If you’re considering big changes for your kitchen this year, it’s worth investing ample time and thought into how you want the space to look and the way you need it to function. After all, today’s kitchen isn’t just for cooking — it has evolved into a household hub for gathering, working, learning and more.
“The kitchen is the heart of the home, and it’s also where people spend most of their time,” says Terence Tung, owner of Luna Kitchen and Bath, located in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood.
Houzz’s 2022 Kitchen Trends Study, released this month, reports that homeowners spent a median of $40,000 on major kitchen remodels and $10,000 on minor kitchen remodels last year. Those figures represent an increase of 14% and 25%, respectively, over the previous year. Whether due to cost increases for labor and materials, or layout changes and upgraded finishes, the numbers represent a sizable investment. So getting the most versatility for your money is important.
“The pandemic has influenced our needs within the home, and we’re seeing that in the kitchen, which is often referred to as the command center of the home,” says Marine Sargsyan, a senior economist at Houzz, a home design and remodeling company.
One example of this, Sargsyan says, is a rise in the percentage of survey respondents who reported that office work is a top activity at their kitchen island: 20%, an increase of 4% over the year before.
And as the need to work at our islands grows, so do the islands themselves, Sargsyan says.
“Homeowners are accommodating [space for work] by lengthening and brightening up their islands,” she says. “Nearly 2 in 5 islands stretch more than 7 feet in length.”
But accommodating work isn’t the only reason that homeowners are revamping their kitchens. Cosmetic changes are a common driver, as are changes that add functionality, technology and energy efficiency.
Here are a few kitchen trends to be aware of this year as you plan for your next project.
White shows little sign of ending its run as a perennial favorite shade in the kitchen. A generous use of white on walls, cabinets and backsplashes helps the room feel brighter and adds a sense of cleanliness.
Another key to white’s popularity is its versatility, Tung says. White walls can blend into a space, or stand out when surrounded by darker colors, he says.
“It’s so flexible in selecting your counter, your backsplash, your wall colors, the fixtures,” he says.
Tung adds that black is “coming on really strong,” with black-and-white combinations often used in the popular modern-farmhouse kitchen design.
Patricia Brennan, the owner of Seattle-based Patricia Brennan Architects, says she is seeing whites and woods as popular choices for Northwest kitchens.
“We just finished a project with a client who put in all-white glass backsplash tile and then white counters,” she says. “It sounds a little austere maybe, but it’s very calming and warm.”
Another way to add warmth in the kitchen is through the use of natural wood features. “Walnut is really popular right now,” Brennan says.
If you’re considering using a lot of wood in your kitchen, make your selections carefully, Tung says. “Wood-on-wood is sometimes a challenge,” he says. For example, “you have to have the right flooring with the correct wood for the cabinet. If not, they clash with each other, and you won’t get that complete look.”
Countertops were the most common element upgraded during kitchen renovations last year, according to the Houzz report, and more than one-third of respondents spent more than they had planned on the work.
“It is clear that homeowners are willing to spend a little more to get exactly what they want for countertops that are both beautiful and practical,” Sargsyan says.
Engineered quartz is by far the most popular material for kitchen countertops.
“Countertops have gone from stone to almost exclusively quartz or quartzite,” Brennan says. “Quartz” refers to engineered quartz, while “quartzite” is the natural stone version of the quartz product, she says.
Granite, once the darling of countertop materials, was the choice of less than a quarter of those in the Houzz survey.
Tung says one big advantage of engineered quartz is that it remains consistent in terms of color and appearance, whereas the look of granite and natural stone are much harder to predict or replicate.
This is an especially important factor amid the current supply-chain delays, Tung says, because the natural stone piece you favor today could be gone — and impossible to match — a few months down the road. On the other hand, he says, quartz has a design that is more consistent from piece to piece, so there’s less urgency to purchase it before you need it.
“If you find [a natural stone piece] that you like, you have to purchase it right now, and then where are you going to store that big slab? It’s going to be very heavy,” Tung says.
Appliances hold special appeal for kitchen renovators, according to the Houzz report, as half the respondents who remodeled last year said they replaced all of their appliances. Further, 27% ended up spending more than they had planned.
For those looking for top-of-the-line models, there are a range of high-tech add-ons available for the kitchen, including wireless and smartphone controls. Refrigerators, stoves, microwave ovens and dishwashers are all available with features such as color touchscreens, built-in apps and voice-activated controls.
Many of these appliances are being installed in kitchen islands for convenience and accessibility, especially microwaves, garbage disposals and beverage refrigerators.
Stainless steel is the most popular finish choice for appliances, with three-quarters of remodelers opting for it, according to the Houzz survey. Tung calls the look of stainless steel “timeless,” and adds that choosing this finish helps to ensure consistency if you need to replace an appliance later. Other colors offered by manufacturers can come and go, he says.
Brennan says she’s seen a desire among her clients for sustainability and energy-efficient appliances, particularly in the Seattle area.
“What’s important to me as an architect, but doesn’t always get stated directly to a potential client, is [the value of] sustainability and technology, and working with low-VOC and sustainable materials,” she says. “Especially in the Northwest, I think people are aware and care about it.”