Functionality driving kitchen design as consumer reassess needs during pandemic

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If you’ve invested in new cookbooks and small appliances, continue to stock up on pantry staples to reduce your trips to the grocery store and/or work from a makeshift home office at the kitchen table, you understand the changes that are driving the newest trends in kitchen design.

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“We’ve seen the pandemic have an effect across all sectors in our society and we’re now starting to see how the change in human behaviours is shifting the way we design our homes,” says Bill Darcy, chief executive officer of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

“Consumers are more eager to embrace new technologies, innovative ways to provide multi-functional options to maximize their space to fit any occasion and are opting for surfaces and designs that make it easier to clean, as well as address health and wellness.”

Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry and appliance garages offer creative storage options. Project by Sarah Robertson.
Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry and appliance garages offer creative storage options. Project by Sarah Robertson. Photo by ADAM MACCHIA photograph

MULTI-FUNCTIONAL SPACES

Spaces that serve multiple functions will become increasingly popular in 2022 and beyond. Millennials in particular want to maximize their kitchens with islands that serve as a meal prepping area, workstation and dining table, as well as a place to entertain guests, the NKBA says in its 2022 Design Trends Report.

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The annual report forecasts the styles, features, materials and innovations expected to be most popular over the next two to three years. Pantries that include space for storage and a working area for small appliances and a coffee station, and galley or workstation sinks with built-in features, such as drying racks and cutting boards, are also on trend.

“Coffee nooks are especially popular for 2022 and are outfitted with pocket doors and fully-finished interiors complete with counterspace, drawers, shelving and LED lighting, creating a luxurious coffee bar right at home,” says Sandra Mendes, senior designer at AyA Kitchens, which is based in Mississauga and has locations across the province.

Increased pantry and fresh food storage are also desirable. Much like coffee nooks, they’re being customized with elegant interiors and efficient storage. “We’re also seeing more walk-in or working pantries outfitted with sinks and small appliances serving as additional prep space,” she says.

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Wood tones and wood grains have a prominent place in kitchen design. Project by AyA Kitchens.
Wood tones and wood grains have a prominent place in kitchen design. Project by AyA Kitchens. Photo by NELSON COSTA photograph

 NATURE-INSPIRED DESIGN

Millennials are also taking the lead in natural and contemporary designs. The move away from white and grey as primary colours continues and designers expect the popularity of nature-inspired colours like greens and blues will continue to grow, the NKBA says.

“A white kitchen will never go out of style but recently a lot of our clients are willing to consider some bolder options…Wood cabinets, especially in lighter tones like white oak with a clear coat, are making their way back in a big way,” says Patti Wilson, principal of Patti Wilson Design in Newmarket. Two-tone cabinetry is trending, but she recommends one overall colour in small kitchens. Custom details like fluted panels are on trend, as are simple cabinetry panels.

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The farmhouse trend continues to evolve and is fused with modern elements like doors with fine thin rails. “Look for country influences such as hutches, wood beams, apron sinks and natural stone or brick,” Mendes says. Demand for decorative hood fans, often in an accent finish or clad with shiplap, is outpacing stainless steel.

This kitchen features wood flooring.
This kitchen features wood flooring. Photo by PATTI WILSON DESIGN photograph

CLEANLINESS, TECHNOLOGY

Sustainability is top of mind. “Consumers are paying more attention to green design and wanting to source local, environmentally responsible materials and manufacturers,” says Mendes.

Easy-to-clean surfaces are also in demand, which means the love affair with quartz will continue. Ditto larger format tile or slabs with less grout and touchless faucets. COVID-19 made people conscious of high-contact surface points, so homeowners increasingly turned to hands-free and voice-activated technology.

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Demand for smart appliances with wi-fi capabilities and dual-option appliances, like steam and crisper options within wall ovens, continues to grow. “Induction ranges are the rage right now and are considered a safer, cleaner option to gas. Full-sized, side-by-each fridge and freezers are the way to go if space permits,” Wilson says.

When it comes to fixtures, there are countless styles and finishes to choose from, including knurled, embossed, leather and hardware with fluted details; rose gold, matte black and two-tone combinations like antique brass and matte black. “Depending on the style of your kitchen, you may want to consider a finger pull, recessed or push latch,” she says. Feel free to mix metals but make sure they have the same sheen.

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Trends past their prime

The following are among kitchen trends whose time has come, reports Sandra Mendes, senior designer at AyA Kitchens:

  • Open shelving. Choose glass cabinet doors instead. They allow you to display items but aren’t dust magnets.
  • Stainless steel appliances. Panel-ready dishwashers and fridges blend in seamlessly with kitchen cabinetry.
  • Raised bar tops with seating. Kitchens look and feel more spacious with counter-height tops, which are much more comfortable to sit at and offer more workable space.

Other trends past their prime, according to Patti Wilson of Patti Wilson Design: granite countertops, dark wood cabinets, distressed cabinets, above-the-range microwaves and under-cabinet light valances.

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