Study Details Kitchen Needs of Different Types of Households

ANN ARBOR, MI — Baby Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y consumers apparently share the same love of multi-functional storage solutions and kitchen spaces that reflect their own personal style, although each group clearly has its own unique needs when it comes to the kitchen.

That’s the key finding of a major new study conducted by Masco Cabinetry, the Ann Arbor, MI-based manufacturer of KraftMaid, Merillat and Quality Cabinets, as well as DeNova countertops.

Masco Cabinetry’s newly released “GenShift 2011” study, an online poll involving 1,027 U.S. homeowners ages 18-65, concluded that homeowners are likely to live in their current house for longer periods of time. And, while all three generations are doing more with less in today’s “new normal” culture, their needs continue to differ based on individual life stages and lifestyles.

The “GenShift 2011” study revealed that 24% of homeowners ages 18-65 live in a multi-generational house, but 73% reported that their current kitchen is not designed for universal living needs.

“Designs for today’s kitchens need to be specific enough to reflect the personal wants and needs of today’s homeowners and flexible enough to accommodate a rapidly changing household demographic,” Masco Cabinetry said.

The company suggested that kitchen design professionals keep a number of insights and considerations in mind in order to address mobility, accessibility and functionality needs.

Baby Boomer Households

Baby Boomers, who represent the largest single population cohort in the U.S., numbering more than 76 million people, find aging in place to be more desirable than relocation. For example, 63% report they plan to stay in their current home over the next five to 10 years, while 75% of this generation of homeowners doesn’t feel their current kitchen layout is universally designed for their living needs, according to the Masco Cabinetry study.

Design considerations include:

  • Transitioning from a 42" bar height table to a 28" or 30" table is easier for this generation. And, because Baby Boomers frequently use their kitchens for entertaining friends and grandchildren, a standard-height table near or connected to an island is an ideal extension of the kitchen.
  • Eighty-seven percent of Baby Boomers are interested in a semi-open plan (with few full or half walls) or a completely open floor plan. Wider walkways or paths throughout the kitchen and adjacent rooms allow for easier mobility.
  • Storage options need to be easy to reach and well organized. Trash and recycle locations, medicine and even pet food needs to be easy to access, without the help of another individual.
  • Aesthetic needs include cleaner lines, some color and/or texture, but nothing too loud or dramatic.

Gen X Households

Of the three generations, Gen X represents the smallest group – and the most skeptical. Born between 1966 and 1978, this is the generation that looks to their own friends, and the Internet, for advice more than anyone or anything. This generation is currently in its busiest years, between taking care of children and working. According to the survey, nearly half (49%) of Gen X homeowners said they planned to stay in their current home over the next five to 10 years.

Among the design considerations suggested:

  • Placing emphasis on the kitchen as a multi-functional space and the hub of the home. They also appreciate having a computer near the kitchen.
  • Gen X homeowners welcome a taller, bar-height table. This allows a family member or friend to pull up a chair, or a child to grab a snack after school and work on a school project.
  • For those without children, the function of the space changes slightly. This group is more focused on friends, cooking and wine clubs, dinners and baking. Typically, an entertainment space is adjacent to the kitchen.
  • In terms of kitchen extras, the survey found that 68% of Gen X homeowners said that a place for small appliances was key. Storage options for items like slow cookers, toaster ovens and microwaves are favored among this demographic.
  • Thirty-nine (39) percent favored open floor plans for their kitchens. They also preferred peninsula or galley configurations, flexible pantry storage and other options, such as two sinks.

Gen Y Households

Gen Y was born between 1979 and 2002, and consists of as many as 87 million consumers who are now entering the market for big-ticket items such as homes. Gen Y, according to Masco Cabinetry, looks to third parties on the Internet for advice and the lowest price for getting what they want – now.

Design considerations include:

  • In addition to enjoying an open kitchen layout, the Gen Y kitchen needs to be versatile and meet young children’s needs, such as high chairs and storage options for small, kid-friendly dishes, as well as adult needs such as an entertainment area.
  • Pull-out drawers providing easy access to snacks, pet food and small quantities of prepared items.
  • The aesthetics for this demographic follow a “keep-it-simple” philosophy. This includes cleaner lines, less detail and easy-to-clean surfaces.

“Each generation is impacting the way consumer goods are bought and sold in different ways, and kitchens are no exception,” Masco Cabinetry concluded. The realities of today’s economy have changed how people live, their priorities and how they view their homes, including their kitchens.

“Design professionals who understand the needs of each generation will be better prepared to deliver the kitchens homeowners want and in which they’re willing to invest their limited dollars.”