NKBA Identifies Growing Trends for 2011

Kitchen and bath trends shift like the tides: one year, nature-inspired themes are in demand, the next, sleek, contemporary industrial designs are hot. More than 100 designer/members of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recently participated in a survey to reveal design trends that are expected to take hold this year. These trends were then compared with the dominant trends reported in a similar survey conducted in 2009 by the NKBA. The results show a shift in tastes in everything from cabinet wood species to color palettes.

Color & Style

The way designers are thinking about the big three design categories – Traditional, Transitional, Contemporary – may be seeing a shift toward a more specific way of looking at kitchen styles, according to surveyed designers. Shaker styles began to experience gains in 2009 and gained momentum in 2010. At year’s end, Shaker had supplanted Contemporary as the second most popular style used by NKBA member designers. The percentage of respondents who designed Contemporary kitchens fell to 48%, while Shaker rose to 55%. The only other style to see a rise in 2010 was Cottage, which registered 21% of designers surveyed.

Traditional remains strong: the style was used by 76% of designers in the fourth quarter of 2010, although that number represents a drop from the same period in 2009.

There is projected to be a shift in the materials used to compose these styles, as well. At the beginning of 2010, cherry wood was specified by more NKBA member designers for use in kitchen cabinetry than any other wood. NKBA research showed that 78% of designers has used cherry in the final three months of the year compared to 64% who used maple. The trend is projected to turn upside down, with maple surpassing cherry.

Granite and quartz are projected to retain their number one and two spots in the countertop materials category, with solid surfaces emerging as the clear number three. However, while laminate dropped from 21% to 17%, solid surfaces rose from 14% to 25%. Butcher block has seen a rise from a niche inclusion into regular use, with 12% of respondents reporting specifying it. Use of marble also doubled in the final months of 2010 to 14% from 7% of designers the year before.

Dark finishes have overtaken medium natural, glazed and white painted cabinetry finishes to become to the most specified finish at the end of 2010, a position designers anticipate will continue throughout 2011. Medium natural fell to 48% from 53% at the end of 2009; glazed fell to 42% from 53%, and white painted was specified by 47% of designers surveyed, a two-percentage-point drop from the year prior.

Light natural and colored painted finishes remained steady, with about one-quarter of surveyed respondents reporting that they have specified these finishes. Distressed finishes were the big loser in 2010, used by just 5% of designers.

The shying away from distressed and other “daring” finishes toward darker, more safe tones mirrors what the NKBA is reporting for the overall color palettes of the 2010 kitchen remodel.

“Homeowners seemed to be afraid of color as 2010 drew to a close,” according to NKBA officials. “The use of every color except beige and gray was either flat or down across the board from a year earlier. Even neutral browns have been deemed too bold by many clients.”

While brown tones were used by 50% of designers in the final quarter of 2009, that figure dropped to just 42% in the last three months of 2010. Whites and off-whites dropped only slightly, from 62% to 59%, while grays increased from 10% to 16% and beiges and bones rose from 46% to 55%. The only other colors to be used by at least 20% of designers were bronzes and terracottas, which remained flat, used by just one-quarter of the designers surveyed.

A Place for Everything

While wine refrigeration, once a hot item, appears to be on the decline, places in the kitchen for unchilled wine storage is seeing a surge. While only 39% of surveyed designers incorporated wine storage areas into their kitchens at the end of 2009, that number climbed to 51% as 2010 came to a close.

While other types of cabinetry options remain more common, most are on the decline, including tall pantries (89% to 84%), lazy susans (90% to 78%), and pull-out racks (81% to 71%). Appliance garages seem to be falling out of favor, as their use declined from 36% at the end of 2009 to 29% a year later.

Refrigeration is seeing a realignment for 2011. Among full-size units, designers have reported an increase in French door refrigerators that amounts to an 11 point gain, up to 78% from 67% in 2009. The specification of freezer-top units has shrunk to just 8% of those surveyed. Freezer-bottom models fell very slightly from 60% to 59% for the end of 2010, while side-by-side units rose slightly to 49% from 46% in 2009. Refrigerator/freezer drawers remained flat at 31% of designers.

Induction cooktops have begun to close the gap with gas and electric models. Approximately 70% of those surveyed had recently specified a gas cooktop in the final three months of 2010; 41% have incorporated an electric cooktop, which represents an increase of three percentage points, while induction has risen to 34% of designers. Meanwhile, single wall ovens are down from 46% to 42%, although double wall ovens are up from 68% to 74%. In addition, warming drawers are down from 49% to 42%, and ranges are down sharply from 81% to 68%.

Another growing trend for 2011 involves the end-point of the cooking process: the trash. According to the NKBA: “A greater emphasis is being made to address trash considerations in the kitchen. Some 89% of kitchens designed by NKBA members in the final quarter of 2010 include a trash or recycling pull-outs.”

In addition, garbage disposals were incorporated by 86% of designers, up from 75% the previous year. Trash compactors have also become more common. Entering 2010, they were recently used in designs by 11% of designers, but a year later, that figure had climbed to 18%. “These changes may be due to an increase in sustainability awareness, but they certainly indicate an increase in concern toward trash generated in the kitchen,” reports the NKBA.

Finally, lighting up the trends in these new kitchens is continuing its march away from incandescent lighting. While 50% of NKBA member designers incorporated incandescent bulbs into their designs at the end of 2009, only 35% had done so a year later, owing to regulation in some states mandating compact fluorescent lighting and other energy-efficient technology in place of incandescent. While the use of halogen lighting is down from 46% to 40% over the past year, LED lighting has increased from 47% to 54%. Many prefer it to CFLs because of limited, cold color temperatures, according to the NKBA. CFL use remained flat at 35% of designers surveyed.

The 2011 Bath

The 2011 bath will be green. No, not that kind of green, the green kind of green. One year ago, green color palettes were used by only 14% of NKBA designers, but at the end of 2010, that figure had risen to 24%.

Still, as in the kitchen, whites, off-whites, beiges and browns dominate the new bath landscape. Whites and off-whites are up slightly from 57% to 60%, while beiges are down sharply from 66% to 57%; browns have dropped 10 percentage points from 2009, with 38% of designers surveyed.

Quartz continues to take away market share from granite with regard to bathroom vanity tops. While granite dropped just two percentage points from 2009 to 83%, quartz gained six percentage points to garner 54% of designers surveyed. Unlike in the kitchen, solid surfaces haven’t gained much popularity in the bathroom, increasing only from 23% to 25% over the past year.

Undermount sinks are king, however, vessel sinks have become the clear second choice among designers, as 51% of NKBA member designers have specified them in the final quarter of 2010, up from 39% a year ago. Integrated sink tops were also up from 34% to 38%, pedestal sinks were up from 21% to 29%, and drop-in sinks were up from 23% to 27%. “This trend suggests that bathroom designers have been specifying more lavatory sinks across the board,” according to NKBA officials.

Finally, finishes are seeing a shift for both the kitchen and bath. From the end of 2009 to the end of 2010, the percent of NKBA designers who specified a satin nickel faucet rose from 41% to 63% in the kitchen and from 45% to 57% in the bathroom, while the percent who specified a brushed nickel faucet fell from 61% to 48% in the kitchen and from 66% to 38% in the bathroom. While stainless steel is popular in the kitchen, specified recently by 44% of designers, that figure drops to just 16% in the bathroom.