If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen, I can be the voice of recent experience – if not completely by choice.
A couple of times since last summer, I've shared with RTD readers that my house suffered serious damage from a major storm in July. But the upside (if there is such a thing with storm damage) was that within the insurance settlement budget, I got to redo the kitchen.
So I spent a good portion of last summer and fall scouring magazines, talking to stylists and learning what’s hot and what’s not in kitchen trends. Here's some of what I did and learned during my kitchen renovation, as well as some advice from local interior designers about kitchen design trends.
First up, everybody wanted to talk to me about kitchen counters!
Quartz and granite counters are on the rise, local experts say.
“The quartz industry has really bloomed. They have the look of marble, but they’re more durable, won’t stain and require no maintenance,” designer Sara Hillery said.
And even though there are some suggestions that granite is on its way out, designer Stephanie Theofanos said many of her clients still choose granite for their surfaces.
“People are spending a little more on higher-end granite. I’m seeing that clients are more astute in their countertop selections,” she said. “Kitchens are a natural gathering place. And people are looking for materials that can handle red wine, children, crafts and high activity.”
Personally, I decided to go for quartz counters because I fell in love with their clean, light look and how closely they resemble marble.
The price point was on par with granite and Corian (which is what we had before), and I’ve been very pleased with the quartz tops so far. They’re scratch-resistant, incredibly durable and easy to clean.
With quartz, though, you do have to be careful with heat. I keep a stack of trivets handy and use them whenever I place a hot pan on the counter or pull a baking sheet from the oven.
As Hillery noted, “the white kitchen is always a classic, especially here in Richmond.”
She worked on the kitchen renovation at the Richmond Symphony Designer House in Ginter Park in 2016. She helped overhaul the 1980s kitchen – think black counters and knotty pine cabinets – and introduced white custom cabinets and state-of-the-art Dekton counters.
“Grays and whites in the kitchen are here to stay,” Hillery said. “Having a neutral palette allows you to put more color into your walls and your fabric choices.”
Theofanos noted that neutrals are “warming up” in color. “We’re seeing lots more warm grays and beiges,” she said.
I’m definitely on the white-and-gray bandwagon. Originally my kitchen had cream-colored cabinets, but my husband and I decided to go even brighter with new white, custom cabinets.
We also kept the glass-front style of cabinets, which allows us to introduce color through our choice of china.
I’m hoping the effect is bright, crisp and timeless.
It's easy to overlook or undervalue kitchen lighting, but it's very important, experts said.
Big, bold fixtures are a big trend in kitchens, according to Abby Adams, a designer with Mosaic Tile Co.
“People are taking the time and making their choice a prominent feature in their home. They’re not just getting something off the shelf" at a home improvement store, she said.
Hillery said she has been using chandeliers and multiple pendants in groups of three to add visual interest to her kitchen renovations.
I also wanted a lighting “statement” ... but on a budget. I searched high and low for the right lighting and eventually found it: a midcentury mobile from West Elm – for less than $200! – that’s very retro (with six spiky lights) and that creates a focal point.
If counters and cabinets are trending more neutral, backsplash is where people have more fun and take more chances.
“I’m seeing a lot more investment in backsplash. People are making individual statements with color or pattern,” Theofanos said.
Hillery noted that graphic tiles behind the range can add beauty to the space. "They give you a pattern and create interest,” Hillery said.
I went with Carrara marble for our backsplash. It's a light, blue-gray marble, but we decided to have the small tiles laid out in a diagonal herringbone pattern.
And to my eye, while it seemed like countertop choices were of utmost importance when renovating the kitchen, I have to admit that visually, I notice the backsplash more than the counters.
I love how the backsplash picks up on the blue-gray color palette while adding a graphic, dimensional interest with the pattern.
Think of kitchen hardware “as the jewelry of the kitchen,” as Hillery described it.
Brass – yes, brass – is back in a big way. But it’s a brushed, warm brass, not the shiny stuff that screams 1980s.
Satin gold and champagne gold also are trending, according to Adams of Mosaic Tile.
Mixing metals is also popular these days. Brushed brass mixes with almost anything, including copper or oil-rubbed bronze.
Adams noted that “brushed nickel never goes out of style, and it always matches with stainless steel.”
Indeed, we went the brushed nickel route in our kitchen.
Because more than trends, I’m aiming for timeless. And while having a brand-spanking-new kitchen is nice, I hope I never again have to endure storm damage to get one!