Your kitchen is the one place where you want to be really careful about trendy choices. The last thing you want is a kitchen that’s out of sync in just a few years simply because you followed a trend. Instead, look at the trends in terms of the value they bring to your life and your home.
Here are nine trends that are popular now, but have staying power because they address lifestyle needs, convenience, and savings — ensuring you’ll enjoy your kitchen for many years.
1. Love White? You Won’t Go Wrong
It’s hard to believe that white kitchens could get any more popular. But the preference for white cabinets continues to soar. Sixty-seven percent of National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) members said that white is their top choice for cabinets, a 20% climb from two years ago. And layering white on white — white backsplashes beneath white cabinets on white countertops — was spotlighted in the 2014 Best in American Living Awards presented by the National Association of Home Builders.
Whirlpool’s White Ice collection, with its glass-like glossy sheen, is being hailed as the first appliance exterior to rival stainless steel.
White appliances are so much easier to keep clean than stainless, which smudges if you as much as look at it. Plus, the new icy look is simple, cool, and able to blend into transitional and contemporary styles.
And since stainless has filtered down to the masses, it no longer has that expensive and exclusive cache it once had. But white will always have staying power.
Related: Why White Kitchens Stand the Test of Time
2. Want Color? Go for Neutral Gray
The popularity of sleek, sophisticated gray color schemes is soaring. Seventy-one percent of NKBA designers said gray is the fastest-growing color scheme for kitchens in 2014.
But gray can be tricky. In cold, cloudy climates, gray can appear frozen unless you use it on warm materials like wood cabinets, or pair it with hot colors likes reds and yellows. On the other hand, gray can appear pleasantly cool in sunny, hot climates — a breath of fresh air in heat and humidity. So while white kitchens are a safe bet, gray is neutral enough — and close enough to white — to have staying power if you use it well.
3. Embrace Smaller Appliances
Small is big these days. Micro-living is taking off for millennials and retirees. Owners of multigenerational homes are installing tiny, secondary kitchens for returning adult children and elderly parents.
Typically, these micro-kitchens feature a two-burner cooktop, combo microwave/convection oven, 18-inch dishwasher, and 60-inch fridge or refrigerator drawer.
4. Choose Quartz Counters Over Granite
In 2013, quartz and granite almost tied in countertop popularity. But in 2014, the trend is definitely toward quartz.
“Consumers Reports” says quartz is the toughest countertop material, which resists scratches, burns, and chips. Crushed quartz stone is mixed with resin to produce countertops that range from solid colors to the look of real granite, but they’ll beat natural stone in toughness. It’s easy to maintain, and unlike granite, you don’t have to seal it annually to prevent stains.
Related: Which Durable Countertop is Best for Your Kitchen?
5. Invest in LEDs
Ribbons of LEDs are showing up in the weirdest — and most wonderful — kitchen places: Along toe kicks as nightlights; on the inside of cabinet doors to show off grandma’s china; concealed in crown molding to wash ceilings with light.
LED rope or cove lights are gaining in popularity because:
- LEDs come in a rainbow of colors, from bright to soft white, red, blue, and green.
- You can get creative about where you install them.
- LEDs emit virtually no heat, so you can keep them on forever without burning cabinets or walls.
- LEDs are energy efficient, lasting 50,000 hours on average — five times longer than CFLs.
And they’re coming down in price, making them more affordable for the average homeowner than they were a few years ago.
6. Rethink Your Fridge
Refrigeration is no longer limited to a single, hulking unit. Homeowners are customizing their cooling needs with “point of use” refrigeration, adding cool where they need it.
That could mean adding a counter-height produce fridge in your prep island, next to a wine cooler for the adults, and a juice/soda fridge for the kids.
Don’t think we’re talking about dorm-fridge quality and prices. U-Line point-of-use refrigerators, for example, offer (depending on the model) 11 shelf positions, full-extension slide-out bins, and five food and beverage settings labeled deli, market, pantry, root cellar and beverage. Units typically sell for $2,500 to $4,000.
7. Install a Touch-Activated Faucet
Touch-activated faucets are bursting out the fad category into the kitchen must-have column. In fact, in 2013 their popularity jumped to 30% from 20% the year before.
On the face of it, touch-activated seems a little gimmicky, and with prices starting around $350, it’s certainly a lot of money. But it’s great for those times when you’ve got dirty, chicken-goopy hands, and for those in your household who refuse to turn water on and off between tasks because it’s too much hassle. And as water becomes scarcer, anything that saves gallons will have value — and save you on your water bills.
A reason we recommend touch free over hands-free: As you know from public bathrooms with hands-free activiated faucets, they’ll often turn on when you don’t want them to and not turn on when you do.
8. Stick with Transitional Design
More than 60% of NKBA designers say contemporary, with its sleek simplicity, is the fastest-growing kitchen style. Fussy doodads and decorative and distressed glazes are out.
Contemporary looks sleek and clean, but can also come across as cold. The design encourages a non-cluttered look, which can be hard to maintain in a busy home. So it’s better to hedge your bets with transitional design, which combines contemporary and traditional to exploit the best parts of each.
9. Embrace Accessibility Because It'll Make Your Life Easier
Aging in place is a big snore — until you get to that age when the right modifications will allow you to stay in your home. And since a large part of the population is reaching retirement age, accessibility finally is catching on — even with homeowners who aren’t intentionally seeking those features. Why? Because the designs make so much sense.
It’s not a trend that’s going away. The NKBA’s 2014 survey shows that 56% of designers specified accessible/universal design features in kitchens during 2013, and most believe they’ll add more and more features in the years to come.
Three here-to-stay trends:
1. Side-opening ovens at counter height: You don’t have to reach up or bend down to fetch your turkey, just comfortably slide it out. It’s one of those slap-your-forehead tweaks that make cooking so much more ergonomic and accessible for everyone.
2. Drawers with deep pockets: Base cabinets have evolved from back-bending storage for pots and pans to deep drawer space — typically 24 inches deep — that can hold just about everything in your kitchen.
Continuing that evolution — heck, let’s call a revolution — are deep drawer organizers, ranging from $7 to more than $200, that make sure everything stays in its place, rather than rumble around in chaos. You can customize drawers with:
- Slots to hold plates and store knives
- Dividers to keep your water bottles separate from your vinegar collection
- Stackable trays that keep utensils away from flatware
- Removable boxes that let you reorganize the drawers at will
3. Microwave drawers: Just like the side-opening oven, by installing the microwave below counter height in a drawer, it’s easier for everyone to use. Just open it up put your food inside, close, and start it. That’s better than above-oven height, which has been the typical location for many years.