Eclectic Kitchen Trends On Front Burner

Kitchen remodelingIs stainless dead? Or maybe showing its age?
Not really, but Houzz, an online photo mecca for interior design devotees that claims to have 16 million unique visitors every month, says that the metal finish, which has held sway as a kitchen appliance choice for more than a decade, appears to be getting a rethink, based on a survey of visitors to its site.
Houzz recently quizzed about 7,800 people who are remodeling their kitchens about why they’re doing it. One surprise takeaway (and, to some eyes, a relief): They no longer seem obsessed making remodeling choices that are based less on their tastes than on how they might affect their homes’ resale values.
In an edited interview, Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz, explained what Americans are doing to their kitchens, and why:
Q: The people you surveyed said they were mixing finishes in their kitchens, and that stainless doesn’t seem to be a runaway choice. Is its day as a kitchen mainstay over?
A: I wouldn’t say that — after all, 65 percent of our respondents said they were using stainless. But we got a lot of comments, and we’ve seen a lot of consumers’ photos of kitchens where they’re having some appliances in stainless and they’re integrating others — that is, they’re adding fronts to the appliances that match their cabinet material, which sort of makes those appliances invisible or they blend into the cabinetry. They may integrate most of them that way but have their chef’s stove in stainless, to make it stand out. They’re not walking away from stainless, they’re just toning it down a little bit.
Q: The kitchen industry is saying that consumers currently are in love with gray in their kitchens. Did it show up in a big way in your research? Any momentum the other way, toward bold colors?
A: Most people are more conservative with color schemes and want something they’re not going to tire of quickly. Gray is growing in popularity: We asked people the dominant color of their finished kitchens, and 37 percent said white, 23 percent said brown or tan, and 8 percent said gray — gray came in third. That doesn’t mean people aren’t doing gray accents or a single gray accent wall, which we’re seeing quite a bit of — in the survey, we asked, what is the primary color?
About 14 percent said they were putting in bright and colorful overall schemes, but 75 percent described their kitchens as “soft and neutral.”
Q: For a while, the industry was saying that future resale value was driving consumers’ kitchen design choices, which seemed to result in an ocean of beige, which they perceived as “safe.” Is that still the case?
A: In our survey, resale value seemed to be a motivation for about a third of the people who were remodeling, so it is meaningful but not the most important thing. That’s been consistent for the past couple of years. They’re doing things they like and picking things that are going to fit their own tastes.
“Improving the look and feel” was the No. 1 motivation, claimed by 79 percent. Other motivators that trumped resale value concerns were to improve function (59 percent); upgrade appliances (52 percent); and improve storage (48 percent).
Q: Is there still an emphasis on getting a bigger kitchen?
A: Not necessarily. We got more than 700 comments from people who participated in the survey, and a lot indicated they were remodeling less to get more square footage than to open up the room to the family room or great room; 77 percent said that was what they were doing, though 37 percent said they were remodeling to enlarge the kitchen.
It seems a lot of people are aiming to improve that functionality by adding islands to their kitchens; 61 percent of respondents said they were adding islands.
One interesting thing that’s apparently related to these remodeling jobs that open up and connect the kitchen/family room: The top choice for kitchen flooring (50 percent of the respondents) is hardwoods, which is apparently related to creating visual continuity between the kitchen and the family room. Tile came in second, at 32 percent.
I think we’re seeing a bigger consumer reaction around the country. They’re saying: “I don’t need a house that’s bigger, I need one that functions better.” They want more functional, more efficient or attractive.
This post was originally published by the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 25, 2013.