Current Kitchen Trends - Central NJ and Bucks, PA, 2011

March, 2011: The year is well underway and homeowners are investing in their properties. However, “caution” is the key word in kitchen remodeling and home design. We saw this in action during 2010 and it is carrying into 2011. Here in the Delaware Valley areas of Hunterdon, NJ and Bucks, PA, homeowners are taking a conservative, yet upscale approach in their kitchen remodels. The homeowners we speak with are looking for cabinetry which has some of the amenities found in high-end kitchens, but with classic styling. The 2011 Kitchen Trends Report, just released by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) validates our observations.

Personalized Refacing, Tewksbury, NJ: Custom Stained Cherry, Rich Cappucino

According to the NKBA, clean-lined traditional looks – sometimes referred to as “Transitional” – are reigning supreme. Sleek modern styling is third and losing ground. Homeowners today want design which is comfortable, safe, and with universal appeal. The cabinets in these kitchens set the stage for a variety of design options. They are equally appropriate backdrops for patterned backsplashes of stone, light fixtures with elegant details, and warm neutral walls, or contrastingly, glass mosaics, softly modern light fixtures, and pops of crisp, 1970s inspired color. The main elements of the kitchen in terms of expanse and expense – cabinetry and flooring – are being chosen for their ability to remain neutral for the next owner of that space. Personalization is playing a part in those elements which are most easily and economically changed, such as wall color, lighting fixtures, and backsplash.

Flemington, NJ: Pale Celery Seed finish, with crown and soffit treatment

Cabinet Styles and Finishes: Whether its new cabinets or refaced, traditional raised panel profiles and Shaker style are the top two choices for cabinet door design. Our clients are choosing woods and finishes which are rich, yet visually calm. Oak has been and continues to be at the top of most home owners’ “do not want” list. When refacing cabinets the number one choice for new doors is cherry, custom stained to the “perfect” shade. Right behind that are shades of off-white, most glazed, but ever so lightly. Glazing over the entire cabinet surface is requested to add depth to door color, and detail glazing is for bringing out the architecture of the doors and millwork. In both cases, the desired end result is a rich look, full of depth, but without visible brush strokes or drag marks through glaze. Other popular choices include maples, custom stained in warm, coppery tones, and painted finishes in our “Celery Seed” family of colors, a rich beige with complex undertones of sage and taupe. Contrasting islands in darker tones, including deep stained woods and painted finishes in cappuccino shades, are our most popular finishes for kitchen islands. Requests for heavy distressing and antiquing have dropped off; NKBA reports that now only 5% of kitchen designers are specifying those finishes, down from 16% a year earlier.

Princeton, NJ: Custom refacing, Copper Mountain finish on maple

Cabinet Millwork: When moldings and other architectural accents are used they are not ornate or gaudy, rather they are used to add substance and proper scale to the cabinetry and the space. The demand for intricately carved millwork sporting grapes, cherubs, scrollwork, and other overly ornate elements appears to be on the decline. Millwork is still desired, but with the intent of having the cabinetry look high end and with furniture quality design. Also, many of the homes in the Central NJ and Bucks, PA areas are traditional, center hall colonials, or country styled, so upscale detailing in cabinetry is not only expected, but very design appropriate.

Morris County, NJ: Custom refaced island, Mocha Walnut finish on cherry

Appliances: In the Delaware Valley region of NJ and PA, commercial grade gas cook tops are the number one choice for clients upgrading their kitchens. However, induction cook tops are rapidly gaining ground as the preferred choice, due to their superior efficiency of energy transfer, energy and cost savings, and ease of use. Although stainless is still king in appliance finishes, some homeowners are looking for warmer options and are even opting to mix and match appliance finishes. Color-loving homeowners are considering free-standing ranges by Fratelli or Betrazzoni, for a pop of drama in their kitchens. We see about a 50/50 breakdown of home owners who want their dishwashers and refrigeration disguised by matching cabinet panels, versus those who go with the appliance finish. High end dishwashers such as Bosch and Mieles remain the big favorites, primarily because they are quiet and reliable. In refrigeration NKBA reports that the French door model of refrigerator was requested by 78% of the designers responding to their survey. We agree and see two additional trends in refrigeration: A majority of our clients, even if they are two person households, are upgrading to larger refrigerators. We think this is a function of a new age of “cocooning”: people are cooking at home more and eating out less. The other trend we have noticed is a shift to the sleek look of the high end, 24” wide refrigerators. This is the choice primarily of singles, although couples who are frequent shoppers, typically purchasing fresh foods from their local farmers’ market or produce stand, are also embracing smaller refrigerators. In a market formerly dominated by high-end brands such as Liebherr and Sub-Zero, now LG, GE, and German player Blomberg have models available for homeowners on a more moderate budget. And finally, the microwave has been evicted from its spot above the cook top. This dated look has given way to either wood hoods or sleek concealed vents, such as the ones offered by Zephyr. The microwave is typically being replaced by combination microwave – convection units, and is installed as a wall oven or an under-counter unit.

One final thought: If you decide to buy a higher end, name-brand appliance, go to a reputable appliance dealer. The deals offered by the big box stores may not be real deals should there be a problem with the unit down the road. You may think you are buying the same brand you might buy elsewhere, but in reality the appliance has been made by a company in China, for the home improvement store, and the store paid to use the brand’s name. If the product fails you will have little or no recourse with the brand’s company – it isn’t really their product. And finding competent technicians to repair these units can be a challenge. Save yourself some potential aggravation and buy your appliances through a dealer who will stand by their products.