4 On-Trend Kitchen Features That Are Here to Stay

The kitchen is a highly functional space that should feel effortless and wonderful. Optimal function for everyone in the household is essential for a well-designed kitchen. And beyond that, the kitchen experience should be highly personalized and bring excitement and joy.

“A kitchen is a piece of functional art,” says Marcus Otten, designer with Exquisite Kitchen Design in Denver. Creativity and a willingness to explore what’s possible in the kitchen are essential.

While the space should be unique and serve your family’s unique needs, there are several key design elements that weave their way through today’s kitchen design. We’re highlighting kitchen design trends to keep top of mind when planning your new space, whether it’s a kitchen remodel or a new custom home kitchen.

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The homeowners wanted a kitchen designed for easy entertaining and keeping everyone together. Project: 1960s Ranch Remodel by KGA.

Bringing People Together

Kitchen spaces are being re-evaluated to accommodate more people and more activities. But kitchen sizes on average remain fairly consistent over the past few years — 70% of kitchen remodels are 150 to 350 square feet and nearly 30% are 350 square feet or more, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “It’s more about using and opening up the space you have in creative ways,” says KGA’s Senior Partner Paul Mahony.

Transitional kitchen by Exquisite Kitchen Design. Photography: EKD.

More Space for More People

Designers and their clients are re-evaluating the relationship between the kitchen and the rest of the home’s main living areas. “We help clients answer questions like, ‘Who’s in here, who wants to be here more if the space allows it, and what types of activities will take place’?” says Mahony. What’s discovered in the answers to these questions forms the framework for the kitchen’s design, including size, location, layout, circulation, and whether it’s open or closed.

“Kitchens aren’t necessarily getting larger, but they’re opening up to the dining and living areas to keep people together,” says Otten.

In addition to a formal dining room, this home features a breakfast nook for easy weekday meals. Project: Wash Park French Provincial Remodel by KGA.

Informal dining areas like breakfast nooks are increasing in number. In lieu of a formal dining table, families can sit at a built-in banquette for relaxed weekday meals. Larger kitchen islands also create ample room for a few barstools to enjoy a quick meal or snack.

Luxury contemporary kitchen by Exquisite Kitchen Design. Photography: EKD.

Multifunctional Zones

Families tend to congregate in the kitchen, which is why more activities are moving closer to the space. Kids’ playrooms and study spaces are moving adjacent to the kitchen to be closer to the watchful eyes of parents and caregivers.

Kitchen in remodeled farmhouse by KGA
A generous window seat that doubles as a kids homework nook (or afternoon nap spot!) keeps the family together. Project: Modern Farmhouse Remodel by KGA.

While a formal home office is still more removed in a quieter location, a kind of “family office” is finding its place in or adjacent to the kitchen. A small but dedicated alcove is taking the place of the traditional integrated kitchen desk that was once popular in new production homes. This defined space is still part of the kitchen but offers enough room for running a household. Cabinets can house a laptop, family calendars, mail, and other household items or paperwork and then close-up to conceal any clutter.

Defining Details

Every room needs a focal point to guide your eye’s movement around the room. This isn’t so much a trend as it is a foundational interior design principle, and having the focal point perform double duty as a design detail can be striking and memorable. For example, a custom kitchen feature like a prominent range hood centers your gaze and anchors the design. A bold and richly veined marble backsplash is another wonderful way to draw the eye inward and impart a one-of-a-kind look.

Expanding on that, a backsplash detail is a feature Otten is happy to see gaining popularity. “We’ve been doing a raised backsplash ledge for years and it’s nice to see it catching on.” A raised ledge offers even more surface area to personalize with artwork, pottery, small plants, or prized objects.

A raised backsplash ledge offers another opportunity to personalize your space. Kitchen and photography by Exquisite Kitchen Design.

Ceilings are also receiving consideration in the kitchen as more designers and clients pay attention to this “fifth wall” as a differentiating design element. Depending on the type of ceiling detail and your preference, it could draw attention to a larger kitchen’s volume or bring it down to a human scale for a more intimate feel.

Some examples of ceiling features include:

  • Coffered
  • Soffit
  • Wood beams
  • Planks
  • Beadboard
  • Wallpaper
  • Paint
This penthouse condo kitchen feautres warm wood beams on the ceiling and a sunny, built-in breakfast nook. Project: Wash Park Penthouse Condo Remodel by KGA.

A “Wow” Feature

While kitchens need to be highly functional first and foremost, expressing your personality should also be a cornerstone of the overall design. It’s your kitchen after all, and you deserve to feel great in that space. Set it apart and make it yours by incorporating at least one incredible element that you love seeing every day. “Make it something so special, it inspires the desire to dance through your kitchen,” says Otten.

A show-stopping or “wow” element gives your kitchen a bespoke look that serves your needs and accentuates your personal style. It could be large or small, and it should reflect what’s important to you, whether it’s secret storage in the form of a hidden pullout, a deluxe 45” sink, a pot filler faucet, handmade tile, or anything else that speaks to you.

New kitchen in luxe Bow Mar remodel by KGA Studio Architects
An oversized bifold window opens up to create a pass through to the outdoor kitchen beyond. Project: Bow Mar Remodel by KGA.

Beverage Stations

Integrated beverage stations are another feature that can elevate your experience in a kitchen. Coffee drinkers will appreciate a dedicated counter space and concealed cabinets for a coffee and espresso bar. Wine drinkers and aspiring mixologists can pour or mix drinks at a custom dry or wet bar that keeps gadgets, barware, and accessories in a single and dedicated location.

The homeowners love of geology is reflected throughout their home with creative uses of stone slabs. Project: Ravenna Custom Home by KGA.

Light-Filled Spaces

Connecting the kitchen to the outdoors has also become a homeowner priority. Mahony says the number of windows and window size are increasing in the kitchen to bring in more natural light and to frame outdoor views. “It opens up the space and helps the wall fall away to the beauty of nature’s color palette.”

We switched the location of the kitchen and family room to take advantage of outdoor views and natural light. Kitchen by Exquisite Kitchen Design. Project: Polo Club Remodel by KGA.

Where a wall and cabinets used to be, Mahony has worked with clients to replace part or all with windows installed flush to the countertops to open up the back wall and drench the kitchen in natural light. The storage from this area is then moved to other kitchen features like a back kitchen, island, or walk-in pantry.

Concealed Storage

Concealing clutter is top of mind for many homeowners when remodeling or building a new home. It’s easy to see why — kitchens can quickly become a home’s default drop zone without proper planning. What’s more, there is a small appliance and gadget for most kitchen activities these days, and they can accumulate on islands and countertops without enough storage to keep them out of sight when not in use.

Back kitchens are especiallly handy when entertaining, providing a place to tuck dishes and prepwork out of site from guests. Project: Bow Mar Remodel by KGA.

Back Kitchens

Intentional storage is essential says Mahony, and he notes that back kitchens or sculleries are being included in more client kitchens. A back kitchen contains the prep and keeps messes out of sight of the primary kitchen, which comes in handy when entertaining — guests tend to congregate in the kitchen, so moving some of the dirty work to a back kitchen keeps the space tidier and gives guests a spot to rest their elbows or a drink.

Back kitchens are great for additional storage, providing a place for all of those small appliances and gadgets that can easily accumulate on counters. Kitchen by Exquisite Kitchen Design. Project: Buell Mansion Contemporary Custom Home by KGA.

Luxe Islands

Kitchen islands are getting longer and deeper, and the ability to make use of that extra storage space is another way to keep clutter under control. Use shelf, cabinet, and drawer pullouts customized to your storage needs, from cookware and pots and pans to flatware and spices. Endcap the island with a recessed shelf for storing cookbooks. Place a towel bar on the side that’s not facing incoming foot traffic to hang it out of sight.

Peace of Zen Kitchen by Exquisite Kitchen Design. Photography: EKD.

More Hidden Storage

The Murphy door is making its way into the kitchen too. This hidden door can be installed flush with the wall and millwork, disguising and opening to a recessed space customized for additional storage. What’s more, most Murphy doors include racking on the interior for even more storage opportunities.

Kitchen Trend Takeaways

A kitchen is experiential and multi-sensory, and an exercise of balancing form and function. In other words, it should feel and look great. Above all, an incredible kitchen is one that serves you and reflects your values, lifestyle, and style. The kitchen plays a pivotal role in the home and is at the center of each custom home and remodel we design. Explore our portfolio of custom homes and remodels, and contact us for a complimentary consultation to get started designing your new home.

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