For the better part of 2020, many of us spent more time at home than ever before, and the ways in which we cook, entertain, work and relax in our homes changed significantly. Now, the look and function of kitchens are changing, too. We asked industry experts to share what’s on the horizon for this hardworking space in 2021. Hygiene and cleanliness will be a top priority in kitchen designs while flexibility for multiple tasks and users remains important. See which finishes, fixtures, colors, and appliances will be popular in 2021 kitchen trends.
1. Warm Colors
While white remains the favorite kitchen color scheme, warmer shades will soon supersede the cool tones of recent years. For its 2021 palette of the year, PPG released a trio of colors grounded with a warm beige and accented by shades of orange and aqua. “Our global color stylists were drawn toward warm colors that evoke feelings of compassion and comfort,” says Amy Donato, senior color marketing manager at PPG Paints.
“When the world experiences events that cause unrest, we tend to naturally gravitate toward these hues. These comfort colors are similar to comfort foods—both offering a certain sense of familiarity and normalcy when facing the unknown.” Donato recommends pairing the optimistic colors with greenery, natural wood tones, gold accents, and woven textures
2. Organic Style
A new kitchen aesthetic is on the rise. In the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) annual trends report, natural, organic style skyrocketed into the top three kitchen design styles for 2021 (up from 10th in 2019). The style relies on the same clean lines as still-popular contemporary and transitional kitchens, but with a look built on the warmth and textures of natural materials.
“Select a soft, light, neutral palette to encourage the eye to scan with ease throughout the space,” says Laura Muller, CEO and principal designer at Four Point Design. Minimizing paint color contrast between the trim, walls and ceilings will open up the room. She suggests matte or brushed finishes to complete the overall softness—and don’t forget the biophilic accents, such as an indoor herb garden.
Muller also emphasizes that this style celebrates the versatility of materials that are organic, nature-inspired (wood-look flooring, for example), and environmentally conscious, such as energy-efficient light fixtures. “No longer is ‘natural and organic’ exclusively synonymous with a bohemian and earthy vibe,” she says. “Today’s finishes are luxurious, sleek, modern, and fit with almost any design style and budget imaginable.”
3. Touchless Faucets
Installing a new faucet is a quick and easy kitchen update many homeowners will be making in 2021. “Whether it’s our heightened awareness of hygiene at home or a growing demand for hands-free functionality, touchless kitchen faucets continue to grow in popularity,” says Jonathan Bradley, smart home manager at Kohler.
According to the 2021 NKBA trend report, motion-control and hands-free faucets, as well as touch-tap faucets, will be more popular than a traditional lever kitchen faucet. And for the first time, voice-activated faucets made an appearance on the report. This new faucet feature is not only more hygienic, but it can also help you be more productive in the kitchen, too. “Now, through simple commands, you can turn the water on to wash your hands or dispense the exact amount you need for pasta or soup,” Bradley says.
Select matte or brushed finishes for a low-maintenance upgrade that doesn’t show fingerprints. If working warmer colors into your kitchen, Donato recommends matte black faucets for “a richer, warmer feel than traditional stainless steel.”
CREDIT: LISA MAKSOUDIAN
4. Decorative Range Hoods
Kitchens are moving away from hidden ventilation and turning to the range hood as a decorative focal point. But it doesn’t have to be ornate to stand out. A hood that extends beyond the cabinetry profile or features an accent color can go a long way.
Ariana Lovato, owner and principal designer at Honeycomb Home Design, anticipates clean-lined designs for 2021 in response to COVID-19. “Kitchen hoods in a square shape with slab materials facing them will be very popular due to the minimalistic style but also for ease of cleaning,” says Lovato.
Rather than bold details, the emphasis will be on the types of materials used on range hoods. “Expect to see slab material—like marble, thin veneer porcelain, or plaster—for the hood, making it a statement piece,” she says. In particular, look for natural materials and wood tones to create these eye-catching elements.
CREDIT: PAUL DYER
5. Increased Storage
The past year not only changed when and what we cook, but at-home chefs also purchased new small appliances, utensils, and more groceries, too. Now, kitchen storage is feeling the strain. This will manifest in different ways, depending on individual needs and the space you’re working with, but there are two kitchen storage areas to consider in 2021: pantries and freezers.
“The freezer is one of the best places for long-term food storage,” says Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer and president of Susan Serra Associates, Inc. “It gives an enormous sense of security in these insecure times.” Expect increased sales of standalone freezers and refrigerator-freezer drawers, or homeowners simply replacing an existing refrigerator-freezer with a bigger, more accommodating unit.
Kitchens will also work harder to accommodate higher volumes of pantry goods and small appliances, like bread makers, air fryers, and Instant Pots. “With counter space being a precious commodity in most kitchens, new homes need to be found for small appliances,” Serra says. Plan for a return to dedicated pantries, enhanced cabinetry solutions like larder cupboards, and an abundance of kitchen organizers to accommodate these new tools and dry goods. Serra says we’ll also be seeing freestanding furniture, wall cabinets, and rolling carts as space-savvy solutions.
CREDIT: EDMUND BARR
6. Strong Outdoor Connections
COVID-19 encouraged many homeowners to bring the inside outdoors in 2020—and 2021 will be returning the favor. One of the key design elements in this year’s kitchens will be a visual and physical connection to the outdoors. Muller specifically says bifold doors and larger windows, especially windows that almost sit on the countertop, will be used to promote a “more stylish and less obtrusive view.” It’s also functional: these windows and doors enable fresh air flow, a desirable trend resulting from the pandemic.
Muller admits these can be costly changes. One way to work toward the same effect without an architectural upgrade? “Trade in your heavy window treatments for organic linen or soft woven shades in a simple design,” she says.
CREDIT: COURTESY STUDIO DEARBORN
7. Large Islands
Large islands (at least 24 square feet in size) are a staple of the post-pandemic kitchen, according to the 2021 NKBA trend report. In addition to serving as a place for food prep, cooking, and storage, the kitchen island has developed to accommodate work and studies with plenty of outlets.
Islands functioning as dining tables will also be popular—a layout change that reflects a broader trend of incorporating more kitchen seating. “When there are more people in the kitchen doing multiple tasks on the island at once, additional seating is critical,” says Sarah Robertson, founder and principal designer of Studio Dearborn.
Although a renovation can help create the perfect do-it-all island, Robertson says it’s not a requirement. “A clever trick to expand an island is adding a vintage metal drawer unit or counter-height dresser at one end of your island. This can add drawer storage as well as a work surface,” she says. “You just need to make sure the drawers are robust enough to handle some weight.” A table abutting the island similarly creates a versatile workspace, casual gathering place and designated dining area.
CREDIT: COURTESY OF BERTAZZONI
8. Specialty Ovens
Homeowners are investing in auxiliary, specialty ovens for greater functionality as they spend more time cooking at home, according to the experts at Bertazzoni. For example, a convection speed oven can augment a traditional range with a flexible cooking solution that combines both traditional and microwave ovens into a single product. You can bake, broil, and microwave all with the same unit.
According to designer Brynn Olson, these additional ovens also reflect homeowners’ increasing awareness of and desire for a more wellness-oriented lifestyle. “Functionally, we’re seeing a huge trend in ditching the microwave in exchange for a steam oven as clients become more aware of the health benefits of steam cooking,” says Olson.
Six Key Residential Wellness Design Trends For 2021
Wellness design was a strong and growing trend before Covid-19 reached our shores early last year, but it has exploded in popularity as the virus increased awareness of the links between home and health. It’s likely that the trend will long outlive the pandemic.
That’s partly because so many Americans have spent so many more hours at home considering what works for them and what doesn’t in their living spaces, have had to start working in existing or improvised home offices, set up distance learning stations for their children, possibly started doing bulk shopping online and needing more storage, inexplicably couldn’t find toilet paper in stores last Spring, and wished they had bidet functionality in their toilets; sequestered ill family members in spare rooms, or moved an older relative out of a nursing home or assisted living facility.
1. Indoor Air Quality Takes Priority
Ventilation has always been a matter of code, but hasn’t always been optimized, with space and style considerations too often outweighing health and safety principles. “There are some states where a range hood is still not required in a home for new construction and remodeling,” observes Goranson. “With people spending more time indoors during the pandemic, contaminants can contribute to long-term health issues,” he adds. It’s not just cooking ventilation where improvements are showing up, the radio host comments, “We will also continue to install in our HVAC systems air purification that will not only take out contaminants, but viruses as well.”
Kafka sees the importance of the IAQ trend. “Given the fact that humans spend 90% of their time indoors, and that indoor air quality is reported to being more polluted than outdoor air, it’s no surprise that improving residential air quality is on the rise.”
What that looks like in wellness design is smart-home enabled air quality management systems, sensor bathroom vent fans, integrated cooktop-vent hood technology and strategies that reduce viruses from the air, including HEPA and advanced MERV filtration plus emerging UV-based systems, and a renewed emphasis on building and design products that don’t emit toxins into a home environment, she says.
2. Nature Comes Home
The many benefits of nature in design – called biophilia in the industry – have long been touted, but have taken on new importance because of the pandemic. With people shying away from crowded public spaces, including parks and busy hiking trails, having plants within one’s indoor and outdoor living spaces has become a must-have feature.
Carr anticipates, “Designs in 2021 will be rooted in nature, as people seek to ‘bring the outside in’ through biophilia and the artful inclusion of nature elements in indoor spaces.” The designer cites views to greenery, natural materials like stone and wood, and nature-inspired shapes, patterns and symmetry. “People have been seeking more immersion in nature, woods, and parks, and we are already seeing a houseplant boom as a result of 2020’s pandemic social distancing efforts!” she notes.
Nature has also shown up in a strong gardening trend, particularly as a way of adding to a healthful, immunity-boosting diet. “Space for an indoor garden of some sort has always been something I tried to incorporate into my own home, as well as my clients’,” shares Stephenson, adding, “Now, more so than ever, for wellness we need access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.”
Kafka is seeing that trend in Canada too, she says. “Kitchen appliances that focus on nourishment wellness will be in high demand. These include combi-steam ovens, sous vide cooking, refrigeration that extends the life of perishables and appliances for herb-growing,” the conference planner reports. Beyond appliances, there has been a renewed interest in vegetable gardens, she notes, “With dedicating spaces in backyards, using raised beds or opting for container gardens.”
3. Lighting Sees Improvements
It’s not surprising with so many more hours spent indoors – including on video cameras –that lighting would take on new importance with the pandemic. “New lighting options will be on tap to help counter the negative effects of spending so much time indoors deprived of the benefits of natural light,” Costa reports. “In design, this is being addressed with everything from skylights and sunrooms to new light fixtures that more closely mimic natural light. While ‘bringing the outdoors in’ has long been a trend,” she points out, “Expect that to increase in 2021 as people seek to brighten up their homes with multiple light sources that create a more Zen-like vibe.” This is also tied to the increase in plants’ popularity, the editor points out. Many of the new designs that incorporate herbs, greens or plant walls include grow lights.
Kennedy sees improved lighting showing up in advanced window coverings, she says. “Window treatments have huge light management benefits [and] support our circadian rhythm. In all my research I haven’t found one element like this that has such a huge impact on so many areas of our comfort,” the designer shares.
Kafka sees these lighting trends emerging for 2021: “Circadian lighting, which can help improve sleep, mood, and our overall sense of well-being; increased amounts of task lighting to support the aging eye; lighting in the home for safety (mounted under beds, vanities, kitchen cabinetry, stair rails); more natural light (modifying spaces with larger windows and adding skylights; personalized lighting options to increase productivity in home offices, and lighting for relaxation during personal time.”
4. Noise Reduction Gets Prioritized
This trend was inevitable with more people taking on more tasks at home, and with more demands and worries added to so many lives. With one or two parents working from home, living rooms becoming classrooms, and everyone dealing with their own stressors, the need for noise reduction becomes urgent. It’s showing up in different ways, the pros observe.
Radio host Goranson sees the biggest challenge being new video-centric tasks conflicting with long-established layouts: “The open concept house is great for family time and entertaining, but harder to navigate with a family of four trying to conduct school and business at the same time. We will be controlling sound in bedrooms and offices and possibly creating a space in the garage when the house is fully being used,” he predicts.
Many families are using their kitchen counters and tables to meet new multi-tasking needs and space challenges, Costa observes. This – plus ill family members quarantining at home – is driving a need for quieter appliances and sound muffling. “Look for a greater focus on ultra-quiet ventilation, dishwashers and laundry equipment in 2021, along with softer flooring and wall coverings with sound absorbing properties,” she suggests.
Kennedy agrees: “Sound management is a huge need right now, and we can help accomplish that with solid core interior doors, acoustic plaster, acoustic panels, and designing in softer and more textural finishes to help absorb sound waves.”
Designer Stephenson sees a related trend toward quiet rooms, she says. “These spaces may be used for a mental retreat, a work phone call or for students to log into their virtual classrooms.” She sees this need trending, even – or especially – as she anticipates open floor plans remaining popular.
One area of the home that’s almost never part of an open floor plan concept is the bedroom. “We will see a trend towards quieter bedrooms [and] removal of any devices that distract us from falling asleep at a reasonable time,” conference organizer Kafka notes. “The bedroom will be one of the most important rooms in our home; the sleep sanctuary for improved health.”
5. Smart Home Technology Supports Wellness
It’s long been available, but entertainment and security have often eclipsed wellness-oriented smart home technologies. Pre-pandemic, wellness tech was often seen as a luxury. A deadly virus changed its ranking in importance, and will continue to do so in 2021, especially in the areas of air quality management and reduced germ spread via handsfree technologies.
“The more handsfree we can be in our world today the better,” Kennedy comments. “We have been learning to appreciate touch faucets in the last few years, however, I believe we are going to leapfrog straight to motion sensors and voice activation. Every kitchen faucet I’ve specified this year has had motion sensor or voice activation features,” she shares.
Goranson is seeing this trend too. “Smart home devices will continue to become more common as we can set up a home so we don’t have to touch a light switch, or door lock, or even a garage door opener.”
6. Fitness Gets Home Space
In many parts of the country last Spring, gyms and fitness studios closed in Covid lockdowns and their members needed to find space at home to workout. Exercise equipment got almost as scarce as toilet paper, and rooms were reorganized to hold available gear and screens to workout with trainers, instructors and friends remotely.
It’s likely that as people’s routines improve, they’ll continue to exercise at home. The savings in time, travel, and membership fees are notable. In some cases, people are trading those membership fees for expensive equipment. Peloton is one of the beneficiaries, with sales soaring and demand outstripping supply, but other equipment manufacturers saw dramatic growth too. As people contemplated purchasing exercise gear for their homes, they had to rethink their homes to accommodate these additions.
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