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The events of the last year proved to be a precursor for remodeling trends we will continue to see this year and most likely continue into the next. It prompted homeowners to rethink how they spent time in their houses and create places to work, relax, play and be cooped up for days on end.
As reported by the National Kitchen & Bath Association in its latest design trends study, kitchen and bathroom layouts and styles have begun shifting as a sense of wellness becomes increasingly important. Expanded footprints, smart-home technology, design promoting cleanliness and serenity, the use of organic or natural materials and enhanced outdoor living areas all rank at the top of the priority list.
We spoke with three NKBA designers regarding key remodeling trends they see: Garrison Hullinger, president of Garrison Hullinger Interior Design (www.ghid.design); Laura Muller, owner and creative director of Four Point Design Build (www.fourpointdesignbuild.com); and Michele Alfano, interior designer and architect/principal of Michele Alfano Design (www.michelealfanodesign.com).
NKBA: What are the top residential kitchen remodeling trends you see for 2021?
Garrison Hullinger: Task-related storage that is more compartmentalized. As homeowners continue to buy in bigger bulk, they need a place to store larger product containers or larger quantities of store-bought items. With the pantry storing fewer bulk items and fewer small appliances, we’re able to reclaim that space for organized bliss.
We recommend creating snack zones away from the primary prep and cooking zone so all members of the family can easily find their favorite snacks without disturbing the flow in the kitchen. With built-in desks removed from the kitchen, the pantry provides a great location for “command central.” Activity schedules and other family announcements can be posted in this snack hub.
The kitchen island continues to get larger. We’re taking advantage of better storage systems, adding compost bins, sorting bins for recycling while providing families a place they can plug in their laptop and take a video conference call or do some homework without being separated from the family. Together but separate has never been more relevant.
Maintaining a spotless kitchen, or at least minimizing those few things that bother homeowners, requires us to be more creative in our product selections. We also see the continued desire for less shiny or reflective surfaces — finding super matte laminate is a great choice for a more contemporary look on kitchen cabinets.
This material is a favorite among homeowners as it does not show fingerprints and is highly durable. We use these laminates in higher trafficked areas such as breakfast cabinets while pairing them with large thin-slab porcelain backsplashes for those not wanting to clean or maintain grout lines.
Laura Muller: An increase in wellness-driven design with below-counter storage, built-in residential hydroponic growth appliances, smaller and purpose-focused appliances, and more intuitive organization within the kitchen and bath space are popular today.
One design trend we will continue to see in 2021, for example, is the swapping out of heavy upper cabinets for open shelves — or none at all — to allow the eye to scan freely. It gives the space a much more serene and open feeling, without compromising style, function, flow and performance. This year will continue to reveal even more trends in designing spaces that are deeply customized, personally supportive, multi-tasking, well-edited and better for our environment.
Woodgrain and warmer white paint color are also making their way back into the kitchen; however, now it’s about pared-down lines, slimmer cabinetry detail and lighter-grained matte-finished woods, such as walnut and white oak. In general, much warmer neutrals, with an organic, pared-down elegant earthiness.
Smaller appliances with multiple high-performing elements that incorporate wireless integrated smart technology will continue to be a trend in kitchen and bath design. They are now even more streamlined and easier to use.
Michele Alfano: Kitchen trends include better water filtration, workstation sinks and smart appliances to help with good health.
Bathroom trends include increased demand for steam showers and automated medicine cabinets that incorporate music and lighting.
Trends found both in the kitchen and bathroom include anti-bacterial surfaces and increased storage with better organization
NKBA: What are a few recent obstacles you’ve encountered when remodeling, and how did you address them?
GH: Renovating older midrise buildings can be constraining. Homeowners want to add bathrooms in buildings constructed 30 to 50 years ago that only had one full bathroom for three or four bedrooms. The issue in these concrete buildings becomes space allotment for new shower drains or bathtub drains between the floor plates.
By adding a platform for the shower drain and embracing the height change, we’ve added a larger vanity and shower to what was previously a small powder room with a linen closet.
NKBA: Have you noticed an increase in demand for bringing the outdoors inside? If so, how have you accomplished this?
LM: Absolutely! Especially on the West Coast. Some examples include bi-fold doors, decorative garage-style doors for passing through, green walls and hydroponic under-counter growers, and the expansion of kitchen and bath windows in size and style. Kitchen windows, in particular, are being installed much lower to the countertops for optimum visibility and drama.
MA: Bathrooms today offer a living space for personal pampering by incorporating an organic feeling. A bath space I designed includes concrete, porcelain slabs and stained black oak wood — all sustainable materials. The concrete sink had rounded edges and was purposely customized to integrate moss.
I wanted guests to inherently have a connection to the natural world in the bathroom. Design that connects us to nature is proven to inspire us, increase our productivity and offer a stronger sense of well-being.
NKBA: What faucet trends are dominating?
LM: In our post-pandemic world, touchless faucets are not only becoming a popular necessity for function and purpose, but the manufacturers are catching up with gorgeous faucet design for the kitchen and bath. Easy-to-clean surface materials such as stainless steel and brushed nickel finishes are popular and will never go out of style. These classic tones and metal finishes can handle strong disinfecting and cleaning materials without fading or scratching.
Faucets have become the new decorative accent, enabling designers and consumers to truly customize the details and trims. The design industry has never seen such diversity in plumbing.
NKBA: Have you noticed more requests for heated flooring?
MA: Yes, more clients are asking for warm floors, particularly for their bathrooms. Heated flooring doesn’t heat the whole space, but it is sure to improve your experience and feel more comfortably warm. Costs will be significant upfront, but the benefits are a long-term investment. To reduce costs, use electric heat coils over water tubing.
Additional details and the full NKBA 2021 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends study are available in the NKBA store (www.nkba.org/research).