Making the leap from Instagram to reality is hard, especially when you’re remodeling your kitchen. Most of us don’t have the time or know-how to DIY such a big project—or the budget to hire the celebrity designers whose work we see everywhere. And the truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to even if you did. It’s hard to find inspiration that fits your kitchen layout, and then figure out how to put all the pieces together.
That’s where we’re swooping in. To show you what is possible—and popular right now—in real life in kitchens like yours, we reached out to some amazing and talented design pros: Julie Gockeler of KraftMaster Renovations in Chatham, New Jersey; Claudia Harvey of Wydian Kitchens & Design in Basking Ridge, New Jersey; and Nick Mandarakas of MBA Cabinetry Studio in Belleville, New Jersey. Read on to find out the six details their clients are asking for now—and to learn how your appliances and other foundational elements fit in. We’ll also share a few kitchen trends these three experts say are on their way out.
1) Two-Tone Cabinets + Stained Wood
Stained wood kitchen cabinets were officially out of style for decades, but they’re making a fresh, modern comeback. Here’s proof: The Maplewood, New Jersey, kitchen above, designed by MBA Cabinetry Studio, with Miele wall ovens, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, and a dishwasher hidden behind a cabinet panel. Designer Mandarakas says he’s getting more orders for natural wood cabinets like these, often mixed in with painted ones. He’s seeing more wood island tops and open shelves too. As for the wood itself, popular species include alder, red and white oak, and gray-toned walnut.
Harvey agrees, and says her Wydian Kitchens & Design clients increasingly want light and dark stained cabinets, and more rustic wood finishes.
Pro Tip: To mix and match, KraftMaster Renovations designer Gockeler suggests using one stain or color on the cabinets around the perimeter of your kitchen, and a different one for the island, or finishing the upper and lower cabinets in different shades or stains.
2) Serene Colors: Gray, Blue, and Green
All the major paint companies’ Color of the Year picks for 2021 are calming and restorative. (After 2020, that’s no surprise to anybody!) The Westwood, New Jersey, kitchen below, designed by KraftMaster Renovations, fits right in. It showcases Gockeler’s color-around-the-perimeter idea, and uses some of the shades she says she’s seeing most: classic white, gray, and light wood tones. The blue here harmonizes nicely with the stainless steel Sub Zero refrigerator and Miele range. Gray, blue, and green are popular choices among MBA Cabinetry Studio’s clients as well. And Wydian Kitchens & Design’s Harvey says she’s seeing more color too, mostly in this cool-toned palette.
The Madison, New Jersey, kitchen below, designed by KraftMaster Renovations, is another great example of a calming color story. It shows how dark wood and light green paint can set off each other beautifully. Here, the custom-built dark-stained wood hood over the Viking range is the centerpiece of the room, echoing the wall with the built-in BlueStar refrigerator and Miele oven.
3) Bold Black Accents
On the opposite end of the spectrum, remodelers are going dark. Black finishing touches remain very popular—all of the designers we reached out to agreed on that. The Wydian Kitchens & Design project with Thermador appliances below, in North Cornwall, New York, uses an extra-wide, black Rangecraft range hood to sophisticated effect. Black bar stools from Pottery Barn tie the theme together.
In Summit, New Jersey, the KraftMaster Renovations Wolf kitchen with a black hood and island below takes a similar tack. The color of the island and the hood over the Wolf range stand out against the white painted cabinetry and light kitchen flooring. Gockeler says she’s seeing very few stainless steel range hoods these days—more custom wood painted ones with wood detail or black or antiqued metal.
Pro Tip: The black paint of the island carries the color through, and it comes with a bonus: You’ll never see scuff marks from kicking feet.
Mandarakas says he’s still seeing black cabinetry and hardware as well, though a lot depends on the style of the home. Since so many homes in his area of New Jersey have a history, many people choose to do a mix of modern while keeping with the style of their older homes.
4) Touches of Brass
Don’t worry, it’s not like the bright stuff you remember from the ’80s. The finishes people want today are satin, with a nice patina. The cabinet pulls and knobs of the Chatham, New Jersey, kitchen below, designed by MBA Cabinetry Studio, stand out beautifully against the white painted cabinets, and are echoed by the pendant lights over the island. And in case you’re concerned about mixing metals, here’s proof that brass and stainless steel don’t clash: The full suite of matching stainless steel appliances, including a 5 burner Thermador range, Thermador dishwasher, and Thermador refrigerator, fits right in.
Gockeler assures us she’s seeing lots of mixed metals too: brass/gold, black, and chrome. Pewter is becoming more popular as well, she says.
5) Built-In Coffee and Wine Bars
The idea of a center for coffee or wine fridge may have become more popular over the past year, while we’ve all spent more time at home, but experts say now that we’re used to it, it’s not going anywhere. The first thing you might notice in the Basking Ridge, New Jersey, kitchen below, by Wydian Kitchens & Design, is the full suite of matching JennAir appliances. But next to the wall ovens, stacked over an ingenious pair of Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers, is the star of every morning: a built-in Miele coffee maker. Harvey says her clients want built-in coffee makers, along with secondary refrigeration and convection steam ovens like these. She’s also seeing dedicated wine/coffee combo areas.
6) Big Islands
Party of 6? No problem. Gockeler’s own kitchen in Andover, New Jersey, with a full suite of Viking appliances, has plenty of room for all of her family and friends. Her team at KraftMaster Renovations uses computer-assisted design to create an island that’s precisely the right size for your kitchen.
Pro Tip: As for things that are on their way out, our experts tell us that when it comes to kitchen flooring, tile is passé—people want hardwood. They also say granite countertops are a less popular choice these days.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on July 26, 2021. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.