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Custom Appliances, Materials Elevate Kitchens and Baths in 2021

They top the charts for home renovations, and in today’s kitchen and bath redesigns, customization that pairs functionality with style is key.

Diane Falvey
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Kerrie Kelly Design Labs, kitchen renovation
Mixed materials, multi-tone cabinets and functionality are trending as consumers look for more customized kitchen spaces.

The two most used rooms in the home have typically been the kitchen and bathroom. These also continue to be the rooms that top consumer wish lists for renovation — to make them more functional, more organized, easy to clean and, of course, more beautiful.
“We’re learning what a hub of the home the kitchen really is, and right now there’s a lot of wear and tear happening,” says interior designer Kerrie Kelly, Founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.

The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced kitchen and bathroom remodel rankings, which have typically ranked higher on the consumer’s remodel agenda in general, according to the 2021 Kitchen & Bath Market Outlook from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). The NKBA report continues that a higher share of home owners indicated that renovations to the kitchen and primary bathroom are “extremely important” compared with other areas of the home, and that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a substantial lasting impact on the design of these two rooms.

As homeowners begin assessing their needs in these high-traffic spaces, more attention is being paid to customization, creating spaces that work specifically for those individuals and their families.

And as a result of the increased traffic these rooms may be experiencing with more of us home all the time, those with the means and desire to renovate are assessing such factors as material durability and ease of use along with style.

Mixed Messages

Aesthetically, while transitional, modern and contemporary style is trending for these rooms, consumers are expressing an openness to incorporate more eclectic design, color and an organic/natural feel.

According to the NKBA report, this combination pairs clean lines and minimal detailing with the warmth and texture of natural finishes, adding that the influence of natural/organic is expected to continue its upward trajectory, having moved into the top three design styles respondents expect to increase in popularity in the kitchen and bath over the next three years.

According to the 2021 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, one in five homeowners (22 percent) remodeling the kitchen opens it to an outdoor space. Part of the movement toward a more organic feel in the kitchen can also be seen in the materials and colors being used. While white is still the most popular color for kitchen cabinets (41 percent of homeowners choose this), according to the Houzz report, that does represent a four-point decline from last year’s survey. Wood tones (23 percent) are back in vogue with medium tones (13 percent) trending the highest, followed by gray (10 percent). Multi-colored cabinets (9 percent) have seen increased popularity for the last three years. Of those upgrading kitchen islands, 41 percent choose a different color for the island cabinets with blue overtaking gray this year for the first time.

According to Kelly, color has definitely made an appearance in these rooms of the home again, whether on cabinets, countertops or accents. “We’re seeing blues, greens and black, especially when it incorporates wood cabinetry as well,” she says, mirroring the findings at Houzz. “I feel like color is being accepted through paint and cabinetry and organic elements. There’s even customization in appliances through color and pattern.”

Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, Bathroom renovation
Color is important in bathrooms and kitchens today, such as a shower accent wall in this bathroom designed by Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.

Hestan is one such appliance manufacturer bringing color to appliances. The company has added the ability to customize ranges, indoors and out, with color. “When we chose our colors, we chose a range of options that would be versatile,” says Basil Larkin, VP Sales for Hestan Commercial Corp. “We have 12 exclusive colors and finishes.”

In its Aspire collection those colors include two exclusives: Orion, a midnight blue, and Reef, a pink reminiscent of the tropics. Across the range of indoor and outdoor appliances, Larkin continues, the most popular colors include Bora Bora (turquoise), Prince (a royal blue) and Pacific Fog (a soft gray). The company can customize colors through its powder coating facility in northern California.

Other appliance customization options include an overlay option, so customers can add recessed wood paneling to appliances, a nod to Mid-century Modern style. Beyond finishes, Hestan is adding smart technology to its induction and gas ranges for even more customization.

Hestan, gas range oven, kitchen customization
Appliances are seeing splashes of color to customize the kitchen, such as with this Hestan gas range oven.

Surface Style

Appliances and cabinets aren’t the only surfaces benefitting from customization. Advances in countertop materials allow for natural looks with durable surfaces, such as with Cosentino’s Loft collection, which pulls its inspiration from cities around the world. “These countertops have a concrete aesthetic vs. marble, a matte finish,” Kelly notes. And while they are still neutral, they aren’t stark white, offering “sophistication, elegance and durability.”

Cosentino, kitchen countertop materials
This mood board from the Cosentino Loft countertop collection showcases a return to natural elements
in the kitchen.

Another trend noted in countertops in the 2021 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study is the re-emergence of wood and wood-tone counters for islands as a contrast and adding warmth, with 46 percent of respondents choosing a wood tone for an island countertop.
Countertops are surfaces that work in both kitchens and bathrooms, as are tiles — more than a third of renovating homeowners (37 percent) add an accent wall in their showers, according to the Houzz 2020 Bathroom Trends report. Surface material (51 percent), followed by color (45 percent) and texture (28 percent) top the accent wall trend in the shower.

Mixed finishes are also finding their way onto faucets and lighting in these spaces, as companies roll out mixed metals and other materials to create artistry and interest in these functional pieces. Considered the jewelry for the kitchen and bath, functional metal accents have become statement pieces. “We’ve given our clients permission to mix metals,” says Kerry. “We’ve seen that in lighting, and now we’re seeing it through faucets.”

According to the Houzz Trend reports, while sinks may stay in place, faucets are often replaced during a renovation. In bathrooms renovations, 87 percent of respondents said they would update faucets, and in the kitchen, 76 percent said they will upgrade faucets at the kitchen sink.


Shining Bright

In the 2021 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, lighting shines bright in these renovations as well. It’s the kitchen island that gets the most attention with 93 percent of homeowners who are adding or renovating an island saying they would update lighting there. Pendant lights are the most popular by far, followed by recessed lighting or a chandelier (see Consumer Snapshot on page 16 for more).

In the bathroom, mirror lighting and under-cabinet lighting is on the rise with wall lights and recessed lighting taking the top spots (58 and 55 percent, respectively). Light fixtures that mix metal and glass lead style trends at 66 percent.

Lighting functionality, lighted bathroom mirrors, bathroom lighting
This mirror from Vesper features side lights designed to help with bathroom tasks. 

Beyond the aesthetics we’ve covered here in Style Board, functionality is the primary reason consumers are updating kitchens and bathrooms. While layouts aren’t changing as much as they have in the past (new renovations are less likely to request open floor plans), storage and technology are playing a larger part in kitchen and bathroom functionality as well. “Bathrooms are supporting the concept of wellness,” says Kelly. “It’s truly about function. At some point, floor tiles will be able to take your temperature; the mirror will be able to tell you you are low on Vitamin B. Bath manufacturers are looking toward us being able to tap in to all of our vitals just by walking into the room.”

There are myriad renovation options in these high-traffic rooms, and while there are always prevailing trends, post-COVID, we can expect to see more and more customization in kitchen and bathrooms as homeowners take stock of how these rooms are utilized to the best of their ability. “Our homes have to work harder than they did before,” Kelly notes. Manufacturers are taking stock and delivering the kitchen and bath functionality that’s needed now and in the future.

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