Kitchen appliance manufacturers Sub-Zero and Wolf have collaborated with three notable designers to identify current kitchen design trends and predict future directions for the space that has become the heart of the home. New York–based interior designer Jamie Drake, Chicago-based kitchen designer Mick De Giulio, and Atlanta-based kitchen designer Matthew Quinn joined together to analyze kitchen designs entered into Sub-Zero and Wolf's biennial Kitchen Design Contest, track the design trends illustrated therein, as well as through their own practices, and pinpoint potential evolutionary developments that may yield future trends in kitchen design.

Each of the designers has played a substantial role over the years in the appliance manufacturer's Kitchen Design Contest, serving as members of the judging panel. The trio identified five trends that will continue to evolve and inform future kitchen designs. 

  • Credit: Courtesy Sub-Zero

Incorporating lifestyles into the kitchen. Homes have become kitchen-centric, with kitchens serving as a family's venue for leisure, work, and entertaining in addition to its utilitarian roles. Homeowners are willing to devote a greater share of thought, square footage, and budget to design kitchens that will ease this lifestyle integration, the report says. Moving forward, designers will seek to create more unified, holistic concepts for lifestyle-inclusive kitchen environments (see image at left).

"Green" refocusing on health and wellness. Going beyond simple conservation of resources, green design in the kitchen now puts a greater emphasis on healthy living, the designers report. It is primarily driven by the farm-to-table movement and homeowners' desire to live within an environment that supports their families' health. Indoor air quality is becoming more important to homeowners, so low- or no-VOC finishes, paints, sealants, and cabinetry materials are increasingly being incorporated into kitchens, as well as ventilation and filtration systems. Also, appliance industry groups currently are developing lifecycle-based sustainability standards for home appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators, which will add a new dimension to appliance performance.

  • Credit: Courtesy Sub-Zero

Personal experience and personality-driven design. Many homeowners, not satisfied with cookie-cutter kitchens, are choosing to put a personal stamp on their designs to create unique spaces that showcase their aesthetic preferences and personalities, according to the report. Reflecting the kitchen's shift from pure utility to venue for comfort and expression, elements like lighting fixtures, countertops, and hardware are getting the custom treatment with personalized touches, such as countertops embedded with favorite objects or motifs, or whimsical cabinet knobs (see image at left). Consumers are savvier than ever about the options available to them, and they will continue to demand ever-more-personalized designs.

Honest use of noble materials. Natural materials are able to retain their own voices in today's kitchens, rather than being muted by unnatural treatments. Wood cabinetry may be painted, but the preference is now for a hand-applied finish that allows brush marks and the material's original grain to show through, for example. Stone's natural veining is highly valued, and finish preferences have shifted toward honed rather than polished, to let the stone's raw texture shine (see image below). A wider range of metals is being used, from stainless steel to polished nickel to bronzes and brasses with living finishes.

  • Credit: Courtesy Sub-Zero

Technological innovation dissolving the kitchen's boundaries. As the separation between kitchens and living rooms continues to disappear, homeowners are showing a greater preference for integrating and concealing utilitarian elements such as appliances using the aforementioned natural materials, and the report predicts that designers' ability to accomplish this will be supported by technological advances. Technology also will enable seamless aging-in-place design and the incorporation of electronic displays and control panels, as well as lighting, into kitchen surfaces—countertops in particular. Further product innovations and electronic advances will make wireless/plugless countertop appliance operation a reality.

Whether any or all of these possibilities fully develop into future design concepts for kitchens likely will vary—as many trends do—depending on regional influences and budgetary considerations. However, each design direction reflects a greater desire for control, ease, and environmental sensitivity within the home that appears to be increasingly common among a diverse range of homeowners.