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Storage, Functionality Highlight Kitchen Design Trends

The kitchen, the heart of a home, has become even more important over the past year. The kitchen design trends of 2021 highlight how profoundly the pandemic has changed our daily lives.

“I believe that what happened in 2020, COVID and the lockdown, really changed our relationship with our kitchen,” Deryl Patterson, president of Housing Design Matters Inc., said during a session at IBSx in mid-February.

“During the day, our kitchens became our home offices or they became our kids’ classrooms, or maybe they were even both at the same time,” she said. “Then at night, we had to push all the stuff away, and they became our experimental kitchens and our restaurants because we couldn’t go to restaurants,” she explained.

RELATED: What the WFH Era Means for New Home Builders

Bigger islands that provide functional seating for more people, with outlets so they support laptops and chargers, or countertop appliances are coveted features, she said.

Pocket offices right off the kitchen give kids a space to do schoolwork (or homework if they’ve returned to in-person class) and parents a place to check in on work while cooking.

“The kitchen pocket office is perfect to be able to kind of multitask and do both functions at the same time,” Patterson said.

She’s also seen an increase in “appliance garages”—dedicated storage for the assorted kitchen gadgets and Amazon impulse buys that clutter up a kitchen counter. Pantries are getting bigger for similar reasons. “Islands [are] getting bigger,” she said, and “there are no upper cabinets above our islands, so we need places for stuff.”

Appliance makers recognized how homeowners’ space needs changed during the pandemic and responded with integrated products.

“Because our kitchens were working so hard during lockdown, the appliance makers really saw this and stepped it up, and what they’re doing now is they’re giving us a lot more features in the same amount of space,” she said. Four-door refrigerators, three-rack dishwashers, convection ovens with integrated air fryers or grills, all compatible with Wi-Fi, allow homeowners to do more without using more space.

“Even if we’re not on lockdown, I believe more and more people will be working from home and schooling for home; maybe not five days a week, but I think certainly more days of the week than before,” she said.

Doris Pearlman, president and founder of Possibilities for Design in Denver, quoted George Nelson, an industrial designer credited with founding American modernist design, who said, “Good design is a response to social change.”

For example, “if one island is great, two is certainly better,” Pearlman said. If multiple cooks are sharing a kitchen, double or longer islands with multiple workstations can make the space more functional.

Pearlman noted that homeowners with cabin fever are more willing to invest in higher end or luxury upgrades, especially in the kitchen.

“Because of the fact that we’ve been sequestered [during lockdown], resort-style living in our own homes has become possible, and people are spending lots of money to create outdoor kitchens with restaurant seating,” she said. Whether it’s on a patio or a roof, “we’re seeing a huge amount of demand for those rooftop decks and small outdoor kitchens.”

Antimicrobial surfaces are popular for obvious reasons, Pearlman said, as well as nonporous surfaces like quartz that are easier to clean. Cork and bamboo flooring have become popular choices, as well as laminates.

“Get ready, everybody, because laminates are reappearing,” she said. “They are antimicrobial … and are easy to maintain.”

She added that the white kitchen is “always a classic,” but that wood grains in medium and warm tones are resurgent as homeowners try to “create comfort and conviviality.”

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