For many families, the kitchen is the heart of their home. This long-treasured belief helps to explain why kitchen renovation so strongly resembles major surgery, in terms of worry, cost and disruption of familiar and comforting routines. A whole web of family activities, beyond cooking and eating, center on and pass through the kitchen. And, like the bathroom, kitchen renovation is distinctive in the wide variety of functional elements to be considered and coordinated. Unlike a living room or bedroom, the cast of skilled craftsmen involved in the project is huge and varied—plumbers, electricians, masons, tile-setters, carpenters, ventilation and heating specialists, and electronics experts all have parts to play in creating a new kitchen that serves all a family’s needs.
Homeowners may ascribe the infrequency with which they update the kitchen to its expense. Redoing a kitchen can be costly. Then again, most long-term decisions are more expensive than short-term ones. The best way to weather the inconvenience of such a large and complex job and feel you have gotten your money’s worth is to put at least as much time into planning the work as you expect will take for its execution. Planning should recognize current family needs but, more important, look ahead to changes in those needs, along with the technological and materials changes that will make your renovation forward-functioning for as long as possible. When time comes to renovate, it’s common to start planning with the notion “we’ve always wanted. . . .” Seek out contractors, specialists and vendors who can help you determine if now is the time for “always” or if there are better, newer choices to be made. Kitchen trends for 2018 suggest some exciting new possibilities.
COME LOOK AT MY KITCHEN
Your first decisions must be the biggest ones. If you are changing the shape or size of the kitchen, those plans come first. As the children get older, supper at the breakfast bar gets tired, even though it suits their busy schedules. Kitchen designs for 2018 address the distance between a too-formal dining room and bar-stools at the kitchen counter with a variety of seating plans, including banquettes, breakfast nooks and family tables with room for company. Adding a dining alcove can maximize your family time together. Expanding kitchen space, however, may require local permits before construction can begin. Start all reconfigurations of kitchen space by consulting your municipal building department.
Another large-scale reconfiguration that is attracting lots of attention is hidden ventilation. The elaborate vent-hoods associated with restaurant kitchens and European country-house kitchens are giving way to simple columnar structures and overhangs that contain necessary machinery to regulate kitchen heat and humidity; this new venting arrangement may also need permitting or inspection.
The third major trend in spatial change is one you can make without permits but, like the other two trends, it may have a strong impact both on how your kitchen looks and how it functions. Forward-looking designers are modifying storage to reflect new ways to cook, entertain and relate to food overall. Open shelves have returned, to display dishes, utensils and even food items. Walls of cupboard doors provide flexible storage while preventing equipment and ingredients from disrupting a peaceful view. Most dramatically, kitchens are acquiring more natural light as designers completely remove upper wall cupboards.
Like the removal of the large, ornate range-hood, removing wall cupboards sends a strong message that time spent in the kitchen has changed. The Huffington Post notes that, in 2011, 28 percent of adults surveyed described themselves as not knowing how to cook, while in 2016, Forbes Magazine reported a study showing millennials spent 40 percent of their food dollars on food prepared and/or eaten outside the home. Numbers of people eating out vary widely, depending on age and region, but in general Americans as a whole spend significantly less time and money on home-cooking than they did even 10 years ago.
A quick view of a cooking show or commercials on a cooking channel solidify these changes even further. Specialized cooking gear, like sous-vide cookers, slow-cookers and steam ovens make specific tasks more efficient than did pots and pans. A kitchen may contain several ovens: conventional; convection; microwave. Smoking, pickling and grilling can all be managed with specialized equipment designed to bring favorite dishes back indoors from the yard. Juicers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso makers and a wide variety of indoor grills and portable cookers serve appetites honed on tastes from tahini to panini. One of the biggest messages of the future kitchen: if you’re going to do it, do it right.
Similar specialization extends to storage and to food itself. Even modest renovations can plan for wine storage, temperature accommodations for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and correct storage for bulk cereals, spices and other staples. What storage reflects, more than anything else, is changing attitudes toward food itself. Cooking channels may still overflow with recipes that use up leftovers, but in an increasing number of households the healthy-eating message has finally gotten through. A broad spectrum of reasons stimulate home cooks to buy only what they need and treat it as fuel for activity, rather than as recreational fodder. It has dawned on even the hungriest cooks that what is chowed down needs to be run off. Good food needs to be treated with respect (hence, specialized storage) and served only in amounts needed to provide health and energy. This is one reason for the rising popularity of portion-controlled meal-kits. Entertaining can remain lavish, and everyone may have one non-negotiable treat, but new attitudes toward food have shaped kitchen design in permanent ways. Today’s kitchens are still seen as essential places to gather, socialize and enjoy each other’s company, but at many tables, that goal has attained primacy over the food on the plates.
WHAT THE NEW KITCHEN LOOKS LIKE
Good equipment no longer requires an industrial setting. Black and white predominate, with an increasing interest in all-black appliances. Floors and some vertical surfaces rely on rich wood tones to vary the monotone, while counters go in several directions. One wall may display a strong shot of color, which is then echoed in woodwork elsewhere in the room.
Visually, counters play a strong role in carrying both color and light through the room. The automatic choice of granite is fading, as quartz and other engineered surfaces like glass develop wider ranges of color and texture choices. These easy-to-maintain long-lived surfaces establish a visual unity throughout the entire kitchen. Whether highly or subtly polished, reflective counter surfaces work as a continuous ribbon of energy throughout a room. Matte or leather-like textures add further visual interest, and veining can contribute both color and strong new lines to both flat and vertical surfaces. Coordinate task lighting with counter surfaces to create work islands, hospitality zones and a quiet corner for a reflective and restful cup of tea.
Black and white remain a reliable choice for kitchen walls and counters, and both black-and-white and all-white kitchens can be expected to remain popular for several more years. To take the best advantage of new technologies, however, treat yourself to exploring the full range of colors available in engineered quartz counter tops before making a predictable, safe choice. The mineral richness of dark greens or blues or the sandy beiges evoking a feeling of the tropics may turn out to be the choice you want to carry your renovation into the future.
The shape and size of counters is influenced by new trends in cooking technique. Generous dimensions let a cook do basic by-hand prep chores while leaving room for selected specialized equipment, the sous vide for one meal, the juicer and a vegetable shredder/slicer at the next. Slightly deeper, wider counters make this space-sharing easier. Amplify the utility of your counters with additional sinks; a deep one for flower-arranging, perhaps, or a broad one for large amounts of produce. Extended counters make entertaining easy; consider counters at varying heights to accommodate seated guests as well as those getting drinks or choosing from the buffet.
Once you’ve made the big choices, the seeming mountain of detail between you and a completed renovation will shrink rapidly. Glass-fronted cupboard doors have turned out to require just as much cleaning as some homeowners feared, and buffed nickel fixtures have not gained interesting patina from frequent use. So solid doors and bright brass are back. Stencils, folk-art, patterned papers and most fabrics have drifted happily into other rooms, where they can be enjoyed with far less upkeep. Watchwords for 2018 kitchen renovation are: simplicity, efficiency, respect for materials and hospitable warmth. Picture your renovation as the opportunity to create a working household center that lets family members and friends ease away from the frantic daily pace, nourished by good food, good company and a beautiful place in which to relax and recharge.