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The kitchen is often the heart of a home, and this sentiment seems to have grown over the past two years. With more time spent at home—and, as a result, more time spent in the kitchen—buyers are looking for spaces that can both support and inspire their daily lives.
“This year, a lot more was asked of a kitchen than ever before. Kitchens were used heavily as pandemic closures became the norm and, in many cases, kitchens doubled as work spaces,” says Mia Cottet, Luxury REALTORⓇ, Sotheby’s International Realty – Los Feliz Brokerage. Heavy usage and the need for the kitchen to act as a transitional space have led to the emergence of several notable design trends.
Neutral tones and minimalism remain popular, but with accents of the outdoors
Sleek styles and clean lines remain popular among buyers, but agents have also noticed the addition of more organic, natural elements. “White is always popular in new construction, or for a quick fix-up before a sale, but this year brought more warmth—wood finishes, pops of color, and tile backsplashes extending all the way to the ceiling, creating texture and interest,” says Cottet.
“The Shaker kitchen style has been redesigned and modernized with the use of metal frames and glass doors,” says Sonja Stevens, Senior Global Real Estate Advisor for Sotheby’s International Realty – Palm Beach Brokerage. Stevens has seen an increase in a combination of materials being used in one kitchen, like wood, glass, and stone, as well as the use of “light grays and woods combined with Nordic wood finishes.” Cottet has also noted similar trends, such as the use of accent wallpaper featuring flora and fauna patterns: “These trends reflect the need to bring the outdoors in and create the festive feel of a boutique hotel at a time when everyone is experiencing pandemic fatigue.”
Flexibility, utility, and inventive use of space
With so much time spent at home, the kitchen has inadvertently become a space where more than just cooking happens—it’s an office space, a homeschooling space, and the room where most of the living happens. As a result, buyers want kitchens that can reflect their changing needs. “Convertible uses of space—nooks doubling as desks and printers tucked into cabinets, plugged in and ready to go—were evident in kitchens of all sizes [this year],” notes Cottet.
Features like open shelving and sliding glass doors have been prominent as well, which can increase a kitchen’s operational and convertible qualities. If a kitchen doesn’t offer buyers the kind of flexibility they’re looking for, Stevens will occasionally work with a contractor to reimagine the space for the client. During this meeting, they’re able to “gather information on how exactly they plan to use their kitchens.”
Open-concept remains the favored style
The open-concept kitchen has long been a favorite among homeowners, and that hasn’t changed over the past year. “Definitely open-plan kitchens remain the most appealing layout for most clients, but space can also be made through extended counters, too,” says Cottet. Open-concept kitchens tend to allow for more flexibility for occupants, and while most buyers prefer this layout, some do look for kitchens with separation from the rest of the main living space.
“We also have clients that gravitate towards closed-in spaces, but with some sort of connection, like the use of sliding door systems—these help define the space of a project, but open and connect areas when residents want,” Stevens says.
Individuality and personal expression
If there’s one trend that both Cottet and Stevens have observed over the last couple of years, it’s that the kitchen is a site for personal expression and almost nothing is off the table. “The kitchen is the one place where a person’s lifestyle and individuality really shines through. A kitchen that looks dated to one person is a dream to another,” Cottet says. “I’ve seen 60s and 70s time capsules that elicit shrieks of joy from buyers, as well as super chic new constructions with built-in espresso bars eliciting the same shriek. Kitchens are the one room in the house that offer the opportunity for endless expression,” she adds.
Today’s buyers are looking for kitchens that reflect their lives. It should be utilitarian but stylish, flexible but grounding. While clients will differ in their needs and preferences, agents can help direct them towards the kitchen that works best for them. As Cottet notes, “budget, family size and composition, entertaining needs, love of cooking, or not—these are the factors that need to be taken into consideration first. After that, the kitchen will take on a life of its own with each new owner.”