A brief look at what’s hot in kitchen design.

The kitchen has evolved into more than just a room of undistinguished storage cabinets and cooking utensils. It has become a key gathering place where people go to eat, drink and be merry. In some respects, it is the most popular spot in the home.

Research backs that up. According to a recent study on home shoppers’ preferences, commissioned by Merillat Industries, 15 percent of a person’s time in the home is spent in the kitchen — the most of any room. Designers are cashing in on this trend by styling kitchens to become a focal point of the home. What follows are some of the recent trends culled from interviews and trade shows throughout the past year.

Big is Beautiful

The new kitchens continue to be big, open and expansive. The galley kitchen of the ‘50s has become obsolete in all but a few older homes. Yet, with the increase in size and scale comes new challenges in kitchen cabinet layouts.

Kitchen designers have a number of strategies to fill all the space builders are giving for kitchens. For example, homeowners are requesting double islands, as well as bigger islands, with separate lighting accessories on the ceiling. To fill up the vertical space, another option for designers is to use larger moulding buildups and stacked cabinets. One example would be stacking a 48-inch-tall cabinet with a 12-inch-tall cabinet on top, with mouldings on top of that.

In reaction to the openness of these large kitchens, customers are not using as many wall cabinets as they have traditionally. Instead of a solid bank of cabinets, the design is for a few cabinets to be used as columns or arch supports, as part of the open kitchen concept. Another trend in large kitchens is for cabinets to be used as walls to divide spaces. Pedestal cabinets also are becoming more popular, especially when used as a post for a column or as an architectural element in the room.

Traditional at Hearth

Although many homeowners prefer mixing and matching styles and colors, as a general trend, the traditional style — with its crown mouldings and architectural details — continues to be preferred. According to a study on consumer preferences by Decorá and Kitchen & Bath Design News, dealers rank traditional cabinet styles as the number one choice, followed by transitional, modern or contemporary and retro/-mid-century modern styles.

Modern or contemporary, in a softened form, is also prevalent in many cabinet designs. In evidence at some of the recent design shows, many manufacturers are recycling older, existing door styles and pairing them with newer finishes and options for a contemporary look — not stark, but a stylish, sleek alternative to the Old World styles that continue to be popular.

Another alternative is the application of horizontal grains on the doors and drawers. Although popular for a number of years in Europe, this look is just beginning to make inroads into the North American market. Typical species used for this application are wenge, walnut and ipe.

Mixed into contemporary, at all levels, is the use of aluminum and glass doors as accents. The variety of choices continues to expand, with an enormous number of glass insert styles available, including clears, opaques and patterns — giving designers almost endless possibilities.

The “endless possibilities” theme could be seen in other areas as well, including finishes.

A Glazed Look

Common to perhaps all styles of cabinetry is the continued popularity of glazed finishes. One reason for the trend is that glazing often enhances the appearance of color, adding depth and richness to the wood. Helping spur the popularity of glazes is their custom, almost furniture-like appeal, versus a mass-produced finish.

With regards to finish, another trend still going strong is the use of two-toned painted cabinets. Instead of a solid bank of cabinets, consumers are mixing and matching finishes, as well as species, to achieve a more aesthetically appealing, relaxed look that mimics the rest of the home. “Blending finishes, styles and materials gives a vintage feel to this eclectic look,” says Connie Edwards, CKD, CBD and director of design for Shenandoah Cabinetry, American Woodmark Corp.

And although white continues to be a popular, neutral color, maples and cherry — particularly those with glazed finishes — continue to rank high. Along with natural oaks, quarter-sawn white oak seems to be a new hot trend. In the past year, more and more cabinet manufacturers prominently featured this species in their showroom displays; not just in a customary Arts-and-Crafts or Mission style setting, but often in an updated, modern style.

For the kitchen, the Decorá survey says, colors in warm earth tones, ranging from deep browns to mossy greens, are the hot colors of today, stealing market share from the traditional palettes of deep blues, yellows and bright reds. White on white, or with a color contrast, also is popular in the marketplace.

Options are not only abundant for the decorative outside of cabinets, but also for the inside. New solutions to maximize interior space and functionality continue to be introduced. Particularly popular are pullouts as well as two-tiered drawers, with smaller pullouts behind a single-drawer front.

Glazes enhance the color of wood, making them a popular finish for all styles of cabinetry. American Woodmark’s Shenandoah Cabinetry, for example, now offers optional butterscotch and cream glazes on its McKinley Maple door.

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