A granite counter here, new cherry cabinets there. Anyone who's ever undertaken a kitchen remodeling project knows those costs can add up quickly. According to the Remodeling Magazine 2012-13 Cost vs. Value Report, the national average cost for a high-end kitchen makeover is now $53,931.
Because they're such a large investment, most homeowners hope to end up with a finished product that looks fresh as long as possible. What's hot and trendy today may be out of vogue in a year, making your kitchen look outdated before you've had a chance to break it in.
Even before the first sledgehammer is swung, John Petrie, 2013 president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association and owner of MH Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, PA, encourages homeowners to answer one important question: Who is this remodel for?
"Is this something the homeowners are doing for themselves, for their own enjoyment?" he said. "Or, do they need to update to be able to sell their house?" The answers to these questions can help drive design choices for the kitchen and beyond.
"If this remodel is for resale purposes, decisions will need to be made that both ensure you're getting the highest return on your investment and which appeal to the largest number of people," Petrie said. "When it comes to resale, we generally want to play it safe with color. White painted kitchens and light maple kitchens, for example, have appeal in the resale market — and they have for quite some time."
If, however, you have no plans to move anytime soon, you don't want to completely throw caution to the wind, but you can make more personal design decisions. Petrie says most kitchen remodels come about not because the kitchens are "worn out" but because they "don't look current."
"Many of the projects we're working on now are for homeowners who love the layout of their kitchen, but they don't love the crystal or frost finishes on oak cabinets that they chose 20 years ago," he said. "We're also seeing people replace the solid-surface countertops that were popular in the '90s with more updated quartz or granite."
While no one can say for sure which kitchen features will stand the test of time, here are eight trends you may want to avoid to keep your remodel looking relevant for years to come.
Keeping small appliances behind closed doors was a notion that gained a lot of fans in the 1980s and '90s. Unfortunately, these garages ate up a lot of valuable counter space. Today's homeowners generally choose to keep often-used appliances right on the counter, and pull-out drawers are terrific hideaways for blenders, mixers and more.
Many kitchens once had built-in nooks for the phone, mixer, even waxed paper and foil dispensers. Those nooks are a sure sign your kitchen has seen better days. For starters, many homes no longer have land phone lines, so phone niches become completely unnecessary. "A decade ago, it was all the rage to have a desk in the kitchen," Petrie said. "People are realizing they never sat at those desks; they just used them as a landing spot for papers and keys and bills." A more modern approach: a drawer for notepads and pens and a charging station for the family's electronics.
"In 2011 and 2012, everybody wanted an apron-front kitchen sink," Petrie said. "This year, we haven't done a single one. It's a trend and, at least where we are, it appears to be subsiding." For a sink that will always be in style, Petrie suggests something stainless. "It's the workhorse of sinks."
Today's homeowners are opting for backsplashes — generally in ceramic, porcelain or glass tile — that reach all the way up to the bottom of upper cabinets. The practicality of this change helps ensure its shelf life.
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These appliances were especially popular in the 1970s and '80s, but not so anymore. Oh, they still have their fans, but they tend to get stinky as they fill up with garbage, they can malfunction, and many homeowners simply don't want to hassle with keeping them clean.
The most current kitchens have a space for the microwave — and it's not on the counter or in a niche built into the upper cabinets. Under-counter microwave drawers fit in seamlessly with the rest of your cabinets, free up valuable kitchen real estate and make sense ergonomically. Marketed toward families on the go, they're installed at an accessible height for children and equipped with safety locks for homes with toddlers.
All the rage in 2009, '10 and '11, decorative range hoods haven't completely disappeared from the scene, but their popularity is waning. Ditto pot racks. Hanging pots tend to detract from the open kitchen concept. Today's homeowners generally prefer storing their pot collections in deep drawers that roll out for accessibility.
Appliance manufacturers will tell you that white or arctic or ice is the new stainless, but stainless is still the king. It fits in with both contemporary and traditional decor, and it has widespread appeal. "If you want to stay current for as long a period as possible, I'd skip the colorful appliances — even the colored knobs for that matter — and go with stainless," Petrie said. "It really is today's neutral."
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