2020 Kitchen Trends - by Ulrich designer Aparna Vijayan
Sep 30, 2020

2020 Kitchen Trends - by Ulrich designer Aparna Vijayan

As a design professional, I like to get a thorough understanding of what appeals to my client and then I design to fit their home, tastes and lifestyle. Keeping an eye on the trends can make it fun and interesting, and often inspires a unique twist to what we do! The kitchen is the focal point in today’s open concept homes and it is a place where it can all happen. Moreover, kitchens are multi-functional. We work, do our homework, cook, eat and entertain in these open spaces. So let’s take a look at what is influencing current kitchen trends.

Trends are an important tours de force in high-end interior design that inspire innovative ideas. The kitchen design community is often divided when it comes to trends. There are the more established firms who have their “signature look” and their bespoke luxury interiors. They often regard “trend” as a bad word and are of the opinion that it is just that, a trend, a passing fancy. Others, among the more “hip and hungry” group, devour up any new trends and use them as tools to guide their creative choices.  As a design professional, I like to get a thorough understanding of what appeals to my client and then I design to fit their home, tastes and lifestyle.  Keeping an eye on the trends can make it fun and interesting, and often inspires a unique twist to what we do!

The kitchen is the focal point in today’s open concept homes and it is a place where it can all happen. Moreover, kitchens are multi-functional. We work, do our homework, cook, eat and entertain in these open spaces. So let’s take a look at what is influencing current kitchen trends.

Color!

Color has always been one of the strongest players in kitchen trends especially in cabinetry. Interestingly, white is still the number one color trend and it has overstayed the time that the trade pundits allocated to it. Also re-popularized now are dark stain shades and vibrant paint colors used as accents to the otherwise neutral or white kitchen. We are also seeing a lot of black and white partnership in rooms, with bright metallic gold and nickel accents. Dark jewel tones, like emerald green and plum have seeped into modern palettes and give a luxurious and dramatic flair to kitchens. Neutral earth colors continue to trend in numerous shades of grays and taupes, and are often used alongside sharp whites, to offer a departure from the beiges, tans, and creams of yester years. Shades of blue and green continue to dominate as the colors of choice for kitchen islands, as do the infinite shades of gray color.

Smart Technology

Today’s technology is getting smarter and smarter, and it is definitely inescapable.  It is impacting kitchen design in many ways - some small, like a docking drawer for a home charging station, and others substantial, like smart appliances that act as information hubs with remote vision maintenance and/or virtual assistance. Today, refrigerators can alert you of the need to restock an item or discard an expired product.  Or you could preheat your oven, turn on your coffee maker, or switch on the lights on your way home, all simply by a tap on your smart phone or the sound of your voice.

Just outside the kitchen you have systems like the Ring offering security via a video door bell and Nest offering thermostatic control, irrigation apps and garage door openers that can be programmed to allow your delivery to be placed inside your garage while you are away. And there are systems like those offered by Crestron or Lutron that offer lighting and window shade control or audio video controls, not to mention whole home security systems. There is very little in our lives not touched by technology these days, and the kitchen is no exception.

 

Sleek Simplicity

Less is finally and truly more after the trend of opulent and ornate designs of the early 2000s. Under the guise of traditional design the last major trends saw very fluffy accoutrements, on-lays, and corbels with decorative hand-applied glazes in cabinetry finishes. The current trend of Transitional design is a much more pared-down look in comparison, and has captured the interest of the design community. Homeowners are demanding this particular aesthetic for the stress free environments they seek. We see a propensity of minimalistic styling with shaker style cabinetry or flat panel doors with sleek hardware, or none at all. Open shelving is very popular and some homeowners are sacrificing upper cabinets for this trend.

Eclectic, Artistic Curated Looks

Mixing metals is suddenly not so taboo any more. In fact, it’s now all the rage to subtly mix and match styles within a kitchen, like incorporating a modern hutch in a Farm house kitchen or vice versa. We see designers mixing and matching colors, textures, and materials within the frame work of the color palette. Industrial looks with metallic tube shelving as well as floating shelves are all very in. What we lost in color with the white trend we are gaining in texture, as the rough cut look is gaining popularity along with the emphasis on architectural details like coffered beams and exposed reclaimed barn beams.  And as we are staying at home more and more, we are also seeing the advent of specialized rooms in and around the greater kitchen area like pet parlors, homework rooms, gift wrapping rooms, and potting rooms, primarily among high end clientele.

Counter Tops

Quartz is still leading the trend as the most popular counter top option because of its versatility, durability, consistency, and availability in large formats. These man-made tops allow a clean simple aesthetic in all the soft neutral colors that are currently trending.  We’re also seeing porcelain being used for its marble-like looks, durability, large format availability and for the fact that it can be had in slimmer thicknesses and therefore used in wider application. Among natural materials, Quartzite has managed to capture the market with its marble-like looks and the durability of granite. We are also seeing new twists on traditional materials like hardwood with metallic finishes, textured metals such as zinc, and stainless steel, flamed or honed natural stone, and live edged exotic wood species. 

Custom Storage Solutions

Today’s kitchen is multi-functional in every way, so custom storage options are very key to that.  Kitchens are not just a conglomeration of cabinet boxes used for storage; rather, the functionality of the interior of these cabinets is equally relevant. Appliance garages, drawer dividers, roll out shelves, tray dividers, spice caddies, lighted and tiered cutlery trays, garbage and recycle centers, hidden coffee bars, lazy susans, baking stations, pull-out vitamin storage, etc. are all sought after. A place for everything and everything in its place is the motto.

Flooring

Porcelain floors remain the real leader among flooring trends with their maintenance free, pet friendly and durable properties. Today, porcelain is offered in large format tiles thus minimizing grout-lines and a giving a cleaner and more uniform appearance through their consistency. Hardwood too still remains as one of the leaders. The difference however is that today we have a wide array of pre-finished factory assembled hardwood floors in all sorts of exotic species, textures and colors available to select from without having the inconvenience of finishing it on site. And in tile, floors designed with custom cut and statement tiles are quite the rage; they are often juxtaposed within an otherwise neutral palette.  Last but not least, vinyl has resurged as a relatively new player in the flooring market and has managed to make great inroads because of its versatility and durability, and yes, amazing looks! 

Islands and Peninsulas

Islands and peninsulas are not new concepts in kitchen design but now that kitchens have become more multi-purpose, islands have assumed a center-fold role. We are seeing larger, single level islands with thicker counter top edge treatments on them. The material choices for island tops are getting more exotic, utilizing materials like metal, agate stones, wood, and quartz, and we are seeing the use of new textural applications as well. Built-up quartz island tops have become very commonplace and easily double as prep spaces and work spaces.

Bold Back Splashes

Gone are the days of tumbled marble and custom hand painted back splashes. Multi textures and bold patterns in vivid pops of color are the fastest growing trend in back splashes. We are seeing innovative mash-ups of materials like glass and metal in various mosaic formats and exciting patterns like chevron and arabesque taking over. Porcelain slabs that mimic popular marbles with bold veining like Carrera and Calcutta offer book matching from counter tops and help create statement focal points. Even the common subway pattern back splash, now in larger scale options are used as durable and maintenance friendly iterations of the past.

Connecting with the Outdoors

Bringing the outdoor in has been a trending concept in residential design. Accordingly, kitchen windows are getting larger and more dramatic within open concept plans. We are seeing upper cabinets being compromised for the sake of statement windows. Exterior glass wall systems with foldaway doors connect the kitchen to exterior patio spaces seamlessly. Kitchens with attached breakfast nooks that open up to patios and decks through large French doors are becoming commonplace too.

Hoods

Ventilation hoods have become focal sculptural pieces and their style and design have definitely turned more transitional or modern. Mixed metal hoods, cleaner wood mantel hoods and contemporary glass hoods have replaced the old stucco and plaster hoods completely. Hoods are given a lot more prominence in complimenting or completing a kitchen design theme.

Multipurpose Sinks /Prep stations

In our new multipurpose kitchens, sinks are assuming multipurpose roles as well.  Island sinks often double as ice buckets and chilling centers for entertaining.  The Galley Sink system, for example, is very popular and it comes in large widths (48”-60” wide).  It provides prep, storage and cleanup stations in one convenient place, along with the necessary accessories to handle all of these tasks efficiently. We also see motion sensor activated faucets trending and they work very well with such systems.

Specialty Appliances

The last five years have seen the advent of a whole host of new appliances like microwave drawers, convection steam ovens, speed ovens, pizza ovens, etc. We are also seeing wine servers and beer kegerators gaining popularity in kitchen bars and in butler’s pantries.  Cooktops have gone from electric to gas to induction. We see ethnic inspirations in cook tops like Hibachi and wok burners.  Micro green houses and composting appliances are gaining popularity along the west coast and it won’t be long before we see them more widespread.


In short, trends are exciting, and “keeping up” is completely worth the effort. There is nothing wrong with following trends as they are often backed by solid research and development, and they help designers and clients make smarter and more informed choices. But the real fun is in finding the trends that speak to you and getting your creative juices flowing, and then crafting a more enduring iteration of that trend!

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