Of all the rooms in your house, your kitchen likely saw the most action in 2020. With so many people staying at home making artisanal pizza and using their countertops as an office or classroom, this room endured plenty of wear and tear. And that means it might just be the room that's most in need of a refresh.
But where to start? For inspiration, we consulted with top designers from coast to coast to uncover the hottest kitchen trends in 2021—what you need and what you'll totally want. Some of these design changes were expected after a year of staying at home, while others might totally surprise you.
No matter what, 2021 will see the kitchen transformed into a space that can do the heavy lifting in a myriad of ways—with lots of comfort and a little fun thrown in. Without further ado, here's what's cooking designwise in the kitchen this year.
1. Larger kitchen islands
Islands are no longer just a place to slurp down cereal before heading out the door. Instead, homeowners are increasingly using their kitchen islands as a work, study, and leisure area—in addition to a place to prepare food.
"Larger kitchen islands are here to stay," says Ariana Lovato, owner and principal designer of Honeycomb Home Design in Shell Beach, CA. "People want to have as many workspaces as possible, with the kids now doing virtual school."
Large islands also make kitchens less transitional spaces and more of a central place to hang out in the home.
2. Less open layouts
Open layouts have been beloved in recent years for eliminating barriers between the kitchen, living, and dining spaces in order to bring family members together and make entertaining easier. But now those large spaces are being rethought due to their lack of privacy.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that the traditionally walled-off spaces will return," says Costa. "But you can expect to see more privacy niches, sound dampening materials, kitchen desk/nook/workstation areas, and quiet corners in 2021."
3. A revival of wood finishes
It may be 2021, but there's a revival of natural wood happening that pays homage to vintage kitchens of the 1970s.
"For years, homeowners have been ripping out old wood paneling, but with a rise in affordable synthetic or engineered wood alternatives, the possibilities of adding wood are now endless," says Georgina Borneman-Street, CEO and principal designer at Cobalt Blue 1802 in Los Angeles. "It's a nice mix of retro meets modern."
Look for upgraded wood veneer paneling with subtle or light grain finish to add that natural element in the kitchen.
4. Handleless Cabinets
"We've all heard the suggestion that adding hardware to cabinetry is considered an upgrade, but when done right, handleless design feels high-end," says Borneman-Street.
Handleless drawers and cabinet doors also lend a futuristic look, giving a kitchen a sleek feel with clean lines.
"The totally seamless design creates an effortless flow throughout the kitchen," adds Borneman-Street.
Bonus: Cabinetry without handles tends to be easier and quicker to clean and sanitize, too—a new essential feature in this pandemic era.
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