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January 2, 2021

9 Kitchen Design Trends to Look Out for in 2021

If you look at a modern-day kitchen it has many of the same appliances that our parents and grandparents had in their kitchens several decades ago. But if you look back at photos of kitchens from even a handful of years ago, it’s doubtful you’ll see very many European style cabinets or French country tables. 

“Design trends change as the relationship with the home changes, but it is also largely influenced by architecture and the overall layout of homes,” notes Diana Viera, Managing Partner from Miami-based kitchen, bath and closet design firm ITALKRAFT. In other words, as architecture trends shift and change, so do kitchen designs in nearly every aspect. In recent years, one of the biggest trends in the United States is the modern style kitchen — a cleaner, less cluttered and overall brighter look. “In addition to more sleek cabinets, we’re seeing an integrated look where the kitchen flows naturally into the living room as well as other areas of the home,” says Viera.

This open layout has created more opportunities for family life around meal prep—the family hanging out while someone is preparing meals and allowing for interaction, notes Robert Kaner of Robert Kaner Interior Design of New York. “To accommodate this, certain features have been added to modern-day kitchens, including homework/charging stations, televisions, music speakers, etc. “The addition of stools at a countertop has been a function of the development of the quick bite, breakfast, coffee to accommodate our increasingly busy lifestyles,” he says. “Increasing consumer awareness of design has led to an elevation of design and aesthetics—more sophisticated finishes, millwork forms, countertop materials, etc.”

If you are working with a contractor [1] to build the kitchen of your dreams, whether it be a modern style kitchen, a traditional style kitchen, or anything in between, here are the latest kitchen designs experts say you should keep in mind. 

Gray tones

While white hues reigned supreme in recent years, greys are starting to take their place. “The use of a subdued gray pallet has become the new neutral because it appeals to most aesthetics, plays well with stainless steel as well as colored appliances, and most countertops,” says Sunny Berle, an interior designer and realtor based in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and co-owner of MASO Design Build. In her opinion, gray cabinetry works best in a two-tone scheme: white uppers with gray lowers. “I see this trend staying popular as we head into 2021 and likely the next 5 or so years,” she adds.

The contrast of black and white

According to Berle, these two non-colors are some of the chicest of all pallets, both in fashion and interior design. “They can be classic and timeless when used properly,” she says. “Rich, caviar black kitchen cabinets and the center island look fabulous combined with white uppers.” If you choose to go the black-and-white route, however, she recommends being mindful of keeping the counters and backsplash tile light to maintain a proper balance of positive and negative. Also, she says bright lighting and modern brushed gold fixtures and accents are key to keeping this aesthetic from looking dull. 

Metal materials as accents

Bringing in metal materials, such as brass hardware, as an accent has been a trend in kitchen and bathroom design for a few years and is a trend that Viera believes will continue to stay popular well into 2021. We’ve seen this trend take root in design styles like white shaker and rustic style kitchens, where pops of metal can add warmth and dimension. “Minimalism is still a top trend in the design world but when designing a more minimal space it is easy for it to become dull or flat if all aspects of the design are a single color,” she says. “Bringing in a metal like bronze or gold is the perfect way to keep that minimalist look while bringing in an accent material to create a more dynamic look.” 

Multiple finishes throughout the kitchen

This is a kitchen trend that has been picking up over the better part of the last decade. “There is no longer a single ‘cabinet’ finish and a single ‘countertop’ selection,” says Kaner. “Upper cabinets can be a different finish (e.g. painted white vs. a natural wood base cabinet) to visually expand a space, or maybe an island will be a different finish with a different countertop to read more like a furniture-like element that differentiates it from the perimeter cabinetry.” When it comes to successfully pulling off this kitchen trend, Kaner says that creating a beautiful layered composition is key.

Multiple appliance stations

Especially in kitchens that will host large families, there’s been an increasing trend to incorporate multiple sinks, dishwashers and other functional stations such as coffee centers and beverage bars. “With multiple sinks—e.g. one in a prep area, another in a clean-up area—multiple people can work together,” says Kaner. “Similarly, two dishwashers can be a lifesaver when entertaining—it’s all about understanding the client’s lifestyle and needs and designing the optimal kitchen for the client.” Creating other kitchen-like zones throughout the dining area and taking advantage of split level kitchen floor plans is also becoming popular, including such features as wine and bar service, storage for glasses and coffee mugs, beverage refrigerator, ice machine, bar sink and mini dishwasher.

Large lighting fixtures

In most modern style kitchens, you will see huge LED pendants being used for lighting instead of the boring recessed lighting of decades past. And this is an area that Kaner predicts will continue to evolve to become increasingly layered and flexible. “LED technology and advanced lighting controls and dimming and color temperature adjustments will provide an ever-increasing capability for food preparation with powerful yet soft and disbursed illumination, a more evening-like warm ambience for food service, eating in and entertaining,” he says. “Overhead lights can be small aperture recessed lights which can illuminate throughout key areas, and under cabinet lighting, already a common addition, can now be concealed, emitting a continuous line of lighting that evenly glows under cabinets and provides a beautiful and practical effect, rather than a series of spots.” 

A stronger emphasis on cleanliness and sanitation

With the COVID-19 pandemic hardly in our rear-view mirrors, Kaner predicts that cleanliness and sanitation will receive priority as never before due to an increased awareness and concern for health and safety. Easy-to-clean features such as flat panel kitchen cabinets and modern kitchen floors are expected to see a rise in popularity. “The approach will vary by client, but potential areas of focus will be a spot where groceries can be received, wiped or sanitized before being put away, locating spots for handwashing and sanitizing prior to coming in contact with kitchen surfaces, knobs and handles etc., contact-free controls and faucets, and strong and safe ventilation, with appropriate filtration for recirculating air,” he says.

More concealed storage options

The pantries of the days of our grandparents are making a comeback, with families needing increased storage with a preference for it to be ideally out of sight. These concealed storage options are especially useful for small kitchen styles where practical use of space is of particularly high priority. “The kitchen is inevitably an area of the home where people have a lot of items like cookware, dishes, utensils and appliances so storage has become more important than ever,” says Viera. “However, the pandemic has increased the desire to have a minimal space and a space where all items can be put away and do not have to be left out or create clutter.” She and her firm have seen an uptick in the demand of custom storage options and believe they will continue to see the trend of completely concealed storage options continue well into 2021. 

Movable islands to maximize space

Also in an effort to enhance living space, more and more kitchen designs are including kitchen islands that can be moved around. “Islands have always been an important part of kitchen design as they offer additional counter space for food preparation as well as a seating area and additional storage,” says Viera.” While movable island space can be incorporated in almost any design, kitchen islands on wheels saw notable popularity among rustic modern farmhouse kitchens. In smaller spaces, stationary kitchen islands can be cumbersome and difficult to navigate, but movable islands can easily be navigated to emphasize available space without sacrificing counter space and storage.”