean, minimal lines and little ornamentation. Consumers are leaning toward kitchens that are less
frou-frou with features that are easier
Of course, classic Shaker-inspired kitchens never go out of style. Shaker style can work in a classic or contemporary space because it focuses on clean lines, craftsmanship and functionality. Also, because many prefer a traditional style, they appreciate the textural beauty of wood.
Designs that combine modern and traditional elements are trending, and consumers are leaning toward a warm, inviting feel instead of ultra-sleek and contemporary. This look is affecting everything from cabinet design to colors, materials and textures to fixtures and lighting too. Also, folks are shaking it
up a bit. Stainless steel is being mixed with wood, and wood is being used
Joan Henley, principal designer at Henley Cabinetry, likes to work closely with clients to gain a fully integrated feel within the home – one that reflects the owner’s personality and lifestyle.
“There are so many elements to consider,” Joan says. “Cabinet finish, countertop material, tile or wood flooring, tile, mirror or paint in backsplashes, wall color, appliance finish, pulls and knobs, and even lighting. When they are carefully considered together, the most popular room in the house becomes unified and flows comfortably to adjacent areas.”
While color and light are appreciated today more than ever, white and cream are also hot right now. “Some homeowners are opting for cream painted maple with highlights and glazes to soften the feel of the room,” Joan says. “One playful approach is to try these finishes on woods such as oak, which will offer graining in the final result, a la driftwood, a look so appreciated in our waterfront settings.”
People are also trying out walnut, mahogany, teak and a myriad of exotic woods.
“It can be fun to incorporate stains and paints that are color matched so that they duplicate hues,” she says. “An example of that might be a color from your grandmother’s favorite piece of china or a special vase.”
Colors and textures
Ever popular neutrals are trending toward gray, a color that can be incorporated in many ways.
“Gray incorporates beautifully with many existing wood stains,” Joan says. “You can use gray to feature areas such as a new island, peninsula, a buffet feature, or simply a replacement of upper cabinets to change the entire kitchen look. Gray mixes well with secondary color elements, even paint finishes of accent blue, brick, ochre and brown!”
Whites and off-whites might still be the most popular overall color scheme, but what if you are tired of your all-white kitchen? If you are a fan of color, then do explore the vibrant, attention-grabbing hues that are evocative of the many colors found in nature – inspiration toward more tactile “touch me” textures like natural marble and granite in honed finishes, or engineered stones that replicate raw finishes. And while wood will always be “in”, there is a trend toward finishes that represent wood in its natural form, rather than a high-gloss or smooth finish. Not surprisingly, flooring trends stay steady with wood and ceramic porcelain tiles on top as the two most sought-after flooring materials.
What about the walls?
If you think wallpaper is out, think again. Wallpaper is, in fact, a major emerging trend. Incorporating wallpaper adds visual impact, even in small amounts. It can be used to complement architectural elements throughout the kitchen or lend contrast to an otherwise simple color palette. Look for wallpaper in unexpected ways and spaces, such as on ceilings, to create striking features. Indeed, this year we will see statement-making ceilings – ceilings that make you look up. More emphasis will go into ceiling design in terms of shape and features, incorporating lighting or classic embellishments making the ceiling part of the design.
Fairleigh Schoolar, owner of The Top Shop in Tappahannock, notes that there has not been a seismic shift in terms of countertops in recent years. Since kitchen renovations are not inexpensive, people tend to opt for quality countertop products that will stand the test of time.
“Granite is still our top seller, but quartz is a close second. Corian is number three, but regaining in popularity,” he says. “We’re seeing people who have granite wanting to go back to Corian because it is easier to maintain. It is possible to scratch and burn Corian, but of the three, Corian is the only one that is totally repairable. I can cut a section of countertop out and put in a new section in and you’d never know.”
Corian and quartz are about the same pricewise depending upon what a client selects. Believe it or not, some granites are just as affordable. “There are four different levels,” Fairleigh says. “Some lower-end granites – and what I mean by that is where it comes from and not the quality – can be the least expensive of the three.”
No matter what you ultimately choose, your countertops should not only reflect your style but also accommodate your meal preparation needs. The same is true of sinks and fixtures. Hands down, stainless steel is the most popular sink material with porcelain enamel a distance second.
“Stainless sinks are still the most popular by a large margin,” Fairleigh says. “I joke that it might not look that great the day you put in in but when you look at it in 20 years, it’ll look the same.”
Some expect that granite composite sinks, made from a compact construction material that is strong and scratch resistant, will grow over the coming year. And while ever-popular pullout faucets will continue to dominate the market, touch-activated or touch-less kitchen faucets are on the rise. Simply wave your hand or a utensil across a sensor activating the faucet.
Appliances and fixtures
Technology is ever-present in our appliances as the focus on convenience, design and functionality spikes. Name brands like GE, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, WOLF and Subzero, just to name a few, are important to consumers too.
According to Marian Wright of Noblett Appliances, located in Kilmarnock, steam ovens are becoming more and more popular in some of the high end kitchens.
“We have a model on our floor that not only steams food, but also doubles as a regular oven too,” she says. “And while gas is still a favorite, induction cooking is gaining momentum.”
Induction cooking means electric cooking with gas response.
“You actually have an electric cooktop surface with a glass top,” Marian explains. “But it uses magnetic energy to cook with and can bring a pot of water to boil faster than a gas cooktop. And if you want to go from boil to simmer? It’s an instance response just like gas.”
Also, microwave drawers are big. “They look like a warming drawer,” she says. “They are installed underneath your countertop, and it’s a great place to put your microwave if
you don’t want it sitting on your counter. You push a button and the drawer opens up, and it’s a very smooth transition so things won’t spill.”
What about refrigerators? “The built-ins and Subzero are very popular, but in terms of regular free standing ones, your French door with freezer drawers on the bottom is going to stay popular. Consumers are also incorporating wine storage into their high-end kitchen with tall, narrow built-in wine refrigerators called a ‘column’ that can hold dozens of bottles
of wine from top to bottom.”
On the fixtures front, silver, chrome and stainless steel are three metallic commonly used in the kitchen, but warmer metals like gold, copper and bronze are peaking the interest of consumers. The texture and gleaming finish of metallics provide a stunning accent to most palette choices.
Not surprisingly, when a homeowner takes on a renovation, kitchens top the list for reasons large and small. Whatever the
reason, most will embrace a space that is warm, stylish, comfortable, and efficient. It is, after all, the heart of your home.