I have seen several trends come and go in kitchen design during my career.

A big part of my personal design practice has been to evaluate trends and give my clients my professional opinion on them.

Some trends make sense for clients, others don’t.

In this VESTA post I’m going to look at some popular kitchen design trends and give you the Pros and Cons so you can advise your clients on incorporating them or not.

Open Concept Kitchens

Open concept kitchen designs have become increasingly popular in recent years and are often the go-to look for many kitchen designers.

If you pick up a house plan book, the majority of the plans will feature an open concept kitchen.

Many designers will recommend clients “take down the walls” to open up the space to get an open concept.

But, is it the best plan for all your clients?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of the open concept kitchen.

  • Optimal floor space
  • A home that feels bigger
  • Improved traffic flow
  • Greater interaction between family members and guests
  • A great way for clients to show off culinary skills to their guests
  • Noise levels can be higher due to lack of walls
  • Smells from cooking can easily spread throughout the home
  • More difficult to hide clutter

As a kitchen designer you can overcome some of these cons.

Here are some tips:

Noise Control

  • Specify a vent hood with the motor mounted outside.
  • Specify a stainless steel sink with a sound dampening coating
  • Include some fabric such as a upholstered stools, a bench cushion or window treatments
  • Consider wood countertops as an option instead of hard surface materials like quartz or granite

Odor Control

  • Specify a high CFM vent hood (and as noted above, mount the motor outside)

Clutter Control

  • Be very intentional with your storage solutions: A place for everything and everything in its place
  • Include appliance garages to coral small appliances
  • Provide a raised portion on the island to shield the sink
  • Include a “Back Kitchen” to house the mess

It is important to discuss these pros and cons with your client prior to developing a kitchen design.

Ultimately, whether or not an open concept kitchen design is right for your client depends on their personal preferences and lifestyle needs.

Kitchen Islands

A kitchen island is the most asked for element by consumers purchasing a new kitchen.

But, just like with the very popular open concept kitchen there are pros and cons.

  • Produces a modern look for the kitchen
  • An additional space to prep food
  • An area to place additional appliances
  • A separate work station helps two work comfortably
  • It offers additional storage making the kitchen more organized
  • Provides extra space for seating
  • You need a sizable enough kitchen to accommodate one
  • They can be hard to plumb, vent or wire
  • If poorly planned they can cause workflow disruptions
  • If oversized, they can be difficult to clean

You will not always be able to overcome the above cons when designing a kitchen but here are some tips to keep in mind.

Check your sizing

  • Plan your work aisles to be between 42″ & 48″ and passage ways at least 36″
  • Watch the overall size of your islands. I like a minimum of 4′ by 3′
  • Don’t plan islands so deep that your client cannot reach the center of them to wipe them down

Confirm Mechanical

  • If you are designing a kitchen on a “slab”, ensure you can get mechanical to it
  • Don’t assume you can get plumbing to an island
  • Don’t assume you can vent through the floor or through the ceiling: Always check!

Check Food Flow Paths

  • Don’t “hide” appliances like the refrigerator behind the island causing multiple extra steps around the island to access it
  • Plot work triangles on your plans to ensure there is no workflow disruptions in your design

As mentioned, an island is an element that many consumers want included in their new kitchens.

Just ensure that you plan the very best one you can for them.

Taking Cabinets to the Ceiling

Kitchen designers regularly began taking cabinets to the ceiling in the 90’s.

It has become a popular trend along with both pros and cons.

  • Provides increased storage in a space that is usually empty
  • Can give the kitchen a more streamlined and spacious appearance.
  • Visually draws the eye up: Makes ceilings appear higher.
  • Often gives a custom look to your kitchen designs
  • Extra-tall cabinets or adding a second row of cabinets will increase costs over a “standard” kitchen
  • Difficulty in accessing items stored on top shelves
  • The room can look out of proportion if cabinetry extends to high

Taking cabinetry to the ceiling is a trend that has become very popular, and as a kitchen designer, you need to ensure that your client does not experience any of these cons.

Here are some tips to avoid cons when taking cabinets to the ceiling.

Explaining the Cost

  • A new kitchen is an investment in your client’s home and the design needs to reflect that. The extra cost will be worth it
  • Cabinets that are too short can devalue the kitchen

Accessing Storage

  • Install a sliding ladder to access cabinets over 8′
  • Include a built in step stool in the design

Get the Proportion Right

  • Increase the size of the crown moulding above cabinets to balance the design
  • Include a drop or soffit if the ceilings are too high to extend cabinetry

A final tip is to draw your kitchen design in elevation to make sure that the cabinetry to the ceiling makes sense and looks good.

Floating Shelves

Floating shelves have become one of the most popular trends in kitchen design in resent years.

Before you consider them as the design focal point in your next kitchen design check out these pros and cons.

  • Floating shelves can create a more spacious and airy feel
  • Allows more visual space and light to flow throughout the kitchen
  • Provides a place to display gorgeous kitchen glassware and decor
  • Ideal for breaking up rows and rows of cabinets
  • Perfect for areas (like corners) where cabinets don’t work
  • Can be more cost effective than traditional wall cabinets
  • Requires more maintenance due to dust and grease accumulation
  • More organization is needed or they can look messy
  • Can provide less storage than traditional closed door cabinets
  • They can lack stability and be dangerous if overloaded with too much weight

Floating shelves are a trend we will continue to see in contemporary kitchen design.

The most important thing for you as a kitchen designer is to specify hardware that will support the items your client could potentially store on them.

Manufacturers of floating shelf hardware are focusing on stability, so there are great options available on the market.

To deal with clutter and cleanability, be intentional when specifying them.

Don’t go overboard and ensure you meet your client’s storage needs within the design.

Open Concept Kitchens, Kitchen Islands, Taking Cabinets to the Ceiling and Floating Shelves are here to stay.

How you incorporate them into your client’s new kitchen can keep them fresh.

I’d love to hear how you use these trends in your kitchen designs.

Let me know in the comments below.

Founder Vestabul School of Design, Jan Rutgers

Jan Rutgers has been designing for over 25 years. Developing functional layouts for every area of the home is her passion. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens in her career, learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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