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Kitchen Design Trend Mixes Style with Functionality |

Kitchen Design Trend Mixes Style with Functionality

Home design is a lot like pizza – there’s more than one style, and you can mix them up to match the functionality you crave and the style you love. Historically, the kitchen has been the focal point of a home, but style often took a back seat to function.

That’s no longer true, at least in the United States. About two decades ago, kitchens merged with the family room to create an open-concept plan that puts design style and function on display in the best possible way. It’s redefined the way Americans live, and entertain at home.


Home Design Inspiration: Apps such as Houzz and Pinterest have made home design ideas, and inspiration more attainable for the public, said Beth Finnerty, who runs the cabinet department for Tri-County Building Supply, which owns and operates Island Bath and Kitchen in Surf City. But the first game changer in home design, especially in rethinking the kitchen space, was the advent of HGTV and other television home remodeling shows, she said.

Customers today, versus about 15 years ago, come armed with the knowledge of what they like, she said. They may not know the style name, but they know what fits their lifestyle and where they’ve seen it, Finnerty added.

Trend Factors: A lot goes into a home design trend besides color and texture. One of the biggest factors is location; like clothing trends, some kitchen design wants or needs are regional, and others national. It all depends on how the home is going to be used, according to Finnerty.

In a resort community, like Long Beach Island, kitchen design differs among year-round homeowners, seasonal homeowners and income-property homeowners, she said.

“The Island has a mix of everything,” Finnerty said, noting that people who live on the Island or in the area year ’round tend to gravitate toward more color in their kitchen design, whereas seasonal homeowners or income-property owners generally stick with an all-white kitchen, she said.

“Every kitchen I’ve seen has been white on white,” said Stephanie Gross, who manages Island Bath and Kitchen. Tri-County Building Supply purchased the kitchen and bath division of Tuckerton Lumber in the spring, expanding its presence north from its home base in Pleasantville. “That’s the Island.”

People with seasonal homes at the shore tend toward beach-themed or shabby chic design, Finnerty said.

“Money is another factor,” she said, noting so is the size of the kitchen, and whether it’s an open-concept plan with the family room, commonly known as a great room.

Remodeling vs. Renovation: In the almost five years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall and carved a path of destruction, forcing the rebuilding and/or the lifting of many homes in the area, kitchen design has shifted from renovations to remodeling.

There is a difference, Finnerty said. To renovate a space is to restore it to good condition, she explained. A coat of paint can be part of a renovation. A remodeling project, on the other hand, changes the use and focus of the space.

In either situation, Finnerty said, “They all want the kitchen to be the focal point, and they want a sitting area around the island.”

The first thing to go in a remodel is often the office cut-away that was so popular in kitchens in the 1990s and early part of the 21st century, she said. With more people working from home, designated home office spaces are replacing a nook in the kitchen.

But that space isn’t being eliminated, she noted. Instead, it’s being delegated for entertainment purposes, Finnerty said.

Entertainment Trends: Among some of the biggest trends in kitchen design today are beverage stations, she said. It can be a wet bar, or a space specifically designated for wine or bar. Or it’s a coffee/beverage station, she said. And while most kitchen trends last a maximum of five years, she doesn’t see this trend going away anytime soon.

“It’s all about entertainment,” added Gross, noting people don’t want “traditional kitchens anymore.” And that means a kitchen doesn’t necessarily look like a kitchen.

Have you ever noticed on national cooking shows that the kitchen appliances are often designed to look like the rest of the kitchen cabinetry? Well, that’s a trend that is here to stay if that’s your taste, Finnerty said, but noting it’s not just cabinets or layout that make kitchen design functional and easy to entertain in.

Appliances are becoming a big part of the entertainment package, Finnerty said. From Keurig coffee makers in refrigerator doors to Samsung’s Family Hub tablet, kitchen design may have finally reached The Jetsons-era promised to kids in the early 1960s.

Functional Trends: If you’re old enough to remember when a microwave overtook the kitchen counter, you’ll remember how cool it was when kitchen design first replaced a traditional oven vent with a microwave. That trend, according to Finnerty, is over. The new trend is placing the microwave in the island, she explained. It improves the aesthetic of the kitchen and makes the space more functional, Finnerty added.

Another trend going toward the wayside: full-sized pantry closets, she said. Increasingly, people are opting for pantry cabinetry built around the refrigerator in what has almost always been wasted space. The cabinets include a combination of drawers, shallow or deep, and can accommodate food as well as pots and pans, Finnerty said.

Another in-cabinet trend that’s sticking around is trash drawers, which are getting bigger when space allows for it, she said. Slim, pull-out spice cabinets are also becoming popular in kitchen design. These changes, she said, increase the functionality of the kitchen space and put convenience at the forefront, which is what customers are demanding.

The size of the kitchen has a lot to do with the design, and functionality of it, she said. A small kitchen no longer means you must sacrifice style, Finnerty said. If you have low ceilings, anything under 10 feet, bringing your cabinetry to the ceiling is a great way to add storage space, opening other areas for functional design.

Going all the way to the ceiling is a little more difficult when it’s in a vaulted space, however, she said. In those instances, many customers opt for an extra-large island with added storage space.

Personal Preference: Perhaps the biggest consideration in kitchen design is personal preference. It’s all about how the space fits into your everyday life, and what your wants/needs are when you entertain, Finnerty said.

It used to be everyone wanted hardwood floors in the kitchen, but wood-like tiles are a hot, new trend in kitchen design, she said. Granite counter tops are still popular, but quartz is quickly becoming the number one. Subway tiles are still trendy as a back-splash, she said of a revived look that began a few years ago, although the tiles have been around since 1904, when they were first used to build New York’s subway system. In all three instances, it’s about easy care.

With so many choices out there, she said, customers are making their kitchens their own in style and functionality. Personal preference used to be almost solely about lighting and accessories, but that’s no longer true. People are opting for things that make their everyday lives easier to balance, and that includes having two dishwashers in some cases, or a professional-grade refrigerator and freezer. Or maybe a pizza oven.

Gina G. Scala

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