The other day, Emily emailed me (Arlyn, EHD Editorial Director for anyone who’s not up to speed) with some ideas for upcoming blog posts, one concept being talking about some new kitchen trends she’s been noticing (and wanting) during all the research she and the design team have been doing this last year while designing the Portland project and mountain fixer.
We chatted about a handful of design details she’s really loving right now and Jess and I went to work digging through her Pinterest boards to find examples to show you guys and talk through.
Now, I find talking “trends” in the kitchen to be a funny thing. Unlike a living room where you can swap out a shibori-print pillow with a cactus silk pick in the name of “nowness,” you can’t exactly just rip out a countertop or backsplash on a whim to keep up with the times. Well, you can, but who’s doing that?? Running to Target is FAR easier than calling a general contractor. I’m not saying “trends” aren’t a thing in kitchens, because they ABSOLUTELY are, and omg do design editors/design enthusiasts love talking about them, but these trends move much slower than other decor trends. Traditionally, kitchen designs turn the page and evolve HEAVILY every 10-12 years, while the more micro elements of the kitchen (hardware, cabinet color, backsplashes) change a little faster. Makes sense given the most costly part of a kitchen are cabinetry and countertops, which stick around a bit longer.
I’d feel better calling these kitchen design inspirations than “trends” because a trend is fleeting, while a solid design choice can hold its own for decades (heck…even generations), and all of the things Emily called out are actually really classic, subtle/practical choices that can be made should you be in the middle of a kitchen renovation. All of these inspirations are subtle and unfussy. There’s nothing ornate here, or “cool” like bold encaustic tile floors and backsplashes. They’re decisions that you could confidently make for a new kitchen without stressing about whether you’d get tired of it in a year, hence going with something more basic.
So, keep reading if you’re into seeing what we think are some fresher (read: NOT just “trendy”) takes on kitchen design. Or keep reading if you rolled your eyes at the “kitchen trends” title and want to hate comment on it all…either way, keep reading because you’re already here and you might as well. Besides, Emily will chime in which “trends” she decided to actually incorporate and which ones she just couldn’t pull the trigger on.
Where a regular countertop might be about two inches, these new thicker countertops we’re seeing and really liking are thiiiick…think 3-4 inches. The look is particularly fresh and inspiring when the countertop is a cast material like concrete (and frankly, more feasible because a 4-inch marble slab would be so insanely heavy, not to mention would be insanely expensive). This dark (we’re guessing stained) concrete in a kitchen by Paper House Project is yummy, sleek and modern (where the wood front cabinets bring in some warmth).
Here’s a cast concrete countertop—by Fraher Architects—that has more of a rustic edge, though the thinner unfinished plywood cabinetry keeps it from getting too industrial. The thickness of the edge really helps you to feel the texture of the material, which is always a good thing (well, mostly). A quick note on anyone interested in concrete. It can either be precast by the manufacturer and then installed on-site just like stone surfaces, or it can be cast in place. I think depending on how custom the top needs to be for your design, you can pick a route. What I don’t know is if there’s a preferred way or cost difference (and if you do, please comment to let us know!).
Oh goodness, this is just sexy. Bravo Roxane Beis. The cement render finish here looks so lush yet primitive…like a busty cavewoman. The idea of no distinguished countertop, like over by the range, is interesting…the clean line is refreshing and your eye just instantly traces the cement-rendered cabinet frame (as it should). It’s sultry, kind of exotic but also so insanely simple.
The countertop thickness is pretty traditional (if not just a little thicker than normal) on the majority of this kitchen by Kimberly Ayres, but they go for broke (probably literally) on the island here. It’s hard to see in this image, but the island has a waterfall edge on both sides, so the chunky, blockiness of the application is a big statement. I think this would be most visually effective in a space that’s overall pretty simple.
This kitchen by Jamie Bush is so pristine and clean-lined. It leans into its warm modernity, which is definitely amplified by the thick, dark gray countertop material. It’s especially nice juxtaposed with the thinner drawer front handle rail. Anything thinner, and it would have been thin-line overkill.
**Emily here: I am doing this at the mountain house. The reason that we are opting for the thick counter is that we aren’t really doing a backsplash but I wanted the marble to be more visually present. So by adding that thickness, you see it vertically in addition to it being a horizontal surface. The thing you have to think about is that if you are using readymade cabinetry, it may effect your top drawers or cabinet doors. You see, the thickness of the stone isn’t actually 3 or 4 inches, it’s typically 2cm and faced out to look like that which means it will recede OVER your cabinets or add height to them. So you have to design your cabinets so that the drawers and cabinet doors are lower than that lip. The other option is to have higher counters and build it up. I think at the mountain house we are doing 2-inch simple miter countertops, but this is making me want to go to 3 inches.
Mixed Material Counters or Islands
Some trends are purely aesthetic, others are super practical…we’re filing this one under “practical.” For anyone who cooks, you know it’s impossible to chop on a stone counter (it’s totally not safe—slippery—and it ravages your knives). Of course, most people aren’t out here smashing garlic and chopping onions right on their quartz, but it’s still worth mentioning in case you use those thin plastic cutting boards. Plus, having a spot that you dedicate solely to prep—chopping, rolling, kneading—is a luxury, so if you have the space and your second home is happily at a countertop, this design detail might be of interest to you. (Design by Peter Ivens)
Usually, we see mixed countertop material in this configuration: stone on the countertop surround and butcher block on the island, but here from English kitchen company Plain English Design (and in the images to follow, from Mike Tuck Studio and Studio McGee), the mix happens directly on the island.
Ohh this one (designed by Australian firm Hearth) has just a piece of marble, so they better be regularly whipping up weekend croissants or other pastry on that cold stone surface.
** Emily here: I really tried to bring this idea into the mountain kitchen but ultimately decided against it because I didn’t have the perfect spot or maybe because I didn’t trust myself to do it exactly right and again, taking a risk on your countertops is kinda scary, especially when it’s not necessary. We just didn’t have the right space for it, but when done well (like above and below) I think its super special.
This one—by Studio Wonder—is obviously less wood-and-stone combo, but we couldn’t NOT include it because it’s so stinking cool.
Of all the design trends on this roundup, this is probably my favorite. It’s like a buffet with a built-in hutch…it feels familiar and homey, like something from your grandma’s house (minus the country chicken wallpaper…you know what I’m talking about). Except this is like hutch 2.0…it’s not a regular grandma, it’s a cool grandma. Emily and the design team incorporated this look into the kitchen of the Portland project and OMG it looks so good (reveal to come, we promise).
Sure, open shelving is still well-loved, but if you’re looking for a more integrated aesthetic that’s still door-free, this look right here (above, from deVOL) might be just what you’re looking for.
A little shorter than what Emily used in Portland, but the glass-front and latch hardware here is so similar to what was installed in that kitchen (*heavily influenced by deVOL). I like that the beadboard backsplash is carried through the back of this cabinet (it would look SO cool if it were something even bolder, like tile, or hell, throw caution to the wind and do a fun wallpaper or contrasting paint color).
Another gorgeous inspiration from deVOL, this one actually looks like a hutch. The little platform it’s on is probably there because the hinges of the doors wouldn’t open otherwise, but it has a very modular vintage Euro look.
The practical part of the cabinet-on-counter look is that it works as hidden appliance storage. You can stash toasters, coffee makers, whatever, without having to either leave it out on your counter (visual clutter) or lugging it from a high up shelf or lower cabinet somewhere. It’s right there on the counter already. Some of these also have outlets inside, so you can plug the toaster in right where it is, use it, then unplug and close the door. (
Oh, I bet that’s hidden small appliance storage right there in that bottom part of the cabinet shown above (design by Katie Martinez), while the top has…who knows what else (plates, pantry stuff, etc.).
A countertop-to-ceiling look like this one by Boswell Construction is uber-dramatic and we dig it.
** Emily here: Yes, we did this in Portland. The pros of these countertop cabinets are that they look really charming and classic, and allow easy, casual access to items. They also break up that horizontal line of uppers and adds more interest in the same material (which keeps things cohesive). They do take up some counter space so if you don’t have a ton of kitchen prep area, be careful. I’m OBSESSED with how it turned out in Portland and can’t wait to show you.
The Updated Beadboard
Remember this post about the kitchen cabinet evolution saga from the mountain fixer where Emily REALLY badly wanted beadboard-esque rustic wood (like deVOL does, below) and then it turned into a flat cabinet front with deep ridges but then everyone was like you’re ruining your life and the future of your family with those ridges, then Emily went with a Shaker front instead for practicality (except stay tuned because there’s an update there coming soon)…well, that look is what we’re talking about when we say “updated” beadboard. Basically beadboard but without the actual bead or groove (that’s the thin little strip between the boards that gives it its name). So really, just slatted wood. Without the bead, it loses it’s traditional vibe and goes instantly Scandi/modern. It’s a look, like this shot above from Whiting Architects, that’s clean and simple but with more texture. If you get a twitch every time you see an episode of House Hunters Renovation where the kitchen designer introduces a Shaker front cabinet with the same “we’re innovative rebels” vibe that Tim Cook presents a new iPhone, you might just be into this updated beadboard.
These cabinets definitely have a bit of a ‘70s wood paneling aesthetic, but we don’t hate it. (Design by Carole Whiting.)
Here’s another take by GIA Bathrooms & Kitchens on updated beadboard, where the “board” part of the beadboard is much narrower. While I actually like these cabinet fronts quite a bit (and yes, the knobs are pretty cool but all together it’s a liiiiittle too contemporary for my tastes), I could see how a wider board is a bit more timeless.
Ohh but in this putty green (in a kitchen by Carole Whiting)…I could probably look at this and love it forever.
These next few inspirations (by Megan Myers, Foomann and Madeleine Blanchfield) are even tighter (and check that extra thick concrete island…). I think it works if the inset isn’t super deep, so it’s not as dark and obvious. When it’s shallow and subtle, it is A. much easier to clean and B. far less busy.
**Emily here: YES. We’re incorporating this into the mountain fixer kitchen and in a few other places. We are doing it in wood grain, which feels more like planks than “updated beadboard” I suppose. I love the first few photos with the more Scandi-inspired vibe and if you are looking to get the ones at the beginning then definitely hit up Sarah Sherman Samuels’ collection with Semihandmade.
Thin Vertical Tile Backsplash
There’s been a ton of tile talk around EHD headquarters (it’s SUPER interesting around these parts), but mostly because, between the Portland and mountain houses, there have been SO.MANY. bathrooms to design, hence so much tile to talk about/research inspiration for. And something that is a HARD HITTING trend is thin vertical tile backsplashes and installations, as seen.
Above, in a kitchen by Veneer Designs, it’s offset, like traditional brick-patterned subway tile is, but vertical. And because the tile is thinner (these look about 6” tall by about 1.5” wide), it feels so much fresher than a standard subway.
While the offset installation feels more traditional, a stacked vertical definitely comes off more modern, but nice and clean. The black vertical stack of the previous kitchen from Wit & Delight is a nice contrast to all the white marble. Opting for a color like a soft or moody blue—like in this kitchen via Heath Ceramics by Vaughn Johnson Architect—makes the rather simple look more interesting (and oh boy, how fun would contrasting grout be here?).
**Emily here: This was a big yes in our book. And while we’re using thin vertical tiles for the mountain house, it’s technically not in the kitchen. I am indeed doing a 1″x8″ vertical tile in a bathroom. My tiler is going to kill me, and by kill me I mean he’s going to charge me a ton to install. In case you are wondering why a small tile would cost more, here’s the cheat sheet: more tile = more cuts and more cuts = more time and more time = more money. But a bathroom or backsplash wants what it wants.
And there you have it. The five kitchen design inspirations that we love and almost all of them we are doing. Most are either already done or in the works but as always, we can’t wait to hear what you love/hate. And……go! 🙂