Is this the year you’ve decided to update your kitchen or redo your bathroom? Maybe you need a more functional space for meal prep or a more soothing environment for your morning ablutions. Whatever the reason, the new year is often a time for new beginnings, and what better place to start than in these two rooms?
Kitchens and bathrooms are not only two of the most remodeled rooms in a home — they are also two of the more expensive renovation projects. The average kitchen update cost upward of $66,196 in 2019, according to Remodeling magazine, while the average bathroom remodel cost $20,420. And they can be what makes or breaks the sale of your home. According to a 2018 blog post by online realty marketing and information company Trulia: “The rooms buyers most closely inspect (and judge) in a house are the kitchen and master bath. These are the interior spaces where the most value can be added during a sale, so they need to look their best.”
When spending thousands of dollars on renovations, homeowners want a look that lasts. No one wants their kitchen or bathroom to become dated within a few years. Being aware of the latest trends can help you avoid costly mistakes. You don’t necessarily have to follow the trends, but knowing what they are can ensure you don’t regret your choices later.
“While one may think trends are only about passing fads, that’s not actually the case,” said Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design in Silver Spring, Md. “Trends are an indicator of what is important to the consumer, as well as what’s happening by way of innovation and technology in the industry. We love beautiful things and manufacturers are charged and challenged to make sure those beautiful things are functional, environmentally friendly, responsibly produced and sustainable. Consumers want it all."
But going with what’s hot now can be tricky. Today’s trendy can become tomorrow’s tired all too quickly. No one wants to sink thousands into a renovation only to discover their design choices are passe.
“A lot of the homeowners we see are remodeling for longevity, not necessarily for resale value,” said Mitchell Parker, editor at Houzz, a home remodeling and design website. “You should remodel for what you want your house to be like, how you want to live, not really think about trends or resale value too much. … A good designer will strategically help you make those decisions to personalize it but still keep it classic and timeless.”
As might be expected, two of the largest demographic groups, millennials and baby boomers, are driving trends in kitchen and bathroom design these days.
“Many [millennials] have really struggled to get into their first home,” said Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor, an online home-improvement resource. “Now that they’re finally in that first home, they want the experience to be frictionless and pain-free, the notion of stress-free homeownership.”
Millennials want kitchens that are low maintenance and high tech — preferences that explain the rising popularity of porcelain slab countertops, refrigerators with touch screens and cameras in ovens.
“More Americans are growing old and wanting to stay put in their existing home rather than seek assisted living,” DiClerico said.
Toilets with built-in bidets, no-threshold showers and elongated toilets at comfort height are helping make that possible.
To get a sense of the latest trends in kitchen and bathroom design, we asked several top designers in the Washington region and two national experts what they expect will be popular in 2020. Here’s what they had to say.
With open floor plans in many houses, kitchens are no longer separate rooms but part of the overall living space.
“The kitchen has become a multitasking space for entertaining, eating, doing homework or just sitting around watching a game,” said Shannon Kadwell of Anthony Wilder Design Build. “The open plan is important so other rooms aren’t blocked off and communication between the spaces is lost.”
But taking down the walls that once enclosed them has posed new design challenges.
“Kitchens have become so visually prominent,” Parker said. “The kitchen isn’t tucked away anymore. It’s front and center.”
Several designers said the most popular design style is transitional, a mix of traditional and modern elements, followed by farmhouse.
“People want a less complicated look in kitchens,” said Jennifer Gilmer of Gilmer Kitchen & Bath.
Softer colors are replacing stark white for the kitchen palette.
There is “a drive toward colors that are calming and soothing,” Parker said. “People are spending so much time in the kitchen with their family. It’s kind of the hub of the home. It’s nice to have that kind of bright, relaxing, soft, soothing color palette.”
Parker says light grays and light blues are popular, as well as creamier instead of bright whites.
Subaran isn’t shying away from color. She recently designed an island with spring green cabinets. She’s also seen lots of blues in kitchens.
“People are embracing color in cabinetry,” Subaran said.
Alexandria Hubbard of Case Design/Remodeling says Shaker-style cabinetry continues to appeal to homeowners.
“It’s a good compromise for an older home in need of a refreshed look,” she said.
Cabinets aren’t the only places color is showing up in kitchens. Kadwell has been doing a lot with ranges in either pale blue or cobalt.
“It is an easy color for people to use,” Kadwell said. “It’s not as vibrant as orange or red.”
Michael Winn of Winn Design + Build says the proliferation of professional ranges in the kitchen brought with them larger range hoods.
“With the building code requirement to provide dedicated ventilation over ranges, designers have begun to embrace decorative range hoods by making them a focal point of the kitchen,” he said. “This is particularly the case with the higher-output professional-style gas ranges, which require more powerful and larger range hoods.”
Hubbard says the range has always been a focal point in kitchens.
“But instead of the same dull appliances of the past, people now want an architectural statement that will be a conversation starter,” she said. “Unique shapes and sizes paired with bold colors make this focal point a work of art that expresses the personality of the homeowner.”
Because of their size, range hoods offer an opportunity to make a statement or a subtle way to achieve cohesiveness with the overall style of the kitchen. Parker has noticed wood appearing on more range hoods.
“We’re definitely seeing designers work in warmer tones through wood accents,” Parker said. “Bringing a little bit of wood higher up helps break up the large expanses of painted cabinetry.”
Porcelain slab countertops that look like marble but don’t stain like marble are gaining popularity.
“Porcelain is the wave of the future,” Gilmer said. “Porcelain is overtaking quartz. Quartz is more expensive because of China tariffs.”
Because they are easy to clean and can work in modern- or traditional-style kitchens, monolithic slab backsplashes are in demand, Winn said. Textured or three-dimensional tile is also sought after for backsplashes, Gilmer said.
Sinks aren’t just for washing dishes any more. They are now multipurpose workstations with cutting boards, colanders, bowls and drying racks. These designs are great for smaller kitchens where workspace is at a premium.
Unlacquered brass is in demand for faucets and works well with blue and white color schemes.
“Not bright brass from the 1980s, but more mellowed and aged looking,” Kadwell said.
Matte black faucets are also trending, she says.
The island is the gathering place in today’s kitchens.
“More people want islands for prep space, dining, homework,” Hubbard said. “It’s become the hot spot hub of the home.”
As a result, islands are increasing in size and becoming more like furniture, Winn said.
Wood is the most popular flooring choice because the kitchen is now often attached to the rest of the home. Wood floors create continuity with the main living area.
“If you change flooring material, it cuts up the space,” Winn said.
Technology has taken over other parts of the home — thermostats and doorbells, for example — but hasn’t really invaded the kitchen until recently.
“We’re seeing all kind of smart technology come into the kitchen,” DiClerico said. “Cameras that are built into the oven can identify what the food is, [and] can set cooking times and temperatures accordingly.”
Appliances have come a long way from simply preserving and cooking food, Hubbard says.
“Refrigerators now have screens that can tell you anything from your agenda for the day to how long that milk has truly been sitting on the shelf,” she said.
New products making their way into the kitchen are vacuum sealer drawers, which are built into the cabinetry and look like warming drawers. They are a response to the latest cooking trend, sous vide, a cooking method that involves sealing food in an airtight container, such as a plastic pouch, and cooking it gradually in a temperature-controlled water bath.
Speed and steam ovens are also gaining ground. Speed ovens are smaller than regular ovens with the convenience of a microwave, and they do the job of both. Steam ovens are said to be the best way to prepare food because they inject moisture and don’t bake out nutrients.
For some time now, the look and feel of the bathroom has moved away from utilitarian space to soothing retreat.
“People always ask for a spa feeling,” Gilmer said.
Several designers said sleek contemporary is edging out transitional as the most popular design style.
“When people think about their ‘dream bathroom,’ they think about bathroom spaces they have used in the past that have provided them with not just a bathroom with fixtures, but an experience,” Hubbard said. “When people go to a hotel, they remember the curbless shower with frameless shower enclosure. They remember the floating, sleek vanities. And that spalike experience plays a role in what they are looking for in their own space.”
Tubs are making a comeback after disappearing from master bathrooms. They have become an architectural feature whether or not the homeowner takes a bath, Hubbard said.
“Some view the tub as a focal point just due to the architecture of the fixture and find it a great addition to their spaces,” she said.
These are not the jetted tubs that every McMansion had in the 1990s. Nor are they just a place to wash the kids or the dog. They are deep tubs suitable for long soaks. One popular version is the Japanese soaking tub, which takes up less space and has a bench seat.
Traditional tubs are also getting gussied up.
“Tile is a great, affordable material that adds design points to a bathroom,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re seeing many homeowners and designers wrapping the tub apron in tile or another material like wood. This results in a big payoff with minimal investment.”
Showers are not only getting bigger — they also don’t have raised thresholds, eliminating the barrier between the shower and bathroom floor.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in curbless showers,” DiClerico said. “It’s easier to get in and out without the risk of falling.”
Drains in showers are being camouflaged. Linear drains are long, narrow drains that run along the floor or are tucked into the wall.
“Hidden drains are big,” Kadwell said.
Large-format tiles are replacing subway tile in showers.
“Subway tile’s days are very much numbered,” DiClerico said. “Large-format tile has become very popular. It delivers a certain look with its clean, simple lines. But you don’t have the grout line. People are just really sick and tired of cleaning, scrubbing the grout lines of subway tiles.”
Free-standing or floating vanities give the illusion of more space.
“It’s a cleaner line,” Hubbard said. “It elongates the space.”
Although quartz remains popular, porcelain countertops on vanities are gaining ground. Square sinks provide a more contemporary look. To go along with the linear drains in showers are slot drains in sinks. Unlacquered brass and black are popular finishes for faucets, which are being mounted to the wall.
“Smart storage in custom cabinetry is at the top of our clients’ wish list,” Subaran said.
As is a seat that’s not the toilet.
“When space is available, having a space to be able to sit down — for hair, makeup, general grooming — is also popular,” Hubbard said.
Kadwell is seeing more design in flooring such as cement tiles that look hand-painted with a lot of pattern.
Toilets are higher, elongated and hung on the wall to take up less space. More and more have a built-in bidet.
Bidets have “been around, but I think they are finally start to gain a little traction,” DiClerico said. “I think it’s starting to catch on despite America’s long, long love affair with toilet paper, which isn’t about to end completely. ... There’s the aging-in-place angle here. If you have limited mobility, a built-in bidet can be one of the things that’s going to help you stay in your home longer.”
Technology has also taken over the bathroom. Smart shower controls have been around for a while but are becoming more popular.
“Millennials are used to controlling their lives from their smartphones,” DiClerico said. “Basically, the expectation is that from their bed they’ll be able to set the shower to exactly the temperature they want.”
Mirrors with artificial intelligence assistance technology such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, and medicine cabinets with defoggers are making morning routines less routine.
A trend that may not be for everyone is the space-saving wet room.
“It’s simply a bathroom in which every surface is intended to get wet,” DiClerico said. “It tends to be a very compact, very well organized, space-efficient design.”
A successful kitchen or bathroom redo depends on making lasting design choices. The good news is because these types of renovations are costly and time-consuming, the trends tend to evolve slowly. Doing your homework before doing work on your home helps protect your investment.
“Some trends should be considered and others thrown out,” Gilmer said. “Some trends are important for resale and/or for long-term enjoyment. … It’s imperative that the trend is one that will stand the test of time.”