AFTER YEARS OF HUNKERING DOWN and spending less on renovations, many homeowners are ready to start giving in to the desire to cook up something new in their kitchens. “During the recession,” says Fred Miller, managing director of the Florida-based Home Improvement Research Institute, “a lot of what got cut were bigger-ticket discretionary items. If your water heater went out, you weren’t going to take cold showers, but because some kitchen remodeling can be pretty pricey, many owners decided they could live with their existing kitchens for a year or two.”
That attitude seems to be softening, with the remodeling industry overall seeing double the growth in 2012 that it did just two years ago, according to research from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “Work is starting to ramp back up again,” says Miller, “and the biggest reason is pent-up demand.”
If you’re one of those weighing a fresh look for your kitchen, consider incorporating some of the latest trends.
1. CLEANER, MORE MODERN LINES
Perhaps the biggest change to hit the Northeast in recent years is the simpler, sleeker look coming over from Europe, though, according to Jeff Swanson of Renovation Planning in the South End, “it will always be New England-style contemporary, where it’s not harsh and cold.” Designers term this look “transitional” — that is, modern but with a classic take.
Among the ways the aesthetic translates is in fewer wall cabinets — usually replaced by open shelving — and less ornamentation, including on cabinet doors, which are now often a simple slab. Proportions are tending toward the masculine, says Amanda LaRose, designer at Divine Kitchens in Wellesley, becoming “squarer, thicker, chunkier, and more architectural.” To offset the bolder scale, she adds, finishes such as painted cabinets and marble countertops are “staying more feminine.”
2. UPDATED LAYOUTS
Open-concept kitchens have been popular for some time, but the older homes that predominate in the Boston area often require an addition to create them. Many homeowners are doing away with that extra expense by eliminating the formal dining room. “People say, ‘We just don’t entertain that way,’ ” explains LaRose. “A lot of people knock down the wall to make a larger, grander eat-in-kitchen that they can enjoy every day, as opposed to having a china closet that gets dusted more than actually used.”
Additionally, the work triangle — with the stove, refrigerator, and sink forming its three points — is no longer the focus of kitchen design. Instead, restaurant-inspired workstations are being set up. There may be a prep area for vegetables near the main sink, a baking station with a pullout cutting board or lift-up mixer in the base cabinets, a sandwich-prep area near the refrigerator, and a bar area with second sink and mini-fridge in the island. “People are so into organization,” says Kathy Marshall of K. Marshall Design in Wenham. “I think because life is so crazy.”
3. DOCKING STATIONS
Beginning in the 1990s, with the rise of home computers, contractors started adding office areas to kitchens in new-construction homes, and the trend soon moved to kitchen renovations. But those office spaces are falling out of favor, because in most homes they quickly became what LaRose calls “the abyss,” where bills, receipts, recipes, kids’ school permission slips, and the like got tossed into a pile to be ignored. “Office space is not disappearing” from the kitchen, LaRose explains, “but morphing. It’s becoming a message center and docking station. It probably does not have a sit-down desk area like it did, and once you take away the need for sitting, you can now use that space for storage.”
Charging cords and outlets for hand-held devices that live in a countertop cubbyhole can be hidden with a slide-up door, and upper areas containing pockets for kids’ stuff, personalized mail slots, key hooks, and electronics storage can be masked by doors that close when guests arrive.
4. EXPANDED HARDWARE OPTIONS
For years, the only adornments on well-dressed cabinets were brushed-nickel rod handles. Today that’s changing, with many more materials and styles available. Old-fashioned scallop pulls are becoming popular again; other options include flush hardware that mounts along the top edge of base cabinets. For metals, LaRose says, “it’s become designer’s choice. I don’t think there’s a wicked hot metal right now. It’s really based on the aesthetic of the rest of the space. But a lot of beautiful warmer metals have come back into favor — warmer brasses and burnished, patinaed golds that are just, like, yum. A few years ago you never would have touched anything warm.”Continued...