Story by Ed Carroll
The kitchen may be the most cherished room of a home. And while today’s updated gadgetry may allow for less time in front of the range than just a few years ago, the form and function of the kitchen remains constant: a space to cook and share meals in informal repast.
But kitchens today are not your grandmother’s plain, white kitchens. They are both stylish and functional, often with technology that wasn’t available as recently as just a few years ago.
Experts John Hall, owner of the Hall Design Group in Beachwood and a certified kitchen designer; Elise Masaoka, interior designer at Litt’s Plumbing Kitchen & Bath Gallery in Parma Heights; and Amy Finch, sales designer and architect at Somrak Kitchens in Bedford Heights share what they are seeing when their customers come to them in search of a new kitchen.
“We’re noticing a tendency for something more contemporary, like a slab door versus a shaker-style raised panel,” Finch says. “This year alone, the increase has been incredible. Everybody coming through the door wants the same thing. Going with that style is no crown molding, the cabinets are often held down from the ceiling a little bit, maybe a foot. … Now it’s sort of a cleaner, European style.”
Losing popularity, Masaoka says, are stained cabinets in which one can see the wood grain through.
“Any stained finish is not as popular now,” she says. “People are mainly wanting painted finishes.”
Hall says his clients usually come to him with an open mind and few preconceived ideas of what they want, relying on a professional like him to guide them. Clients usually end up with “moodier tones” than kitchens usually had in the past to create more of an atmosphere, he said.
“Traditionally, we’ve always gone with white cabinetry,” Hall says. “Then all the sudden, they threw in a gray island and things like that. Now, all the sudden, what’s happening is almost a reversal of that, where they’re starting to do gray kitchens (or) blue kitchens that have white as the accent.”
Both Hall and Masaoka say that countertops have moved from the traditional material, granite, to quartz.
“Traditionally, countertops, as far as material, granite stone, up until about two years ago, has been about 70% to 80% of my sales,” Hall says. “Now, all the sudden, the stone is probably about 10% of my sales and quartz has taken over.”
Masaoka says, in addition to quartz, quartzite has been popular.
“Quartz countertops are still very trendy,” she says. “But I’ve been selling, more lately, quartzite countertops, which I think is an upcoming trend and kind of has been for the last year. I particularly like that quartzite countertop. So, they’re natural stone as opposed to quartz, which is partially man-made. … Quartzite is natural light granite, and I see that coming up a lot more in design.”
The design process extends to the appliances, too. Hall, Finch and Masaoka all say customers want an integrated look in their kitchen, including appliances.
“We sell appliances,” Finch says. “We tend to sell the higher-end appliances, but that’s also part of the trend – the fully integrated kitchen, where everything looks like cabinetry. So, the refrigerator has cabinet panels on it, the dishwasher has cabinet panels on it – it’s very streamlined. That also lends itself well to the slab look. It’s very uniform.”
Masaoka agreed, explaining that while she wouldn’t consider any specific brands of appliances to be particularly popular, the integrated appliances trend is.
“The type of appliances, for instance, refrigerators now, everyone wants a custom, built-in look,” she says. “Refrigerators, we’re basically only selling and suggesting counter depth, so everything is a little more flush (and) nothing is sticking out too far.”
Hall says the question he used to ask his customers was whether they wanted one oven or two. Now, there are more options, including both a speed oven and a steam oven. He gave a hypothetical of him going to a football game a half-hour away after work. In his hypothetical, he does not want to eat out and does not have time to cook a full meal.
“If I had a speed oven, I could go home (and) put a baked potato in the speed oven,” Hall says. “By the time I let the dogs out and come back, that potato is done, oven-roasted (and) restaurant quality. I could have leftovers from last night done (or) I can do a chicken breast in probably four or five minutes.”
The steam oven, on the other hand, is what Hall says is the “healthiest way of cooking.”
“It can do vegetables, pasta, fish – you’ll never have a better cut of fish than out of the steam oven,” he says. “That’s a steam oven. Those are as hot as they come. So, (with) my clients, very seldomly am I putting two ovens in. Basically, I’m putting one main oven in, and then a steam or speed (oven), or all three.”