Gone are the days when storage and functionality in the kitchen consisted of a spice rack, a built-in breadbox and a Lazy Susan corner cabinet organizer. Today’s homeowners are demanding more from their kitchens, and designers and manufacturers are responding.
Since cabinets are critical to kitchen design and functionality, it’s natural that this is where many homeowners start when they’re planning to build or remodel a kitchen. Today’s innovations and smart ideas are designed to make the kitchen more user-friendly and improve storage capabilities. In particular, cabinet designs, hardware, materials and family-friendly features are designed to look good while delivering optimal capability for today’s busy homeowners. A number of trends also address the fact that the kitchen continues to be a gathering point in the home as well as a busy entertainment area.
To spotlight the latest trends in kitchen cabinets, we asked three kitchen design specialists to tell us what they’ve learned as they’ve talked to and worked with clients. It’s clear that kitchens are becoming more efficient and better organized than ever, and cabinetry is reflecting that trend.
From Laurie Payne
Lead kitchen designer, Home Depot
Trend No. 1: More drawers for storage
Useful in both small and large kitchens, pullout drawers offer space for storing linens and plastic containers as well as silverware and cooking utensils. Also, dishes and plates are being stacked in drawers for easy access. Homeowners can adjust wooden pegs in the drawers to fit in different-sized plates. Cooking pots and pans also can be stored in wide and deep drawers instead of hiding them under the stove on a shelf.
Trend No. 2: Snack centers designed with kids in mind
According to Payne, many customers want their children’s needs considered when it’s time to design a kitchen. If there are kids in the house, think about installing an under-the-counter microwave along with a juice and snack refrigerator stocked with easy heat-and-eat foods to grab and go. Older kids will enjoy the responsibility of making their own popcorn and heating up their own snacks, and younger ones can learn the basics of cooking under adult supervision.
Trend No. 3: Bulletin boards or chalkboards on appliances or pantry doors
Home Depot does this, Payne says. The customer just buys the bulletin board and Home Depot puts the molding around it and attaches it to an appliance. She notes that this treatment looks great on the side panel of the refrigerator or on the back of a door. Also jumping on this trend are manufacturers such as Simpson Door Co., which makes magnetic chalkboard panels that can be attached to doors. The entire family can use it as a message center. You can attach notes, photos, artwork and other items using your favorite magnets. Plus, thanks to the chalkboard surface, your family members can unleash their inner Picasso with a box of pastel chalk.
Trend No. 4: Recessed wood panels
When it comes to cabinet panels, there are three styles: flat, raised and recessed. According to Payne, the next big thing is the recessed flat-panel door, which starts as a flat piece of wood with a frame made to go around it. The difference between the recessed panel and the raised panel is noticeable and provides a more contemporary look with a Shaker influence and feel. The recessed treatment also allows for a center stile on the door, creating a look that is hard to duplicate with raised panel doors. The panels can be smooth, grooved or decorated.
Trend No. 5: Darker woods
“White is definitely out. We’re seeing homeowners use darker woods such as cherry,” Payne says. Mahogany and oak are also popular, as are exotic woods such as Brazilian walnut and teak. The darker woods add a warmer feel that many homeowners like.
Trend No. 6: The distressed look
The distressed wood look is big in Florida, Payne says, although people either love it or hate it. The look simulates a well-worn piece of furniture and resembles an antique or restoration treatment. To create this effect, painted finishes are rubbed away to reveal the natural wood underneath, and are then finished with a light glaze that darkens the grooves. Wood treatments can be carried over to stand-alone pieces that resemble furniture. Since you can never have enough storage, these furniture pieces work well for storage and to display china, cookbooks or an antique collection.
Payne’s tip for kitchen design
According to Payne, customers should educate themselves about the difference between semi-custom and custom cabinets. She says that a lot of times people ask her for special sizes, but she has to stay within her 3-inch perimeter. She can’t make a 10-inch cabinet, but she can make a 9-inch one. She says her company delivers semi-custom cabinets to its customers, noting they’re not just plain Jane at Home Depot. They can do a high-end look.
From Tam Newell
Kitchen and bath designer
Trend No. 7: Pullout waste and recycling container systems
We get a lot of requests for double pullout wastebaskets, Newell says. These plastic or stainless-steel waste containers with lids can help prevent trash odors from permeating through the cabinets. Another option is round containers that fit beneath the sink. KraftMaid and Rev-A-Shelf make a variety of waste-container pullout systems.
Trend No. 8: High-tech drawer slides
For more than 50 years, Austria-based Blum has been creating hinge, drawer and pullout systems for cabinetry, drawers and furniture. Its Blumotion drawer slides are designed to provide a smooth and silent drawer closing, even when the drawer is fully loaded with cutlery and silverware. The trick is in the self-closing mechanism, which engages when the drawer is 2 inches from closing and applies resistance, so there’s no clatter, rattle or springing back to distract the cook. Newell says she is recommending more deep drawers all the time, as they’re easier to access and universal in design.
Trend No. 9: Kitchen islands
Newell says her clients want cabinets that look a lot like furniture. That applies to kitchen islands as well. Available in a wide variety of styles, including traditional, Shaker, classic, country and soft contemporary, the island has become a pivotal design piece that, when equipped with cabinets and drawers, also becomes a great place for storage. Features include either solid lower shelves or slotted ones for a lighter look, a heavy-duty pot storage area on the bottom shelf, and wine racks or bookshelves incorporated into the island. Islands also can be equipped with warming trays. Since many homeowners are getting away from the “everything must match” school of design, they’re often finishing the island in a different color or wood than the kitchen cabinets.
Trend No. 10: Tray storage above the oven
In the kitchen, location is everything. By storing large platters, baking pans and long trays above the oven, they are always close at hand and easy to find when you need them. Plus, it’s a great out-of-the-way storage area. The space above the oven is hard to reach, Newell says, but she can reach the serving trays, platters and pans stored there because of their length.
Newell’s tip for kitchen design
Newell recalls something she saw at the Chicago Design Show: Instead of doors hinging left and right, there’s a new mechanism that allows for hinges on the top of the cabinet, so the door swings upward and locks into place. She’s not saying she’s doing more of this treatment right now, but she thinks she will.
From Mark Karas
General manager, Adams Kitchens
Trend No. 11: Designing for different ages
Some of the trends Karas notes are the changing heights of cabinets, appliances and countertops, so they’re at heights that are more user-friendly. This eliminates the necessity of bending over as much as before. Due to the aging population, he is finding that baby boomers are looking for things that will help them as they grow older. Karas also notes that some trends are more European in design, with wall cabinetry that is more lineal, so you’re not trying to reach up 8 feet for storage. More and more companies are offering doors that swing up, allowing for better access to interior space.
Trend No. 12: The European look
A more contemporary European look, with open shelves on the bottom and the top, is becoming increasingly popular. Display shelves instead of cabinets over the kitchen sink can make a narrow space appear larger and gets away from that boxed-in look. This can also be a good look for a storage area over the sink. The open-shelf look can replicate the open window feeling, Karas says.
Trend No. 13: Coffee makers as part of the cabinetry
Appliance garages with tambour doors have been around for a long time. Traditionally, they were used to hide coffee makers and give the counter an uncluttered look. Today’s trend is a variation on that theme. Miele, a Germany-based manufacturer with U.S. offices in Princeton, N.J., makes a fully automatic, built-in coffee system that integrates with your kitchen cabinetry. It can dispense two cups of coffee at the same time in three sizes –espresso, normal and large. It also dispenses hot water, froths or steams milk for cappuccinos or lattes, and even grinds coffee beans. An under-the-coffee-system warming drawer for heating plates, cups and saucers is also available.
Trend No. 14: Open-shelf plate racks
Plate racks are versatile storage areas for plates and saucers with a design that gives a slight hint of Shaker country. Karas says he doesn’t install one in every kitchen, but he has one in his showroom. They’re reminiscent of plate racks called gallery rails that were popular years ago. One benefit is the convenience of being able to stack plates in them directly from the sink or dishwasher. Of course, the style element is a plus.
Trend No. 15: Built-in refrigerated wine cellars
Available in a variety of sizes and designs, the refrigerated wine cellar helps protect wine from the effects of light and heat. Find the model that fits your collection, up to 60 bottles per cellar. Add-ons include an automatic icemaker and a cigar humidor. Full-width shelves pull out for easy access to standard, magnum and half-size bottles.
Over the years, the kitchen has gone through more renovations than any other room in the house. Even the role of the kitchen has changed. What used to be an isolating experience at mealtime within the four-wall environment has changed dramatically. The walls have come down and a light, airy look is more common. With an eye toward innovation and functionality, these 15 trends are improving kitchens.