Stuck at home for the past year during the pandemic, lots of homeowners turned their attention on their kitchens, giving these tired rooms new looks and tackling those spaces that just don’t work anymore.
"More people are concentrating on the functionality of the kitchen because, last year, they were stuck at home and used their kitchens and saw what they didn't do," said Chris Licciardi, a designer at Marchand Creative Kitchens. "People realized how old, outdated and nonfunctioning their existing kitchens were and wanted to be better."
As homeowners seek to address the problems quarantining revealed, they're also updating their kitchens with new appliances, finishes, hardware and colors.
Angela Poirrier, owner of Acadian House Kitchen & Bath, even gave her own kitchen a makeover. Prior to the pandemic, Poirrier realized, like a lot of us, that her kitchen was more of a waystation than a gathering place for her family of five.
"Our schedules with after-school activities were crazy," she said. "One child got off at 6 p.m., one got off at 5, and the baby eats at 5:30."
When the pandemic ground these activities to a halt, the Poirriers had time to eat dinner together every night — and noticed all the unaddressed issues with their kitchen.
Working with two designers at her company, Poirrier doubled the kitchen’s footprint, removing a 4-by-2-foot central fireplace to give it a sense of spaciousness.
That trend of wide open kitchens is still going strong, designers said, adding, however, that their clients are carving out nooks and crannies elsewhere in the house for privacy.
"Everyone's looking for bigger, more open spaces," said Licciardi. "'We want to remove the wall' is the first comment of 95% of people."
Removing kitchen walls often means removing cabinets, so islands fill the storage void. At Poirrier’s house, she added a second island with built-in bench seating as part of her kitchen renovation. She topped the counters with quartz and a matching quartz backsplash. Because it's anti-microbial and a dupe for more expensive, maintenance-heavy natural stones like marble, quartz is a top pick for countertops.
"Lots of beautiful, marble imitation quartzes are great alternatives to real marble — they're nonporous, durable, maintenance-free and you don't have to seal them," said Logan Wheeler Ramirez, a designer at Ourso Designs.
She suggests honed marble, which has an unpolished, matte appearance, to clients who want natural marble without the upkeep of having to seal it or the possibility of it scratching.
Another big trend for kitchens is wood floors — or surfaces that look like wood. These days, you can get the wood look with porcelain planks or water-resistant laminate.
"With all the flooding, something that can be removed, dried, cleaned and put back down if water gets underneath piques interest," Poirrier said.
The impulse toward wood is part of a design aesthetic Poirrier described as "moody," characterized by matte blacks, natural materials and texture, achieved with materials like reclaimed wood surfaces or woven lighting fixtures.
In cabinets, navy has been going strong for years and is being supplanted by what Poirrier described as "billiard green."
But the bright and airy look — white cabinetry and plentiful natural light — is still big, though Ramirez said more warmth is being injected into the palette.
"Everything is still very white, but I see a gradual shift away from white on white, going more to off-whites and grays cabinets," Ramirez said.
She said she brightens kitchens by layering lighting — using pendant lights that make a statement, then adding task lighting and recessed can lighting.
Don’t shy away from mixed metals and wood stains, she advised. It's fine, for example, to combine polished nickel plumbing fixtures with gold hardware.
"Mixing metals really is totally OK as long as there is cohesiveness in design and style," Ramirez said.
Stoves with mixed metals, such as a stainless steel French range with gold knobs, are popular. Microwaves have moved from above the stove to lower cabinet spaces and are often housed in drawers, which makes them more accessible to children and those with disabilities.
Stacked ovens have gone the way of the wall-mounted telephone, and convection steam ovens are "coming on strong," Licciardi said.
"(A steam oven) does everything a normal oven does, including regular convection bake," said Licciardi, who has a Wolf convection steam oven in his kitchen. "It doesn't broil, but I can put a rack of ribs in and in an hour and a half, I have fall-off-the-bone tender ribs."
The ability to cook as a family without bumping into each other is one of Poirrier's favorite things about her newly designed kitchen.
"We're all in the kitchen — someone's making breakfast, someone's cleaning, someone's doing homework, and we're all comfortable," Poirrier said. "I pause, look around and take in how nice it is that we are all cooking together."
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