NKBA charts design trends for 2019
April 1, 2019 | 2:12 pm CDT
Industrial style kitchens are among the trending design, according to a recent study by NKBA. Credit: Carlie Korinek, designer.

An extensive survey of designers and specifiers by the National Kitchen and Bath Association reveals a variety of new trends driving kitchen design. Among those are new appliances, transitional and contemporary styling, and increasing use of L-shaped plans with large islands.

With 538 respondents, including designers, builders, architects, and manufacturers from the U.S. and Canada, the survey highlights a multitude of trends, including design styles, innovations, layouts, size, costs, appliances, accessories, and technology.

The most popular kitchen layout, according to the survey, is far and away the L-style with 62 percent of respondents picking that as most popular. Medium to large islands was cited by 88 percent of respondents, and only 2 percent cited no island at all. U-shaped plans were the second most popular at 21 percent.

And most designers who are doing kitchen remodels are enlarging the kitchen in the process. According to the survey, 78 percent said the new kitchens are slightly to significantly larger. Only 23 percent said the remodeled kitchens are about the same size, and no respondents cited smaller kitchens. The largest single group (45 percent) cited increasing kitchen size up to 25 percent.

So, how big are those kitchens? Nearly three-quarters of respondents said the most popular size is medium or 150-350 square feet. Large kitchens more than 350 square feet accounted for 22 percent of respondents. Small kitchens of less than 150 square feet were cited by only 5 percent in the survey.

The NKBA study also lists Farmhouse as one of the rising trends in kitchen design. Credit: Richard Lensis, designer.

Cost per square foot appears to stay the same or increase as the kitchen size gets bigger. For medium-size kitchens, the mean cost was $48,000. For large kitchens, the mean cost was $90,000.

Appliances seem to be capturing the attention of designers and specifiers as the most interesting new products in the kitchen arena. Some 32 percent chose appliances as the most interesting new product. Cabinets came in at 16 percent, countertops 13 percent, lighting 11 percent, and technology solutions 8 percent.

The technology number might be deceptive because designers said that one of the important features making appliances most interesting was technology, such as interconnectivity, touch screens, sensors and other features. White is the leading appliance color, but with designs that “don’t look like Mom’s appliances.” Other trending appliance colors are black stainless and bright colors.

In a note of caution to cabinet manufacturers and installers, the survey highlights new trends in alternate sizing and placement of appliances. These include under-cabinet and drawer washers and refrigerators, as well as narrow refrigerators and microwave drawers. Flush-mount appliances were also cited.

Light and medium painted wood will continue to be popular in transitional kitchens. Credit: Jeane Dole, designer.

Cabinet trends

Cabinet trends cited in the survey included contemporary European styles with hidden handles, LED interior lighting, vertical-lift doors for wall cabinets, and motorized opening and closing with the touch of a button or knee activation. Outside of the cabinets, pendant lighting is becoming more modern, with more options, and LED technology is improving with better color rendering and the ability to dim.

But cabinet manufacturers cannot rest on their laurels as survey respondents said cabinets are the one area of the kitchen they would most like to see more innovation. Some 19 percent cited cabinets as needing more innovation, and 18 percent said vent hoods needed improvement. Sinks and countertops were at 16 and 13 percent, respectively.

Specific requests for cabinet innovation included wanting more colors and finishes in prefab cabinets, as well as options to finish cabinetry beyond just paint and stains. Designers and specifiers want more transitional door styles and different materials for doors and drawer fronts. They also called on more affordable modern designs and lower-cost cabinetry in general with greater flexibility and customization options.

According to the survey, 80 percent of respondents expect contemporary to overtake traditional styles. Credit: Deborah Kerr, designer.

Technology has really come of age in the kitchen, and designers are responding to that. Some 76 percent expect to see more mobile device accommodations in the kitchen over the next three years. A majority (58 percent) also expect to see more voice-enabled home automation platforms in the coming years. The same number predict the increased appearance of safety technology that alerts homeowners of dangerous situations through their cell phones. Technology that allows for remote food prep was cited by 30 percent, and technology to track food inventory was listed by 33 percent.

Transitional kitchens were the style specified most last year, followed by traditional and contemporary. Looking ahead, 88 percent of respondents expect transitional kitchens to remain the lead style in the next three years, but 80 percent expect contemporary styles will overtake traditional to take the number two spot. In fact, only 46 percent see traditional as a trend over the next three years. Farmhouse (55 percent) and Industrial (50 percent) were also cited as rising trends.

In transitional cabinets specifically for the next three years, the survey predicts rising trends will be light or medium painted wood or wood grain or mixed materials, recessed panel facing, more drawers than doors, integrated storage, and matte decorative hardware or integrated hardware.

In contemporary cabinets, specifically for the next three years, the survey predicts light or medium wood grain, mixed materials, flat-panel/slab facing, more drawers than doors, integrated storage, light or medium tones, and integrated hardware.

Source: The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is the not-for-profit trade association that owns the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), as part of Design & Construction Week (DCW). For more information, visit NKBA.org or call 800-THE-NKBA (843-6522).

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William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.