January 13, 2022 By David Nash Elle Decor
Given the increased amount of time we’ve spent at home these last two years, it’s no wonder both full-scale kitchen renovations and modest redesigns have skyrocketed. And, with more chefs literally in the kitchen, there’s a plethora of trends cooking.
This year, kitchens will become bolder, brighter, and more customized than ever before, thanks to a wide array of newly available colors, materials, and technologies. From rich, high-gloss paint treatments to eye-catching surfaces to colorful, bespoke appliances, what has always been the most expensive room in the house is beginning to look like it too. To find out precisely how kitchens will be taking shape in 2022, we tapped a group of top designers and industry insiders to share what they predict will be all the rage in the months ahead.
THE “WORK TRIANGLE” IS OUT
The pandemic cemented the kitchen’s role as the heart of the home, and not just for communal meals; kitchens functioned as venues for entertaining, Zoom calls, and even homework sessions as many settled even deeper into their work-from-home routines. As a result, the so-called kitchen triangle—the optimized work zone between the stove, refrigerator, and sink—is becoming a thing of the past. “The kitchen keeps growing,” says New York designer Young Huh. “We’re no longer confined to the work triangle because there are [now] multiple cooks in one household.” This phenomenon has not only given rise to a variety of multifunctional spaces for prepping, cooking, washing, eating, and much more, but has also paved the way for a variety of cooking styles and needs, be it a coffee station or a zone for sous vide cooking, Huh observes.
“A bigger kitchen is not necessarily a better kitchen.”
“Function is still the most important factor, and a bigger kitchen is not necessarily a better kitchen,” asserts Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Design. “Regardless of size, the key now is to have it function for more than a few people.”
Kitchens have also become de facto entertaining zones, notes New York–based architect and designer Rafael de Cárdenas. “They didn’t used to be that,” he says. “And kitchen islands in particular are now these huge centers of gravity in so many homes. Right now, we’re doing a giant island in a house in Aspen, and a double island in a house in Montauk.”
Separate workstations are also getting more aesthetic attention per Beth Bouck, director of campaigns and strategic partnerships at Kohler. “The saying goes ‘everything but the kitchen sink’—but these days, homeowners and designers alike want the kitchen sink to be everything,” she explains. Take the brand’s Riverby enameled cast-iron farmhouse workstation sink, which incorporates a myriad of features that cooks demand, like an integrated sliding cutting board and utility rack.
COLORS ARE SLEEKER, BOLDER, AND GREENER
It’s official, says Los Angeles–based designer Oliver M. Furth, “The all-white kitchen is out.”
“Unless you’re inside a Nancy Meyers movie, go for something bolder—even a shade or two stronger can bring depth and interest,” he advises. “I’m doing a lot of cabinetry in deep colors lately.” Take a glamorous, Spanish Revival project in which Furth and his design team saturated the cabinetry in a high-gloss black. In another home, he used peacock blue.
Designer Ken Fulk, whose eponymous firm is celebrated for its wildly vivid projects, also agrees that the last few years have spelled what he terms “the death knell” of a pristine white kitchen. Instead he, along with a bevy of other interior experts, sees slick, lacquered surfaces taking center stage. “Lacquer is a great way to live with glorious colors. In fact, it used to be my secret weapon—I’d take cabinetry to the auto body shop and get it sprayed in a booth for a bullet-proof finish.”
“Unless you’re inside a Nancy Meyers movie, go for something bolder.”
“I’m designing a kitchen for myself at the moment,” echoes Tom Kligerman of New York’s Ike Kligerman Barkley. “The walls will be high-gloss painted horizontal wood planks in an off-white that veers very gently toward pistachio green—but just barely—and the window sash in the room will be painted a deeper green. I want the colors to be cool when it’s hot out and warm when it’s cold out.”
Kligerman’s green-tinged, high-shine kitchen touches on a tidal wave of nature-inspired hues to hit our homes this year. According to New York interior designer Sasha Bikoff, lacquer and green go hand in hand. She predicts a mix of “muted herbal tones to mimic our favorite ingredients—think sage, rosemary, lavender, saffron, and basil.”
LIGHTING WILL MAKE YOU FEEL—AND LOOK—GOOD
Ideas around kitchen lighting are getting brighter too. Gone are the days of harsh task lighting; instead, thanks to new technologies and our new routines, designers are illuminating cooking spaces to boost our mood, productivity, and appearance. “Just like a movie set, lighting is essential for the presentation of arguably the most expensive room in the house—and integrated lighting will be a priority, if not essential, for both function and aesthetics,” predicts Bianca Betancourt, a lead designer at FORM Kitchens—the San Francisco–based innovator in online kitchen design.
Tucker sees this as a mix of fixtures that cater to both form and function: “Task lighting is always [an] important consideration, but it doesn’t need to be boring or industrial,” she insists. “Oftentimes, lighting anchors a kitchen, and a beautiful pendant or sparkling lantern can be a centralizing focal point.” She also points out that, although LED lighting remains an environmentally sound choice, “dimmers are de rigueur—whether we’re the cook or chief bottle washer, we should all look our best!”
“There’s nothing more depressing than bright LED lighting in the evening.”
Kitchen lighting will also be increasingly designed to make us feel good, too. As Huh sees it, biodynamic lighting is the future. “There’s nothing more depressing than bright LED lighting in the evening,” she says. “Lighting that changes color from morning into the evening—bright to warm—works with our biorhythms to combat seasonal affective disorder and makes the kitchen more livable and beautiful. We love working with Ketra [the lighting technology company] in particular for this.”
Fulk’s firm also worked with Ketra to help design wellness-focused kitchen lighting. “It’s one of the new trends in technology that actually makes our lives better,” he says.
Kligerman’s kitchen design incorporates a variety of lighting to achieve a similar balance of form and function, from downlights to sconces to a statement pendant. “I want the room to have a golden glow in the evenings with enough light to be able to work well, but not enough that someone might mistake the space for a medical lab.”
CABINETS ARE SIMPLIFYING
Like kitchen paint this year, cabinetry will become sleeker too. According to Betancourt, simplicity is key. “European, minimal, and simple cabinet styles are still very popular, and gaining more recognition in the U.S. market,” she notes. “Shaker cabinetry is still prominent, but trends are moving toward a [more] modern style without so many grooves.”
Furth has also witnessed this trend. “A lot of our kitchens lately are leaning more toward modern,” he notes. “This modernity is expressed first and foremost by clean cabinetry, often with flat overlay doors [that] hide appliances whenever possible.”
“We typically keep cabinetry super clean,” agrees de Cárdenas. The same sentiment applies to hardware. While his firm typically likes to “keep things as pull-free as possible” he makes an exception when handles and knobs are equally sleek or statement-making. “We do have a project in Millbrook, New York, at the moment, with these really sleek resin handles as a standout in the kitchen.”
Southern California–based designer Jeffrey Alan Marks makes a cabinet call based on his clients’ needs (“Slick, flat panels, and curved shapes are trending,” he notes), But, he confesses, “I’m still a sucker for a simple Shaker [style].”
TILE BACKSPLASHES ARE BACK
Whether vintage, bespoke, or off-the-shelf, beloved tile backsplashes are making a comeback. And, like larger interior design trends taking shape this year, there is a return to an organic, handmade feel.
“Lately, we’re seeing a lot of high texture tile—either square or rectangular—in a stacked grid pattern,” notes Furth. It’s a great way to bring subtle pattern and organic character into an otherwise modern space.”
“I love antique tiles for backsplashes,” says New York–based designer Neal Beckstedt. “Currently, I’m leaning into backsplashes that are different than the counter finish—architecturally it helps to break up the space. Bikoff agrees, observing that clients are gravitating toward whimsical, mosaic-style designs with matching marble surfaces.
Tucker’s New Year’s resolution for tile is right in step with the sentiment of her A-List colleagues. “I’m using tile only for backsplashes…it offers a visual focal point and breaks up the monotony of plain countertops.”
MATERIALS ARE GETTING ECLECTIC
Say goodbye to traditional material pairings and hello to unique mixes of stone, composites, woods, and metals that can seamlessly integrate your kitchen into the overall design of your home. “We’re mixing materials more than ever,” says Huh. “From antiqued brick, unique natural stone with oxidized metals, warm woods, and mixed metals to colorful quartz countertops that don’t necessarily try to mimic stone, we think clients will be open to trying the unexpected.”
“Use lots [of materials], stir, and voilà—you have an interesting kitchen,” agrees Beckstedt with all the flair of a seasoned chef. “I love integrating wood cutting boards, stone counters for rolling out pastry dough, and stainless steel near cooking [stations].” He also recommends taking cues from a professional restaurant kitchen. “It’ll make your own kitchen super functional and, at the same time, brings in several finishes.”
Bikoff also believes homeowners are moving away from materials with a traditional look; instead of same-old Carrara, think exotic stones like onyx and colored marble. “The new luxury is stone with a lot of character and color that references fabrics, wallpapers, and paints chosen throughout the rest of the home.”
STAINLESS IS OUT; BELLS AND WHISTLES ARE IN
Thanks to thousands of color choices, your appliances can be just as glam as cabinets, walls, and surrounding surfaces. “The trend for using bold colors in the kitchen has been rumbling around for some time now, but there has definitely been an expansion in the shades being used,” explains Eliza Sheffield, president of BlueStar, which offers over 1,000 colors and finishes for its appliances—as well as custom color matching. “While stainless remains a popular finish, there is a ‘stainless fatigue,’ [and] we’ve seen consumers start to get more adventurous with their color choices.”
“The industrial kitchen look is out, and the jewel-box kitchen is in.”
“Color, color, color—that’s the latest and greatest offering from nearly every major appliance manufacturer today,” adds Fulk, who, in a recent project, matched a stove to the pink of a cow’s udder. “And imagine, we used to laugh at our friends who had avocado-colored appliances!”
Bikoff has effectively banished the all-stainless look and will even conceal offending surfaces with wood paneling. “The industrial kitchen look is out, and the jewel-box kitchen is in,” she declares.
Huh sees unusual materials entering the mix too, be it mixed metals, unique finishes, and even leather (she points to the JennAir “Burlesque” fridge). The designer is also seeing an increase in client requests for induction ranges. “As people become more environmentally conscious, they’re realizing they don’t need to burn fossil fuels to cook like a chef—Thomas Keller uses induction—why shouldn’t you!”
Kligerman, for his part, splurged on his morning caffeine kick: “My pride and joy is a Vibiemme polished chrome industrial Italian espresso maker—which has its own area and is fully plumbed.” With its polished chrome tubes and knobs, it resembles a “1953 Buick Roadmaster, except it shoots out steam, not engine exhaust,” he jokes. But it’s these kinds of indulgences that have helped make the last two years bearable. “It’s a simple pleasure— about $55 a shot, when I think about what I paid for the machine.”