By Amber Statler-Matthews
The top kitchen trends for this year are more choices with kitchen design and accessories, clean and contemporary design, energy efficiency, technology and new materials.
“How central the kitchen has become in our lives and our homes is what’s driving these trends,” Shawna Dillon, senior designer of the residential division for Studio Snaidero in Chicago, says. “People lead busy, hectic lives, so coming home to a space that is easy to maintain and easy to use is paramount.”
Dillon says developers and consumers alike are clamoring for cabinets with high-gloss lacquer finishes, energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting and easy-to-maintain engineered stone countertops, and they are not accepting limitations. They want to have a broad range of product, finish and color choices. Snaidero recently introduced three new designs based on this trend, called the “orange, code and way” platform.
“The ‘orange, code and way’ platform is the most complete and customizable product in Snaidero history,” explained Dillon. Once a client selects a specific door style, there are eight different materials, several different color choices and over 100 finish combinations to choose from. This gives consumers flexibility not only with materials, but also with the price range without having to sacrifice quality.
In terms of cabinets and colors, dark dramatic woods and lacquers are still in high demand, but sleek, white kitchens are white-hot this year. They provide a nice canvas for the other color trend right now – strategic pops of color like reds and oranges. Terri Connett, senior contract channel marketing manager with Whirlpool Corporation, agrees white kitchen cabinets are in, but with a twist. Several new products, such as Jenn-Air brand’s White Floating Glass Suite have high-gloss finishes that shine, and feature smooth, sleek glass fronts that give kitchens a crisp, contemporary look.
“Depending on the desired look, this contemporary, high-gloss surface can be made to blend in with kitchen décor or stand out in distinct contrast,” she says.
Kitchens are also beginning to reflect the people that live in the home, much like living and family rooms do, and Dillon says developers and contractors are asking for specific materials that actually make consumers want to live in the kitchen space. For a comfortable kitchen that blends into the rest of the living space, Elica is a brand that she says serves up sleek decorative hoods that are both extractors and light features.
It’s not enough for cabinets to be colorful and luxurious. New construction demands that kitchen appliances also meet LEED requirements. A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation found that 78 percent of consumers are interested in monitoring their household’s energy use. Refrigeration is getting smaller and more efficient to accommodate fresh foods and frequent shopping trips, according to Dillon. Less space is required to store packaged foods, so pantry storage can be reduced, making room for more counter space for food preparation. In addition, more builders are installing Energy Star-rated fridges and appliances, which use the energy equivalent to powering a 60-watt light bulb.
Refrigerators and freezers developed by Sub Zero and Thermador allow the homeowner to design their own cold storage spaces based on their own unique needs.
There are also some “hot” oven trends – wall ovens with a steaming capability have become more mainstream. European appliance brands such as Miele and Gaggenau have made steam ovens very popular, not only because of their health benefits, but also because they save time, water and energy. Some even ease oven cleaning – a few Whirlpool electric models are equipped with a steam cleaning option to spot-clean light spills in the oven in about 20 minutes.
Developers are also choosing dishwashers that are more high-tech and energy-efficient. Miele’s Futura dishwasher series uses smart technology to adjust intensity and cleaning duration once it senses the amount of dirt on the dishes.
Additionally, EnergyStar.gov named the newest Whirlpool brand dishwashers the most efficient in the industry. “These dishwashers use nearly half the water and energy compared to conventional dishwashers manufactured before 2006,” Cornett says.
Most of these appliances come with touch screen controls and smart-cook technology, which, Cornett adds, is a top trend for 2012.
“A prime example of this is Jenn-Air brand wall ovens, which feature the industry’s first ‘touch anywhere’ LCD screen,” said Cornett. “This screen allows users to slide through options using only a finger and decide how they would like food prepared with the help of on-screen pictures of various foods and pan and rack suggestions.”
Snaidero has been setting trends in Italian-made cabinetry for 65 years. To stay relevant in an ever changing marketplace, architects, designers and engineers use
the latest research and technology to experiment with new materials.
“Traditional stone countertops will always be in style but engineered quartz products like Caesarstone, Silestone and Corian are very popular,” says Dillon. Snaidero offers glass countertops both in lacquered and polished finishes for a more contemporary kitchen.
“When we come home, we want our homes to be calm, quiet and easy to maintain,” explained Dillon. “I find that people are more accepting of easy-to-clean lacquer finishes and have gravitated towards minimalist cabinet styles that integrate into the architecture.”
Heavy-duty stainless steel sinks can be customized in different sizes thanks to the Julien company. According to Cornett, there is also a trend toward metallic finish options similar to those in the faucet and light fixture industries. “This is true with the Jenn-Air brand ‘oiled bronze’ finish, a warm and stylish alternative with radiant auburn hues and rich metallic undertones.”