Kitchen design sticks with white, plus pops


As French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud says, “Kitchens should be designed around what’s really important – pleasure, food and life.”

Kitchens may no longer play the center of everything role they did at the start of the pandemic. But even if you’re spending more time outdoors, you’ll likely have become a bit more attached and invested in the kitchen than in 2019.

Some of the latest in kitchen design and equipment:

cooking with color

The monotonous, all-white kitchen has been popular for a few years, with Instagram feeds full of white and cream cabinets and pale woods. It looked clean and like it meant business — a culinary clinic, if you will, and a far cry from the mid-2000s combo of cherry cabinets and granite countertops.

But there is a change. The standard nickel hardware of a white kitchen can now be replaced with matte black and brass, or brightly hued knobs and faucets.

The whites become creamier, less fresh. You’ll see woods, vegan leather, and rattan as textural elements to warm things up.

“The classic all-white kitchen is more relevant than it’s ever been, but there’s a new need and demand for color,” says Bob Bakes, co-founder and chief design officer for Bakes & Kropp, a custom kitchen and cabinet design company in New York City.

He’s recently used sky blue, stone gray and a red called geranium on kitchen projects, and a glossy black in a butler’s pantry.

Betty Brandolino, founder and creative director of Fresh Twist Studio in Elmhurst, Illinois, sees a similar move toward color. “White isn’t ruled out, but we’re putting in painted or natural wood islands as opposed to an all-white kitchen,” she says.

Some clients request entire kitchens with painted cabinets, she says: “Green has been the color of choice, ranging from sage to olive and even a brighter green.


“I’m excited to see people becoming more experimental in their design choices, from mixing metals to incorporating a variety of textures,” says Bakes.

Lighting is a way to bring personality and modernity to kitchens. Recessed lights are still among us, but now there’s also plenty of statement lighting: a row of pendant lights or an oversized fixture above an island, for example.

While subway tiles still dominate backsplashes, some are changing their use. “For example, applying them in unexpected patterns such as vertically instead of horizontally, and stacked instead of staggered,” Portland-based designer Erin Davis noted on real estate platform Homelight,

Large sections of ceramic tile are also popular. New technology has allowed manufacturers to make larger but thinner and lighter slabs that are easier to work with. And fewer grout lines mean they’re easier to clean.

Bring personality to the backsplash with patterned and textured tiles; there are floral, geometric, metallic and wall tiles that make an artistic background. And you don’t have to buy a lot of them – create a feature wall behind an island, around an office corner, or intersperse custom art tiles with regular tiles. Some designers take the tiles from the wall to the floor, for an eye-catching look.

Open plan, closed pans

The pandemic has made us choose sides when it comes to kitchen layouts. Either you adopted an open plan, where everyone could easily interact, or you were grateful for your closed kitchen, where some could cook without disturbing others who were studying or on Zoom calls.

“We still see a desire for open floor plans,” Bakes says. “I don’t think the need to separate the kitchen is making a comeback yet.”

But there are adjustments to the open plan. An example is the butler’s pantry – an adjoining space to the main kitchen where clutter can take place and supplies are stored.

“We’re designing more hidden pantries for appliances like toaster ovens, blenders, and extra dishes,” Brandolino notes. “It also allows us to incorporate more open shelving and less overhead cabinetry, which is a trend we’ll see more of in the coming year.”

Mary Maydan, principal at Maydan Architects in Palo Alto, Calif., says minimalist islands are all the rage.

“They’re not a new trend, but they’re getting even more stylish. New technologies and equipment allow us to design islands of exceptional cleanliness and elegance. And with this new hardware, we can have large doors that hide parts of the kitchen like counters, appliances, and even kitchen island seats. The gaze is continuous and homogeneous.

Mix of materials

Houzz’s 2022 Kitchen Trends Report noted that homeowners are ready to splurge on countertops, with quartz and porcelain set to be the preferred materials. Engineered quartz combines natural stone and resins to create a strong, impact-resistant material. And the porcelain cannot be scratched, burned or stained. Both can be made to imitate marble, granite, onyx, and other stones.

We see lighter woods like oak and maple, dark walnut, and even plywood used as full cabinets and as accents. What is especially new are the finishes (most of them matt) and the mix of materials: wood with painted glass, polished metal, ceramic.

New York designer Leyden Lewis paired sleek, back-painted glass walls with rustic reclaimed wood flooring in an American kitchen in Manhattan. Studio INC Design installed a suite of all-steel kitchen cabinets from Poliform in a Tribeca apartment, then softened the look with marble countertops.


Tech continues to move around the kitchen. Samsung’s Family Hub, for example, puts a five-screen smart display on top of the fridge. There’s a kitchen screen for shopping lists and recipes, an entertainment screen, a smart home screen, a calendar/digital bulletin board and a screen you can customize.

LG’s Instaview feature lets you tap the fridge door to see what’s inside.

App-enabled small appliances include slow cookers, blenders, and countertop ovens.

Touchless motion-sensitive faucets have been on the market for a few years. If you want to take it up a notch, there are also “smart” faucets.

With Delta’s voice-activated faucet, for example, you can turn it on and fill it up to a specific amount. Kohler’s voice-activated faucets are linked to an app that also monitors water usage and lets you know if you’ve left the faucets open.

“You have to watch it with a bit of humor,” says Maydan. “You check the faucet about the water temperature and discuss food ingredients with the fridge. You sure have company when cooking in today’s kitchen!


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