“While there’s a great respect for the architecture of the home,” notes Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, president of Ellen Cheever and Associates in Wilmington, DE, “today’s clients are a little more comfortable expanding a little bit beyond the boundaries when it comes to their kitchens.” While she notes that a sleek, contemporary kitchen wouldn’t be found in a Georgetown mansion, “you might find a much more tailored contemporary. It’s a little more adventuresome – not too far away from the roots of the home, but not necessarily trying to recreate a theme.”
While design elements from other parts of the country and the world are making an impact on regional design, distinctions to specific areas remain.
“You see a lot more prairie influence in the Midwest,” stresses Cheever, “while there is a lot more formality down South.”
While Florida used to be the land of contemporary and light, Bart notes that this is changing. “Most of my clients are very traditional, and they’re becoming more interested in darker and medium-tone woods,” she reports. “People are no longer afraid to go darker.”
Bart believes that people of that region are simply interested in a change of pace. “When people moved here, they got rid of their gorgeous dark antiques and they bought wicker and light and pickled,” she comments. “But now, everybody is going opposite – to the dark, the mahogany, the distressed, the pine.”
Of course, there are still those who prefer contemporary, but they are looking at natural wood tones such as honey. “They want that very traditional, earthy feel,” she observes. While she adds that white painted looks are still popular, those are going more traditional, as well.
In Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, as it is in other parts of the country, there is a trend away from painted cabinets and distressing. “Across the board I’ve heard designers say that stains are their big sellers,” offers Gomes. “People are switching from that painted, distressed, Tuscan or French look and doing stains – especially medium to darker stains that give that richer look.”
While dark woods are gaining in popularity in the Southwest, Schwartzman notes that distressing is still popular there, as well as the Tuscan look. “It’s not a true Tuscan look,” she reflects, “but rather the Americanized version of Tuscan – overdone, with all of the heavy moldings and corbels, and lots of glaze. Either people want this heavy look, or they want just the opposite.”
Vona notes a similar trend in the Philadelphia area. “Either they want a look that’s very organic, a light wood with no stain, slate tile, non-honed granite countertop, or they want dark and dramatic, where everything is shiny and polished and stainless steel,” she offers. “It’s either understated or bling bling.”
“Oregon is very green,” stresses Rigby-Fisher. “People are very interested in things like cabinetry made out of wheatboard, and oiled finishes instead of varnish finishes. We’re also doing a lot more cork on floors, and using a lot of creative materials.”
Still, while the desire is there to get away from stainless steel and granite, consumers often end up with these materials because they work best in the kitchen. “Granite is the lowest maintenance, the easiest to take care of, it looks beautiful and it adds value,” she states. “The bottom line is still that it needs to be easy to take care of. So, even though people have this idea of going to different materials, in the end they come back to the safe ones.”
Though granite is a top seller, Rigby-Fisher notes a trend toward an antique finish of granite. “People are interested in something that feels different,” she comments. “They’re much more tactile. They want to use all of their senses in their kitchens.”
Even when customers in that area request contemporary designs, Rigby-Fisher notes that it’s not European contemporary. “I’m not doing a lot of lacquered finishes,” she remarks. “This is still the Pacific Northwest, and we do a lot of wood. But people are asking for exotic woods; they don’t have to be certified, but they make sure that they’re not an endangered species wood.”
Unique species of woods, whether it’s cabinets or floors, are also making their mark in America’s heartland, according to Hall, where people are spending more money on high-end items. “Lyptus is one in particular that is featured in a new cabinet line that is doing well,” she offers. “We also do tons of millwork here, which you don’t see that much in other areas of the country.”