Consumers today don't want a lot of conspicuous consumption in their kitchen designs; less is the new more. Even in traditional homes, intelligent, efficient design -- and the beauty of simple functionality -- is what interests us now. Part of this comes from a growing environmental consciousness: Consumers are becoming steadily more aware of not only the importance of doing more with less but also considering the entire life of a product, from the raw materials through the manufacturing process to final disposal at the end of its useful life. In keeping with this new, less pretentious lifestyle, design is becoming simpler, more graphic. Whether it's textures and materials from nature or simple, bold statements in shape and
clear colour, simple and functional have never been more chic. Form truly follows function in 2009.
Rustic chic: natural materials and colours (like stone, wood, light greys, white, pale greens and yellows); more obvious wood graining; rough-hewn-looking stones such as slate, soapstone or honed stone finishes.
Electric-bright colours: strong statements in bold primaries, often used in one element or as an accent (like a red wall); also, bright cabinets and/or countertops, especially in yellow or orange.
Reflective, high-gloss surfaces: already a hit in Europe, in colour, black or white or metals such as stainless steel; mirror, glass (including glass mosaic) or high-gloss finishes.
Monochromatic design: especially all-white or all-black.
Cleaner, simpler lines: even in traditional styles; the heavy, over-the-top mouldings of years past are being toned down.
Built-in appliances: a 30-inch deep fridge can be integrated with a 24-inch counter depth by actually recessing it into the wall behind, maximizing storage capacity without interrupting the flow of a counter or jutting into the room; it can then be finished with a cabinet front or embellished with furniture elements.
Enviro-chic: good looks are not enough these days! The kitchen must be environmentally friendly at all stages of its creation -- from the choice of materials and manufacturing processes to its functionality and efficiency to all the appliances.
Contrasting uppers and lowers: continue to be a strong look, especially lighter uppers with darker lowers, or contrasting materials.
Glass-front uppers: whether plain, frosted or etched.
Highly realistic-looking laminates: emulate solid wood cabinetry without the cost or weight, yet are just as or more durable than their solid equivalents.
Storage: not only ample but efficient and intelligent; lower drawers can be configured to hold plates and bowls, allowing you to bend rather than reach up to access them; slide-out panels maximize space. (Kitchen companies are coming up with ever-more-dedicated interior fittings to allow you to keep frequently used items near where they are used, while less-used items can be stored out of the way.)
Contrast satin-finish countertops: with high-sheen cabinets or other elements.
Mixing multiple surfaces: a butcher block or marble island with main counters of granite or solid surfacing, or insets in butcher block, marble or stainless steel.
Thicker countertops: or at least the illusion of them, using an apron on the edge that gives the impression of a thicker slab; sometimes used as a variation on standard-width counters, such as a four-inch-thick counter on an island.
FAUCETS AND HARDWARE
Minimalist in style: often with hidden handles or small-scale stainless steel rods, or interesting and chunky.
High-style faucets: seen as the jewellery of the kitchen; often chosen to coordinate not just with door hardware but with appliances and other elements.
High-tech functions: such as hands-free or one-touch; convenient if you need to turn on the faucet when your hands are full.
Increased pressure: while using less water.
High-tech centres: sinks with integrated stainless steel counters on either side are large enough to act as built-in drainboards, work surfaces or to perform tasks such as defrosting a steak.
Accessories for sink centres: built-in cutting boards that double as extended work surfaces and wire racks.
Apron-front sinks: still popular in country or traditional looks, whether in fireclay or given a modern update in stainless steel.
Energy efficiency: as important as illumination or style.
Multiple light sources: task, overhead and accent; allow you to customize the lighting level for the task at hand.
Dimmers: for all the light sources in the room, now de rigueur for both energy savings and mood.
Advances in technology: will make incandescent, and soon even halogen, a thing of the past; LEDs, though limited in light output individually, can be used in multiples to provide a clean, white light in task areas, such as under the upper cabinets or as accent lighting inside glass-front cabinets (where
their cool-burning quality makes them very safe to use).
Chandeliers: add an elegant touch overhead, especially if fitted with new dimmable CFL bulbs.
Natural, sustainable materials: such as bamboo, which grows so fast that it is considered a renewable resource, or cork, which does not harm the tree when harvested. Where hardwoods (and other woods) are used, a new commitment to sustainable harvestingand manufacturing, from forest to floor; consumers are asking questions and educating themselves.
Radiant heat: especially under 'cold' floors, such as stone or porcelain tile; comfortable underfoot and can actually reduce your home's overall heating costs.
The kitchen is becoming by far the most technically advanced room in the house, from appliances with built-in computers that can be programmed to store and integrate all kinds of information to built-in TVs, computers, music and entertainment units or "smart" house controls for such things as
temperature, humidity levels and lighting.
Energy-efficient appliances: even compared to just a few years ago, providing more and better features.
Smaller appliances: with the capacity and/or efficiency of larger units: water-saving dishwashers, induction cooktops, fridge and cooking drawers, dual convection/microwave ovens.
Lighting technologies: LEDs replacing incandescents and halogens, while providing more focused, brighter light.
State-of-the-art manufacturing methods: consider sustainability from raw materials to the finished kitchen, (through fair-trade sourcing and labour, reduced or reusable packaging, sound manufacturing methods and/or reduced waste).
Environmentally friendly paints, glues and varnishes that reduce outgassing and other chemical-based hazards.