What the Fanciest Home Kitchens All Have in Common

·4 min read
Luxury kitchen with high ceilings and expensive fixtures
Luxury kitchen with high ceilings and expensive fixtures

For reasons vaguely related to fundraising for unspecified charity organizations, house walks are a popular event in suburban Chicagoland—and I accept any house walk invitation that comes my way. Why wouldn’t I leap at the chance to observe how other people live? It’s at once revealing and anonymous, fascinating in the same way that the best Instagram posts are a mixture of intimacy and artifice. I think the idea is for house walk attendees to gain inspiration for their own homes, mentally noting ideal paint colors and furniture configurations. Alternatively, attendees can simply admire and appreciate the historical architectural details inside these homes. But instead, I always find myself walking away with new insight into how people choose to live their lives. To wit: I’ve seen some absolutely bonkers kitchens.

Of course, the homes are staged for the tour; even if you have a full-time cleaning staff, no one’s day-to-day life is this tidy. Still, the way the homes are staged presents a unified theory of what a kitchen “ought” to be in 2022. So here are my observations from this year’s season of touring houses with a near anthropological mindset.

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No one has a kitchen table anymore

Though the research on this is purely anecdotal, my findings indicate that only about 10% of new homes built in America in 2022 feature a kitchen design with any intention of placing a kitchen table in them. Instead, kitchen islands have become supersized, with anywhere from 8-12 high stools supplanting a dining table so that families can gather in the center of the room at mealtimes. In order to achieve these mile-long islands, the typical move is to remove the wall that once separated kitchen from dining room, meaning that the formal dining area once featured in most homes has been shrunk down to a well-appointed but slightly more modest dimension.

Kitchen with oversized kitchen island with seating and workspace and cabinets
Kitchen with oversized kitchen island with seating and workspace and cabinets

Anyone seeking to add this flourish to their own home should think carefully before proceeding. According to Homes & Gardens, this kind of “statement” island might inadvertently end up devaluing a home if it seems to overtake too much of the living space. Beyond that, though, you might be making a trendy, flash-in-the-pan change to a historic home that you can’t reverse—or relying on a contractor who unwittingly removes load-bearing walls to achieve the island of your dreams.

Coffee stations are utterly mandatory

Much like kitchen islands, a modern kitchen without a dedicated coffee station feels utterly incomplete. This coffee station is typically perpendicular to the main cooking area that includes the stove and sink, set far enough apart to be its own unique “serving area” while not being too far flung. It might be near the doorway, or in a pass-through that used to be a butler’s pantry. But one thing’s for sure: all sophisticated people embrace coffee stations.

You’ve seen them before. They’re small stretches of granite and cabinetry often too small to be useful for food prep, but elegantly appointed little areas for pouring yourself a morning cup. It’s a space that says, “I embrace my inner barista.” It also conveniently keeps your actual countertops clear of small appliances, freeing up space for decorative bowls of citrus.

Waterfall countertops are, mercifully, on their way out

I sincerely hope that this trend fades into obscurity before most people even know it was ever here. Do you know about waterfall countertops? If not by name, then perhaps by sight:

Kitchen with waterfall granite countertops whose stone takes a right angle and extends all the way to the floor
Kitchen with waterfall granite countertops whose stone takes a right angle and extends all the way to the floor

It is simply not enough to pay for the stretches of granite or quartz that form your workspace and serving areas. No, this expensive stone must completely enrobe the kitchen island so that no one can tell that humble hardwood forms the cabinetry. More than any other design trend, this has always struck me first and foremost as a flex. It’s not any more beautiful than a shaker cabinet, nor is it any more practical. It’s a signal to your guests that you can afford the excess, and something about such trends will always rub me the wrong way.

Luckily, there are rumblings that the era of waterfall counters might be coming to an end. Good riddance to this fad, I say.