Lifestyle preferences vary greatly depending on budget and life-stage. “What I am seeing is for many budget-minded consumers is a willingness to consolidate appliances to maximize storage and work space because the whole family is gathering in the kitchen,” says Cheever. “I am also seeing an interest in building jobsite pantries with open shelving in place of buying elaborate, expensive cabinets for a pantry storage application, which can free up funds as well. With younger families the idea of everything behind closed doors does not work so well. Different people are cooking. Different people are emptying the dishwasher. Things don’t get put back into the exact spot where Mom put them. For these younger, active families it makes sense to be able to open a door and walk into a pantry that is all open shelves because they can find what they are looking for. A pantry also means there are fewer wall cabinets to the benefit of the social nature of the room. People want clear site lines to see what is going on in the balance of the space.”
Styles: Warmer, simpler but with bling
Stylistic preferences — the colors, finishes, and themes — commonly seen in post-recessionary kitchen and bath design tend to vary widely depending on demographics and life-stage. Whiter, brighter kitchens are timeless and are increasingly specified by clients. At the same time eclectic, more organic, natural materials with earthy tones are also being sought out. At the other end of the spectrum, Gen Y and Gen X clients who grew up with iPods in their hands are increasingly finding value in plastics, laminates and other man-made finishes. Then there is a blend of everything in between, all based on individual tastes. Two constants seem to be a strong desire for warmer, simpler designs and an interest in green. Green and sustainable products is a discussion point in most initial consultations, with many clients demonstrating an interest in incorporating green elements into their projects, even at a higher cost.
Ann Morris of Allied Kitchens and Baths says the mixtures and contrasts seem to run the gamut. She is seeing a lot of white kitchens with sleek contemporary designs, but with other clients she is using natural stone flooring and hearths as ways of anchoring and accenting a palate of rich organic colors and materials along with a splash of glitz.
“I am seeing more organic. People are doing a lot of earthy bathrooms and earthy kitchens,” says Morris, “and mosaics will never go out. There are colors that you can get with these tiles. They even put gold in it, so a little bit of glitz comes in. You can mix the organic with the glitz. In other words, you can go really organic and put in a crystal knob, like crystal jewelry, like Restoration Hardware.”
Three years ago his Beaux Arts kitchen for German appliance manufacturer SieMatic was emulated widely. Today, white with warm tones as well as a desire for “clean and fresh” tends to be what Mick De Giulio is offering clients.
“Anything warm is in style,” says De Giulio. “When I talk about warmth and comfort, these terms can be ascribed to some of the finishes. That means whites with more reds in them than blues. This leaves people feeling more secure and more comfortable. If you are talking about fresh and clean, that means a hint of yellow. That is always nice, because that makes people feel good.
“I am going to Italy in a few weeks, just before K/BIS, and it is always interesting because you will always see these bursts of colors coming from Europeans,” adds De Giulio. “I have already seen some materials in purples and greens, which have always been popular in some of their kitchen colors. When it comes down to it, a lot of times these colors are what the manufacturer is doing to grab people’s attention. But people like the tried-and-true, the classic, long-life, warm tones and not being too crazy with the colors that can date the kitchen.”
Ellen Cheever is seeing clients in the 30 to 45 age group gravitate toward man-made materials. “It is really a celebration of man-made materials,” says Cheever. “Here is what I am saying: More vinyl floors, a return to interest in man-made floors as opposed to natural wood. I think we are going to see a return to laminate wood-grain fronts on cabinets, which the Europeans have done for years beautifully. Wall coverings are coming back into play because they are very durable and textured. The wall coverings today are so different from the big flowers of the ‘70s. They are three-dimensional wall coverings today, so they add this complex simplicity. You don’t have a pattern on the wall; you have a texture. It makes the space more inviting, but not overbearingly sophisticated in a New York apartment sense.”