What’s In, What's Out for Kitchens in 2014

Already picking out granite countertops and espresso floors for your next kitchen remodel? Think again.

These once-treasured features are on their way out, according to design experts Taking their place in the year ahead: durable, light-colored materials that are kid-friendly and open up the kitchen as a central gathering place in the home.

For 2014's Zillow Digs Home Design Trend Report, we asked members of our Design Advisory Board to explain why certain kitchen features are fading from popularity and what’s in store for the new year.

Here’s what they had to say.

Saying goodbye to granite
It’s hard to imagine good old granite going out of style, but Marc Thee, co-founder and design principal of Florida-based Marc-Michaels Interior Design, Inc., says the stone is simply expensive and unpredictable. “I just had a situation where the first three slabs of granite were what my client wanted, but the next slab had this pink line running through it,” he recounts. “Control is a huge problem with natural materials.”

Granite is also easy to chip and damage, making it a less popular choice among homeowners with kids.

As a result, Thee says homeowners are gravitating toward synthetic materials that are both beautifully executed and durable. Solid-surface countertops such as CaesarStone and Zodiaq are popular choices.

“Each comes in probably 20 colors and varying thicknesses,” he explains. “The best part is that you aren’t paying for waste, and there’s no chipping. The sustainability and grain quality are hard to beat.

Opening up closed cabinets

Jamie Beckwith, founder of Beckwith Interiors in Nashville, says closed cabinets are on their way out because they are less conducive to the open entertaining space today’s homeowners want.

“I’m seeing the kitchen definitely as a place where you are going to keep your cookware and dishes, but they’re being displayed in a different way,” she explains. “People are hanging out in their kitchens. They want to put a piece of art in there.”

In particular, Beckwith says upper cabinets are less popular because they stop your line of sight. “People now want the sightline and above to be more decorative and homelike than typical kitchens with upper boxes around the room,” she adds.

In place of upper cabinets, homeowners are implementing glass-front cabinets and open shelves. “People are taking the backsplash all the way up to the ceiling and adding really unique shelving,” Beckwith says.

Anything exposed obviously needs more organization, but Beckwith says homeowners are relying more on pantries for food storage. This frees them to stack their dishes and china on shelves without a cluttered look.

Reimagining the work triangle

According to Portland, Oregon-based interior designer Garrison Hullinger, kitchen designs are moving away from the traditional setup, in which the fridge, sink, and stove form an imaginary triangle.

“In the 1950s, when the work triangle was developed, people didn’t have efficient refrigerators or microwaves,” he explains. “They were just trying to get the fridge off the back porch.”

But now kitchen appliances come in a range of sizes and layouts, allowing designers to tailor the kitchen layout to a family’s lifestyle. According to a recent Zillow survey, 29 percent of homeowners are looking to modernize their homes for comfort and functionality.

“Moms tell us the kitchen is command central for all the family’s activities. So I try to create different zones — one for kids, one for cooking, and one for the whole family to gather,” Hullinger says. “I’ve been putting in beverage centers or refrigerator drawers, so kids can grab a drink without getting in the way of the main cooking area. Sometimes I put in another dishwasher near a secondary prep sink.”

Lacquered cabinetry is losing its luster
Another dying trend in kitchen cabinetry is lacquer finishes. According to John Willey of the residential design firm Willey Design LLC, it’s not the most durable choice.

“I live in New York, and it seems like every model apartment has lacquered cabinetry,” he says. “That’s all well and good, but once you have one ding, you have to replace the whole cabinet door.”

A wood-stain finish, by contrast, is much more forgiving, according to Willey. And, it’s still protected by a top coat of polyurethane.

In general, Willey says homeowners are educating themselves about emerging design trends.

“They want depth and richness in their kitchen,” he says. “Salvaged wood is very of the moment. It brings that character and romance that you don’t get with other materials.”

Lightening up dark floors

“Throughout the late ’90s, dark espresso floors were all the rage,” according to Willey. “People fell in love with dark wood furniture and really dark floors.”

But Willey says that fewer of his clients are turning to dark flooring now. “A lot of people are realizing it can show more scratches and dust than a pale wood,” he explained. “Homeowners with children can scratch up their floor more easily, but a paler wood can help disguise a lot of that.”

White oak, not to be confused with red oak, is popular because it is a blank canvas that can take any color, Willey says. “A pale, untreated color or a light tan hue — it accepts those finishes well,” he says.

Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends, and home design. Read more of her work here.


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