Light, bright, white are buzzwords for kitchen design
By Stacey Wiedower
Originally published 12:00 a.m., February 14, 2014
Updated 12:05 a.m., February 14, 2014
For years — decades, even — Pat Krause hated her kitchen.
“I had a paneled kitchen and paneled walls in the den,” said Krause, whose Germantown house was built in 1970. “And I wanted a light kitchen. I wanted everything fresh.”
She’s not alone. Today’s hottest kitchens are light, clean and open, with ample lighting and painted cabinetry in crisp whites, creams and grays. It’s a big change from the dark stains and dim fixtures that characterized this room in decades past.
“Now it’s just so clean, and it’s a much different feeling,” said Lisa Miles Russell, a certified kitchen designer with LM Designs. “It’s a lighter, happier feeling. Even if you’re not increasing your square footage, it feels bigger and brighter when you renovate and do all these things.”
Krause worked with Carol Jameson, a certified master kitchen and bath designer with Premier Countertops and More in Olive Branch, to turn her kitchen from 1970s brown and avocado to 2010s white and bright.
“It was so dated and so nonfunctional — and it was so dark,” Jameson said of Krause’s space.
“She wanted to open it up, to make it more user-friendly. So that’s what we did. Soffits came down, wallpaper came down, and we got rid of all the contrasting elements.”
In their place, Krause chose white-painted cabinetry that extends to the ceiling, maximizing storage space. She also installed new lighting, new appliances, Cambria quartz countertops, a mosaic tile backsplash, ceramic tile flooring and fresh paint.
“I’m still not used to it,” she said. “Every time I go in, I think, ‘Is this my kitchen?’ To me it looks like it should be in Southern Living, and I never thought I’d have a kitchen like that.”
Along with lighter colors and an open, airy feel, homeowners these days want kitchens that are low-maintenance.
“People are so tired of having to worry about bacteria and staining in their countertops, and so they’re going toward quartz,” Jameson said. “Quartz is already big, it’s already got a lot of momentum, but it’s going to be even bigger in the next year.”
Efficiency, in general, is a big buzzword in kitchens, added Maureen Mayeaux, an interior designer with Collierville-based Maureen Mayeaux Design. Mayeaux, who attended the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show last week in Las Vegas, said manufacturers today are touting products and appliances that are energy-efficient, space-saving and low-maintenance.
“That stems from our need for flexibility, because of our changing lifestyles,” Mayeaux said. “So many families have different generations under one roof now. Every inch of the house has to have a purpose. I think that’s a good thing, personally.”
Mayeaux, too, is seeing an increase in the popularity of quartz and solid-surface countertop materials. But, she said, homeowners still want the look of natural stone.
“The biggest thing I noticed at the (Kitchen and Bath Industry Show) were how many of the solid surfaces had more of an organic look,” she said. “Instead of conservative patterns, they’re bringing in very bold, swirly patterns — almost an artwork feel in the countertops. Many of them mimic natural stones, granite.”
Granite remains popular in Mid-South kitchens, Miles Russell said. But she’s also seen an increase in requests for white marble.
“People love the look of white marble,” she said. “But practically speaking, it’s not the best for a kitchen. I’ve done several baths and kitchens where we’ve used a quartz that looks like Carrara marble, but you get the durability of quartz, which is far better than a marble.”
White and light countertops follow one of two major trends Miles Russell is seeing in kitchen color palettes. Homeowners these days either want “all soft neutrals, tone on tone,” or they want high contrast, she said.
“Maybe a white kitchen with either an espresso island or a dark wood floor,” Miles Russell said. “Some kind of stark, high contrast between dark and light.”
Style-wise, homeowners are embracing a blend of traditional and contemporary elements. Think traditional cabinets and a farmhouse sink blended with industrial lighting and stainless steel.
“Rustic contemporary seems to be a cool thing that people are finally grasping,” Jameson said. “They’re doing white cabinetry with black countertops but will add in a beautiful old farmhouse table. They’ll have hand-scraped wood floors in an ultra-contemporary kitchen. Or they’ll have an ultra-modern kitchen and then put in one piece that’s really old world, like a copper hood or a copper sink that’s hand-hammered or that’s got a patina to it, something that looks aged.”
No matter the style, Mayeaux added, kitchens today aren’t formal. They’re not stuffy. Where “old world” once called to mind a look that was warm but opulent, today it’s translated in a different way.
“Now we want more of a casual, ‘come into my resort’ kind of feeling,” she said. “Where you can kind of sink back into all the nice textures and it’s open, crisp. Lots of painted moldings, kind of like a clean white collar on a shirt.”
As for lighting, recessed, undercabinet and pendant lighting are all popular picks among consumers. However, Mayeaux has encountered more homeowners who are willing to make a bold statement with kitchen lighting.