If you’ve visited the exhibition of Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, you may have been shocked at the colorful clutter of one of America’s most famous chefs. Today’s home cooks prefer to create their favorite meals in sleek and serene spaces of white and gray, with gleaming stainless-steel appliances.
Although white and gray appear to be ubiquitous in kitchens and bathrooms in remodeled homes and new construction, some other trends are also identifiable in both of these important spaces.
“Homeowners like flexibility and personalization,” says Elle H-Millard, industry relations manager for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). “They’re looking for things that can be used to customize their home but that don’t date the home, either.”
Changes in bathroom and kitchen designs also are driven by innovations in technology and the desire for low-maintenance living, says Dan DiClerico, smart-home strategist and home expert for HomeAdvisor, a website and app that provides home improvement resources.
Master bathrooms are among the most popular spaces to renovate. A renovated master bathroom is among the most important features for home buyers. As with kitchens, white and gray are the most popular colors for bathrooms. New trends in master bathrooms tend to be influenced by technology and the desire for low maintenance yet attractive designs.
Here are a few innovations in bathrooms:
● Smart toilets: Technology has improved one of the most basic fixtures in the house: your toilet. New models have built-in bidets, cleaning functions and night lights for safety.
“Smart toilets have features to minimize maintenance with self-cleaning features, including one that mists the bowl before and after each use to cut cleaning time in half,” DiClerico said. “Wall-hung toilets also make it easier to clean under and around the toilet.”
Consumers can replace their entire toilet and plumbing or choose to retrofit their existing toilet with an LED night light, an automated sensor to open and close the lid, and a cleanser that iodizes the bowl to reduce the need for cleaning, H-Millard said.
You can even buy toilets with seat warmers, plus some with adjustable heights, said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist with Houzz, an online platform for home decorating and remodeling.
● Barn doors: Barn doors have been part of the rustic and industrial-chic design style for a few years, sometimes as a closet door or a decorative element in homes. Now they’ve become a highly functional element of bathroom designs, H-Millard said.
“Barn doors are efficient and provide easy access to the room and, since they don’t swing out or in, they use less space and don’t trap anyone behind the door,” H-Millard said. “It doesn’t look like universal design, but it’s actually a practical safety mechanism that consumers are adopting.”
● Free-standing bathtubs: Big master bathrooms with yards of floor space, a soaking tub or whirlpool tub set on a platform, separate vanities and a separate shower have faded in popularity in favor of larger showers. The majority of homeowners surveyed by Houzz plan to remodel to expand their shower to make room for multiple sprays, Sitchinava said.
But in master bathrooms with enough space, large bathtubs are making a comeback. This time, they are free-standing tubs, often in sculptural shapes. The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2018 Kitchen and Bath Design Trends study found that 87 percent of designers said that free-standing tubs are trendy.
Other notable master bathroom trends, according to Rose Quint, assistant vice president for survey research for the National Association of Home Builders, and the 2018 NAHB Buyer Preferences Survey, include the desire for a separate compartment for the toilet — a “water closet” — which is among the top 15 features most likely to be in a new home. Among the least likely features: a whirlpool tub in the master bathroom.
● Mixed materials: Even though most homeowners stick to a gray-and-white color scheme in the master bathroom, there’s plenty of space for creativity.
“There are so many tile options, including porcelain, natural stone and ceramic tile, so we’re seeing a lot of people mix and match the size of the stones or tiles,” Sitchinava said. “Some people are using large slabs of stone or tile for the flooring and walls, and using a variety of tiles in the shower. Even if they are using all white tiles, they can add interest with different textures.”
● Voice-controlled technology: In addition to the high-tech toilets, “smart mirrors” and other tech features are increasingly used in bathrooms, Sitchinava said, including mood lighting and music in the shower.
“You can talk to yourself, or really to Google Home or Alexa, to do things like adjust the lighting when you’re shaving or putting on makeup,” H-Millard said. “This is a convenience that’s available for everyone, not just for high-end, luxury households.”
LED lighting has increased the availability of lighting options in bathrooms, including in the shower.
“The whole point of design is to give people what they want and to make it adaptable for different circumstances,” H-Millard said.
Although colorful appliances and high-tech gadgets were on display at the 2018 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in January, not all items demonstrated on the showroom floor will make it into people’s homes. Here are some exceptions:
● Columns for refrigerators and more: “One of the most surprising things to me is how quickly column refrigerator units have been adopted,” H-Millard said. “It usually takes years for trends to be embraced, but these were introduced just a couple of years ago, and their popularity has boomeranged.”
Separate refrigerator and freezer units allow homeowners to reconfigure and customize their kitchens with more or less freezer space or special units for different food groups. According to NKBA’s 2018 Kitchen and Bath Design Trends study, 55 percent of professional kitchen designers say refrigerator columns are the trendiest item in kitchens. More than 75 percent of designers say homeowners want separate wine refrigerators.
● Connected kitchens: Technology can be used to improve safety in kitchens, such as appliances with an automatic shut-off or an alert system, which DiClerico says will become increasingly important for elderly people adjusting their homes to better meet their physical needs, or aging in place. Some exciting technology, such as smart appliances, are enticing but yet to be widely embraced by homeowners.
“Our survey of Housing Preferences of the Baby Boomer Generation found that 36 percent of people want a smart refrigerator, but only about 6 percent have one,” said Quint.
Among the options for smart appliances are refrigerators with a camera and an app so you can look at the contents when you’re at the grocery store, and a refrigerator with an LCD panel with a menu of apps that can function as a command control for family messages.
Voice-activated controls to adjust lights or play music or look for a recipe are the most popular tech trends in the kitchen, said Sitchinava.
The 2018 Houzz Kitchen Trends survey found that 22 percent of homeowners add voice-controlled home assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Echo when remodeling their kitchens.
● New ways to declutter: Neatness counts in today’s kitchens, perhaps because most newer kitchens have an open floor plan that makes them more visible to guests.
“The biggest motivation behind a kitchen remodel is reorganizing and increasing storage,” Sitchinava said.
Decluttering their counters was the biggest motivator for 75 percent of remodelers, according to the Houzz survey, followed by putting things away (66 percent).
“Homeowners are updating their cabinets with things like pullout recycling baskets, cookie sheet organizers, revolving corner trays, and pullout trays and shelves,” Sitchinava said.
Two of five homeowners add kitchen islands when remodeling for extra storage and counter space, according to the Houzz survey.
● Low maintenance materials: Quartz is the most popular material for kitchen counters, identified as trendy by 94 percent of kitchen designers in the NKBA study. Quartz is easy to clean, durable and available in a lot of color palettes, Sitchinava said.
“Consumers today, especially millennials, have less tolerance for high-maintenance materials,” DiClerico said. “They don’t want moldings on their cabinets that catch dust, and they’ve realized that quartz requires less maintenance than marble or granite.”
The Houzz survey found consumers prefer simple Shaker cabinets (57 percent) or flat-panel cabinets (18 percent) when remodeling.
● A little color and darkness: Although white and gray are still on-trend for kitchens, colorful appliances and new metallic finishes could be found in abundance at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.
“This is more of an emerging trend, but our survey of designers found that people are starting to integrate a little more color into their kitchens,” H-Millard said. “Appliances and fixtures in brass, copper and gold finishes look elegant and not outdated. We’re even seeing some bold appliance colors like cobalt blue or orange. The good thing about those is that they have a simple panel to exchange the front for a different color in the future.”
Black stainless-steel with a matte finish was a major trend at KBIS this year, said DiClerico, who thinks it is a true challenge to the popularity of traditional stainless steel.
“It’s smudge-resistant, which makes it really appealing to younger buyers with kids,” he said.
Younger buyers are more concerned about resale and less confident of their design choices, Sitchinava said, so they’re more likely to stay with white and gray kitchens.
“Older buyers often plan to stay in their homes longer, so they’re more willing to play around with color for a unique look, especially with a back splash or wall color,” Sitchinava said.
It will be interesting to see which of these 10 design trends have staying power and how they will change in future years as tastes and technology continue to evolve.
Want more kitchen trends and advice? The Local Living section’s annual kitchen issue comes out May 3.