Product Trends: Kitchen Remodels Stay Strong

Natural finishes, mixing of traditional and contemporary lead trends in kitchen remodeling

April 13, 2011

Kitchens are thought of as the heart of the home, so upgrades here can lift a homeowner’s quality of life while increasing the home’s value.
“With the housing market still not where people might like it to be, homeowners are staying put and renovating their kitchens and baths, not purely for resale value, but for their own comfort and pleasure,” notes Armstrong Cabinet Products Marketing Communications Manager Tosha Di Iorio.  “There is a deep desire to have our homes be a sanctuary — a refuge and reflection of our tastes and values.”
A National Kitchen and Bath Association survey of more than 100 designers who had designed kitchens and baths from October to December 2010 identified several trends. Traditional kitchens remain the most popular, with Shaker kitchens second and contemporary kitchens third. Dark natural finishes are the top choice, followed by medium natural, glazed and white painted.
Installation of wine refrigerators has declined, while unchilled wine storage is increasing. French door refrigerators are the dominant preference. Almost every design included both trash or recycling pullouts and garbage disposals. Incandescent lights have been largely replaced by energy efficient LED lighting.

Togetherness and organization
With the kitchen footprint usually remaining much the same and homeowners now more likely to dine at home, seating areas for family gatherings are often incorporated into the kitchen, Di Iorio says. She is seeing the banquette of the 1960s with its spacious, family style seating reemerging in today’s kitchens.
Because kitchens are being used for dining as well as food preparation, countertop square footage is increasing. As a result, consumers “want finishes that are not only easy to maintain but are also visually appealing.” says Lisa Herreth, Hanwha Surfaces Product Designer/Marketing Specialist. “Countertops are a key design element in a kitchen. They are a reflection of the homeowner’s style and should portray their individual taste.”
Cabinets that aid in decluttering by providing personalized storage — including pull-out shelves, roll-out pantry drawers, built-in wine racks and cookware organizers — are the newest trend. “Zoned organization solutions recognize the use of the kitchen as an all-encompassing, central room to the home environment,” explains Di Iorio.
Durability and visual appeal
For cabinets, it’s all about wood. Using natural looking materials in neutral or “earth” colors brings the outdoors in, notes Di Iorio. Details like beadboard paneling and simple, honest door styles convey a sense of casual elegance.
“For homeowners who love the look of natural hardwood cabinets but prefer the understated wood grain patterns and textures of maple, Armstrong’s Waverly is a tribute to traditional tastes, yet refined for modern living,” she points out. Known for its close, uniform grain, maple’s fine texture lends itself well to either contemporary or traditional styling. Variations on dark/light (chocolate/crème or black/white), warm wood tones and grays are the hot cabinet colors. The most popular stains include naturals, light browns and darker espresso colors.
Stone’s durability makes it the countertop choice, particularly engineered stone, notes Herreth. Ranked number 7 on the MOHS Hardness scale, quartz is non-porous, making it resistant to heat, bacteria and stains.  Neutral colors with heavy, natural veining are popular, like HanStone’s Sabbia, Grigio and Indian Pearl. Gray remains a hot countertop trend, but warmer grays are more current. And, Herreth says, “Deep plum and navy are the ‘new’ black.” While polished stone remains the preferred finish, honed and textured finishes are gaining ground.
Durability is desired in professional grade appliances as well with stainless steel the dominant finish. “From a design style perspective, the use of stainless steel provides clean and modern geometry combined with the durability home cooks prefer,” Thermador Industrial Design Manager Graham Sadtler points out. However, accent colors as seen in optional blue knobs or the Sapphire Glow blue internal light featured in Thermador’s Sapphire dishwasher add a color splash.
To complement stainless steel appliances, new faucet finishes are generally cooler, with more blue tones, notes Kurt Backlund, Delta Faucet Product Manager. He also sees a growing demand for bronze finishes, even on more contemporary faucet architectures.
“This provides an interesting contrast between the contemporary structure of the faucet and the old-world feel of the finish,” he explains. Light bronze finishes like Champagne Bronze, which provides a warmer look, can still coordinate with stainless steel appliances in contemporary kitchens.
Warmer finishes including Venetian, Champagne and Cocoa Bronzes and even brushed nickels are popular for plumbing
products as part of a trend toward less visual clutter as reflected in objects with less ornamentation and detail, notes Judd Lord, Brizo’s Director of Industrial Design.
“People like the idea of cleaner lines and visual simplification but also want to maintain an air of warmth and friendliness to the space,” he says. “Most still want the room to feel inviting and this goal is aided by placing warmer finishes on these more modern/contemporary designs.”
He also sees much stronger demand for both matte white and matte black as shown in faucets with little to no metallic accents like Brizo Solna and those with split finish like the Brizo Vuelo kitchen suite.

Innovative features
“More than just appliance design and style, today’s consumers are asking for real
innovations that make cooking and cleaning easier,” notes Sadtler.
Consumers want enhanced cooking tools like Thermador’s Star Burner. This star-shaped burner allows for greater heat coverage and a smaller cold spot than conventional round burners. Another desirable feature is the ExtraLow, which provides the widest range of temperature control of any simmer system.
Increasing interest in wine combined with more at-home entertaining means more people are hosting wine tastings. As a result, they want to wash more wine glasses at once in their dishwashers, a feature offered in the 18 wine glass capacity Thermador Sapphire. This machine also has the Chef’s Tool Drawer, a special rack for kitchen knives, spatulas and other oversized tools.
Pull-down spray wands remain popular in kitchen faucets, as they offer convenience and functionality, Backlund notes. Consumers also want features that make faucets easier to use like magnetic docking on the wand.  

Green kitchens
Renewable resources are important in the kitchen, especially if a homeowner or business is trying to qualify for LEED or other green building system points, Herreth points out. Hanwha Surfaces has several countertop products that incorporate recycled mirror, glass and chips.
Delta and Brizo remain conscious of environmental needs and work hard to develop products to improve the user experience while using less water and less energy. Delta recently introduced a Multi-Flow kitchen pull-out wand on the Linden water-efficient kitchen faucets. With this product, the stream increases from the standard 1.5 GPM to a higher flow to fill sinks, pots, vases or other large containers quickly. The Delta Touch2O and Brizo SmartTouch technologies let consumers turn the faucet on and off with a simple tap so people can avoid touching the faucet with dirty hands while saving water between tasks, a desirable special feature in these germ conscious days.
Green homes designed for energy efficiency and water conservation perform well with Thermador appliances. The New American Home, a custom showcase home in Orlando featuring the latest innovative building technologies and products, uses Thermador appliances in its kitchen design. This home achieved the National Green Building Standard’s top status for energy efficiency.
Armstrong offers eco-friendly Origins with PureBond, a urea formaldehyde-free, soy-based adhesive, Di Iorio points out. These cabinets combine easy installation and maintenance with durability.
“The hardwood plywood is derived responsibly from managed forests, and then enhanced with a proprietary resin, giving it particularly strong bonding and water-resistance qualities,” she says. “While people are convinced of the importance of building sustainably and saving water and energy, they don’t want to sacrifice the performance and convenience they’ve come to expect,” Backlund notes.  “The trend is to move towards green, minimalist and contemporary, especially if it makes sense to the budget,” Lord agrees. “You’ll find more green options in flooring in materials such as bamboo, marmoleum and cork and in cabinets where you’ll find many recycled wood species or recycled glass tiles on the back splash.”
He sees energy efficiency and water conservation as secondary messages because consumers are more concerned about performance and affordability.
Kitchens have become an all-encompassing, central room to the home environment.
“Families are changing, and while they may not be ‘cocooning’ anymore, they certainly are ‘nesting’,” Di Iorio notes. “They want their home to reflect the way they really live and to make their daily tasks easier and more comfortable.”

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