Baby Boomer Kitchens Feature Best of Style & Value
By John Filippelli
Thirty years ago, the V-shape signified something to the Baby Boomer generation. It still does, but in a very different context.
Such are the sentiments of Chris Grimm, owner of Essential Kitchen Design in San Jose, CA, who offers: "Boomers want to know they can get value from the project. They have concerns about finding a contractor they can trust and someone who will support their needs."
Connie Gustafson, CKD, of Minneapolis, MN-based Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, Inc., concurs: "Boomers are looking for true value in the dollars that they spend for service and product, and they are well-informed consumers."
According to Nancy Love, marketing manager for Jacksonville, FL-based Woodsman Kitchens and Floors, this attention to value does not indicate a lack of interest in top-of-the-line products on the part of Boomers. Citing their preference for ceramic tile, natural materials and custom cabinetry (complete with roll-out shelves and spice racks), she notes that it simply means that Boomers have equity in their homes and, more importantly, they know what they want.
Says Grimm: "They don't select a lot of risky designs. Basically, they go for good space planning and conservative choices from flooring to cabinetry to countertops."
"They want kitchens to be both beautiful and functional, because a great deal of their time is spent there with family and friends," reports Gustafson. "The kitchen must be a real showcase and regardless of the style it should be open and light."
Grimm agrees: "Boomers are interested in creating an environment where they can entertain dinner party guests and enjoy the space. They want to open up [the space] between the kitchen and other rooms, such as the dining room and family room."
"Everybody wants an eat-in kitchen, because entertaining ends up
in the kitchen," observes Love. "Many times we find that people
want to stand at an island and prepare food while they talk with
guests. Therefore, people want a big, open kitchen with a working
island and a good work triangle. Overall, they want a combination
of making a statement and maintaining their routine."
Bucking the trend
Whether it's "DINKS" (Dual-Income, No Kids) deciding to renovate the space for their golden years or Boomers with children, the surprising design trend for Baby Boomers is that there is no specific trend, says Gustafson. "Boomers have attained the confidence to do what is right for them, rather than follow the crowd," she explains.
"The desire to create a design that enhances and complements the architecture of the home seems to be the deciding factor in the style of the Boomer's kitchen, rather than any one design trend," she contends.
Despite there being no definitive style, there are a few products and applications that Boomers have embraced, designers note.
For instance, Grimm cites the growing interest in stainless steel products.
Chris McLean, owner of Wolfeboro, NH-based All About Kitchens, agrees. "Stainless steel, commercial-grade and semi-commercial-grade appliances are all the rage right now, for sure," he notes.
Gustafson adds: "Many men have taken an interest in cooking, and seem to like heavy-duty products such as the professional ranges." She reports that Boomers want "double wall ovens for easy access and extra oven space for holiday entertaining, additional lighting, and especially under cabinet lighting." They also want products that are easy to use and clean.
Light and dark
According to Grimm, a Baby Boomer kitchen is also likely to incorporate raised-panel maple cabinetry or cherry cabinetry with granite slabs and a tile backsplash.
Love agrees: "Maple is very popular for cabinetry right now, as are the lighter tones and glazed products. There is also a trend toward panels that cover appliances for a built-in look."
McLean notes that Boomer clients are also interested in lighter tones, citing birch, maple and cherry as popular choices. "But, they always want to lighten up [the cherry wood] over time," he notes.
Additionally, McLean points to the introduction of glazes and
more expensive finishes in the semi-
custom market as factors driving the trend.
"People are branching out in paint colors and accents. You can really mix it up," notes Love. "Darker stains are popular in floor coverings, as well, such as Brazilian cherry and maple products that can be given a rustic look."
And, although Baby Boomers are still selecting engineered stone
and solid surfacing materials for their projects, it is granite
that has found its place in many Boomer kitchens, she points out.
"While there are a few companies that have come up with
engineered-stone products that are much more durable and give you
the look of a granite, a lot of people want granite," she
continues. "It is a very popular design element right now."
Fun with function
Love notes that Boomers are asking for butler's pantries, and are opting for more customized cabinetry options for added storage and function. "[In addition to roll-out trays and spice racks] we are seeing desk-organizing areas put in media centers," she notes.
Sitting areas, along with a fireplace or technology center, are also popular. "Boomers want some type of seating incorporated in the bar area or island," says McLean.
In the end, however, Baby Boomer kitchens come down to one thing for Grimm. "Everyone seems to be concerned with making decisions that offer value." Boomers are turning away from high-end, expensive solutions, he notes. "There was a time when we would design around these accoutrements, but we are doing less of that now and offering more nuts-and-bolts value."