The good news from the National Kitchen & Bath Association's annual show held recently in Atlanta was that homeowners still want to build snazzy new kitchens and baths and remodel existing ones, despite the downturn in the economy. But in many cases, they want to do so less expensively because of slimmer wallets and a growing concern about recouping those costs down the line.
How are they cutting back? Some are going back to the basics and purchasing fewer appliances - perhaps just one sink and dishwasher after years of two and even three as kitchens got larger and multiple cooks picked up aprons. Others are forgoing bells and whistles, or including just one - maybe a built-in $2,000 coffee center.
Concern nowadays isn't just about dollars. Many homeowners want to incorporate something green when they select cabinets, countertops and floors. Others seek equipment that speeds up cooking and cleaning because of busier lives, which is showing up in ovens that can cook a 12-pound Thanksgiving turkey in 42 minutes, like the Atlanta-based TurboChef's 30" Double Wall Speedcook Oven. One of the latest ovens by Jenn-Air, which is based in Benton Harbor-Mich., can be programmed to make food come out to the right "doneness" based on preferences and the pan, and even show a photo on the oven's panel of the finished recipe.
While all-white kitchens have become popular again, black is coming on strong, as are primary colors. A more modern kitchen is also gaining fans, and it may mean anything from fewer corbels on hoods to less detailing on cabinet fronts and more modern sculptural drawer pulls.
But the best news, according to Suzie Williford, 2009 NKBA president and the vice president of sales for Houston-based Kiva Kitchen and Bath, is the whatever-goes philosophy that's been popular in fashion. "There are trends for eco-friendly efficiency and quality, but these trends aren't trendy. They're classic trends that will last for years," she says. Her advice to homeowners is to invest in timeless pieces with staying power. Mark Karas, president-elect of NKBA and the general manager of Adams Kitchens in Stoneham, Mass., agrees and adds that he sees interest in convenient storage, more built-in clean lines beyond refrigerators including flush ovens and sleek ventilation units.
An industry show with more than 600 exhibits makes picking favorites difficult, but we pared down our choices to the following 10 hot product and trends:
1. Heated luxury
Many homeowners know the luxury of heated towel racks in their bathrooms, but they're available now for kitchen use, which makes sense for drying dishes and glasses. Myson, based in Colchester, Vt., offers traditional and contemporary designs, a variety of finishes, wall, floor and plug-in, electric or hydronic models.
2. Textured tiles
Backsplashes have become a way to personalize a kitchen, with some manufacturers, like Dallas-based Daltile, embracing a more contemporary direction with long, narrow tiles. Other companies favor huge rectangles and squares, sometimes with hand-carved or textural designs, like Portland, Ore.-based Ann Sacks' "Charles Stone" tiles that mimic crocodile and wood.
3. Compartmented, fancier sinks
The kitchen sink has never looked so good or been so practical. Besides double bowls, and deeper models in thick 16-gauge stainless steel, companies like Hayward, Calif.-based Dawn Kitchen & Bath Products Inc., are providing removable stainless steel grates, built-in knife racks, sliding cutting boards and soap compartments.
4. Moderately priced cabinets
Kitchen cabinets represent 60 percent of the typical kitchen budget, so going with a less-pricey-but-still-quality box is music to the ears of value-conscious homeowners. Fu-Tung Cheng designed the modern, affordable "Elements" line with flexible components in Forest Stewardship Council-certified, low-VOC wood boards for TONUSA. Ashland, Ala.-based Wellborn Cabinet debuted a less costly laminate line with modern flat fronts in four colors and stainless steel trim.
5. Beyond granite countertops
While granite still garners great attention in countertops, other materials are edging their way in, including Teragren LLC' s bamboo, Cheng Design's unique concretes and Cosentino USA's manmade Silestone. Each has pros and cons, so know how you work and how much stains and nicks bother you.
6. Organizing inserts
With possessions increasing, more homeowners want cabinet interiors outfitted to maximize space. Rev-a-Shelf, in Jeffersontown, Ky., makes simple organizers like a 24" base cabinet that holds up to 12 lids in the top tier, and a bottom tier that groups pots and pans in individual compartments.
7. Integrated fireplaces and waterfalls
Slimmed-down gas or electric fireplaces that are built into a wall add instant warmth and contemporary cachet - almost like a piece of live art. Ontario, Canada-based Napoleon Fireplaces caters to Feng Shui design, as well, with their encased waterfalls.
8. Artistic range hoods
What looks like oversized pendant lamps and disco balls are actually hoods that provide high-efficiency ventilation and light, courtesy of Italian company Elica Inc.
9. Clean induction cooktops
Induction cooking offers greater efficiency than gas or electric. Because some homeowners worry about keeping these cooktops clean, Kenyon International offers a silicone mold to cook on and protect the surface. "People have to be educated on how induction works; it's a fabulous cooking medium since 80 percent to 90 percent of the energy goes directly to the pan," Karas says.
10. Outdoor cooking
Roanoke, Va.-based Atlantis Outdoor Kitchens makes doors and drawer fronts from moisture-resistant bamboo, teak and cypress. Lynx Professional Grills, Commerce, Calif., has expanded accessories beyond grills to include removable smoker boxes, cocktail stations, refrigerators, warming drawers and burners for shellfish boils. "This interest is only going to get bigger," Karas says.
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