What’s ‘In’ and ‘Out’ in the Kitchen: 10 Trends to Watch

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Kitchens are going dark, LED lighting is gaining steam, and trash is getting more attention–all are trends in kitchen designs this year, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which surveyed 100 designers at the end of 2010 to reveal the hottest kitchen trends. (Last week, we highlighted NKBA’s 4 Bathroom Trends to Watch.)

The following is a list of what’s cooking in kitchen trends for 2011, based on NKBA survey results of which kitchen designs are increasing in demand and which are losing favor.


Maple kitchen in KraftMaid’s Modern Farmhouse style; Photo credit: Courtesy of KraftMaid Cabinetry

Maple kitchen; Photo credit: Courtesy of KraftMaid Cabinetry

1. Cabinetry

Gaining steam: Maple cabinetry

Losing steam: Cherry cabinetry (Cherry dominated kitchens in early 2010 but was overtaken by maple cabinetry this year)


Kitchen cabinets in Sonoma Maple, Midnight with Bristol Maple, Pebble; Photo credit: Wellborn Cabinet Inc.

Kitchen cabinets in Sonoma Maple, Midnight with Bristol Maple, Pebble; Photo credit: Wellborn Cabinet Inc.

2. Kitchen finishes

Gaining steam: Dark natural finishes; light natural and colored painted finishes also remained fairly common, inching up slightly in use.

Losing steam: Medium natural, glazed, and white painted finishes are on the decline and the use of distressed finishes has dropped significantly in the last year.


Photo credit: Miro Dvorscak

Photo credit: Miro Dvorscak

3. Color

Gaining steam: Grays, beiges, and bones

Losing steam: Brown tones, whites, and off-whites

O’Neil Cabinets shaker style; Photo credit: Courtesy of O’Neil Cabinets

O’Neil Cabinets shaker style; Photo credit: Courtesy of O’Neil Cabinets

4. Design styles

Gaining steam: Shaker style, which is characterized by its simplicity, un-ornamented yet functional, finely crafted style. (Shaker overtook contemporary style this year as the No. 2 most popular kitchen design style). Traditional style remains the most popular kitchen design, although it has dropped slightly in popularity compared to last year.

Losing steam: Contemporary style


Kitchen from Huntwood Cabinets features an island with built-in wine cubbies; Photo credit: Alan Bisson

Kitchen from Huntwood Cabinets features an island with built-in wine cubbies; Photo credit: Alan Bisson

5. Cabinetry upgrades

Gaining steam: Unchilled wine storage (yet undercounter wine refrigerators are losing favor)

Losing steam: Tall pantries, lazy Susans, appliance garages, and pull-out racks are declining slightly in popularity.


DuPont Corian solid surface in Sorrel; Photo Credit: TC Studios

DuPont Corian solid surface in Sorrel; Photo Credit: TC Studios

6. Countertops

Gaining steam: Solid surfaces, a low-maintenance countertop surface, has grown in popularity, but granite and quartz continue to hold dominance. Other countertops surfaces increasing in niche use include butcher block and marble.

Losing steam: Laminate


Liebherr’s 2060 series

Liebherr’s 2060 series

7. Refrigerators

Gaining steam: French door and side-by-side refrigerators

Losing steam: Freezer-top refrigerators and freezer-bottom models


Thermador’s Masterpiece Series 36-inch Silver-Mirrored Induction Cooktop; Photo credit: Thermador

Thermador’s Masterpiece Series 36-inch Silver-Mirrored Induction Cooktop; Photo credit: Thermador

8. Cooktops

Gaining steam: Induction cooktops are closing the gap on gas and electric models; double wall ovens are increasing in use.

Losing steam: Gas cooktops are still popular but their use is falling slightly in favor of induction and electric cooktops. Single wall ovens and warming drawers are also on the decline.


Kichler Lighting: Design Pro LED creates light layering and uses 75% less energy; Photo credit: Kichler Lighting

Photo credit: Kichler Lighting

9. Lighting

Gaining steam: LED energy-efficient lighting options

Losing steam: Incandescent lighting and CFLs (compact fluorescent lights)









Photo credit: Rev-A-Shelf, LLC

Photo credit: Rev-A-Shelf, LLC

10. Trash

Gaining steam: More designers are taking into account trash considerations in kitchen designs, with trash or recycling pull-outs, garbage disposals, and trash compactors on the rise.

Losing steam: Not considering where the trash goes in the kitchen

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Surprised to see maple gaining steam, but it makes sense. Not too dark, not too light. Why might tall pantries be losing popularity? What’s the alternative? Hmmm.

  2. The kitchen remains the main focal point of the house. It is where most of us spend a great deal of time.

  3. Very interesting. Good information to know if one is thinking about doing a reno on the kitchen, which many of us are.

  4. ‘Here Here’ for caring about trash, recycling, & composting. Isn’t LED still WAY too expensive (unless your are a trend setter & cost is irrelevant, which I guess this article is all about)

  5. Holly Schwartz

    I’ve definitely noticed that darker colored kitchens (with lots of light!) are the latest trend. Same goes with side by side refrigerator/freezer units. I am a little surprised to see that gas cooktops are on the outs though. Lots of cooks appreciate gas over electric. A lot of home buyers are impressed with the latest kitchen trends like these. Thanks for the post!

  6. The one thing I am confused on is the freezer-bottom losing steam. I feel like I have been seeing a lot of them lately.

  7. Evelyn Bailey

    What about kitchen flooring…what’s new and what’s going out?

  8. I wish your article’s accompanying photos would pop up so we could view the larger image as examples.

    Otherwise, interesting read.

  9. As a custom home builder for many years, you need to keep in mind the “species” of wood does not dictate an end result “color.”
    Maple can be clear stained or stained dark.
    Oak can be very light or very dark..and there is red oak and white oak.
    Alder has been very popular with my customers…not as hard (durable) as oak but very flexible and less expensive than maple.
    Gas cooktops are still very popular…if you have had one, you will never do without.

  10. Might need to add, I (my customers) am very lucky to reside in an area of our country that still has very talented individuals, companies, that custom make cabinetry….which affords the opportunity to choose every detail.
    The “factory” built/designs have attributes…but the total custom is awesome.

  11. Most sellers date their homes because they have lived there for a while and resisted changing. However,I find that when you sell, you must have the mindset of a buyer. They want new. So these are all helpful suggestions for someone not in the current market but are planning for the near future.

  12. Melissa Tracey

    Thanks, Evelyn, for your question about what’s popular in kitchen floors nowadays. This survey didn’t reference it but when I spoke with kitchen and bath designer David Alderman, 2011 National Kitchen and Bath Association president, in December for a REALTOR Magazine article, he mentioned the most popular flooring nowadays is ceramic tile. Hardwood flooring also continues to be popular and on many buyers’ wish-lists. Flooring is an important consideration. As David Alderman told me in December, the floor “makes a huge difference in how the kitchen looks” and should be a key consideration when remodeling a kitchen. Thanks for reading!
    -Melissa Tracey, Styled, Staged & Sold blogger

  13. karen roscoe

    What’s the difference between “off white” and “bone?” The article states that while white and off white are losing steam while beiges and bones are gaining in popularity.
    Isn’t bone and bisque approximately the same color? Isn’t bisque an off white? I found this very confusing.

  14. Melissa Tracey

    Great question, Karen! There are so many variations of different colors. Just walking into a paint store to find “beige” can provide you a whole row of overwhelming options! The differences between colors can be very slight too–usually until you paint it on your walls, that is! I’ve found that some painting experts describe off-white as having more gray undertones, but there are so many variations that are considered “off-white” (e.g. Benjamin Moore has 140 tones in their off-white color collection!). Often times, I’ve heard off-white described as more of a “cooler” tone color. Bone, on the other hand, has been described as more of a warmer tone and more cream colored (then again, there are many variations!). I’m not sure that completely clears it up without actually seeing the variations, but it seems the more “cream” colored bones and beiges tend to be gaining more traction in kitchens, whereas the white colors tend to be decreasing in popularity.
    Thanks for reading the blog!
    -Melissa Tracey

  15. Thanks so much for this info. My clients who are considering remodeling can benefit from considering your article when they are planning their kitchen remodels.

  16. Great article! I will definitely share this with my clients! I am also glad the garbage issue is high on the list of what’s in! That is an issue for many people, especially in the pet friendly living business.

  17. Lenide Pierre-Antoine

    Doing my kitchen in the future looking for new trends

  18. Yes, maple cabinetry is what’s ruling the kitchen remodeling industry. They have managed to emerge as every homeowner’s first choice when it comes to redesigning their kitchen, or when opting for home renovation. Maple cabinets perfectly complement both traditional and modern kitchens, and thus contribute in enhancing the aesthetic value of any house. These cabinets are more durable, more resistant to scratches, and even come in different colors, giving ample options to any homeowner to find something of his choice. Furthermore, maple cabinetry can be purchased online. Now that saves you the hassle of roaming in the market and shopping over-the-counter.

  19. The kitchen remains the main focal point of the house. It is where most of us spend a great deal of time.

  20. thanks for sharing the trends.

  21. kitchen focal point

    Only in the US is the kitchen viewed by some as the focal point. The trend is to move the kitchen as an out of the way place (partitioned) where we need to get food. The old thinking of it being the focal point caused many to spend way too much time there and as a result downy many calories.

  22. Lee

    Hi Tracey,
    not sure now if i chose the correct color…..bone white for kitchen cupboards to go with huckleberry (blue) for walls, open to dinning room with blackcurrent syrup….we get lots of natural light coming in.
    please help…..just bought bone white, so haven’t painted yet!

  23. Jamie

    kitchen focal point – I have to disagree with the kitchen “not being the focal point.” We are having our first home built right now and the kitchen played the deciding factor in our choice of floor-plans. People love to gather, chat and just be social in the kitchen area. That is why most homes now have an open floor plan to accommodate for this. I don’t see where your comment of downing many calories comes in to play here. Just because we all gather in the kitchen doesn’t mean we are stuffing our faces-especially with fattening foods.

  24. Great info. We’ve been hearing a lot about stainless steel appliances being out of fashion. We really like dark natural finishes in the kitchen too.

  25. We are thinking of doing kitchen up dates, We are going to keep our solid red oak raised panel cabinets. Cherry priced it’s self out of the mkt. Maple is nice,a lite color but again expensive. New knobs & refinish the doors only. Solid red oak is our flooring. We will sink the bulk of the money into the counter tops w/ a new sink, but have yet to decide on type. Stainless cooktop w/ full hood.. we’ll keep. Ideas for countertops types to flow w/ the oak & stainless anyone? Tks

  26. This is a great article. Conrad H- I would recommend using a form of solid surface such are quartz or granite. The quartz and granite are the most durable. You will not have to worry about staining or scratching. A granite would look great with the color of your cabinets, if you like a natural look with some movement.

  27. The 10th point is something i cant emphasize on enough in modern day house and kitchen design. Due to the fact we are moving away from contemporary design especially in the kitchen we find our self’s sacrificing practicability for style, don’t get me wrong if it works its great, and many of these in the top 10 do work however the bin situation is a classic example where there is not a mass amount of usability in the design thought process.

  28. @Janice, in most cases its only the council built houses who focus on usability requirements, you should know this as you work for an estate agents, private designs are or those who want aesthetics over practicality!

  29. Also just to add, nice post and i think that dark cabinet kitchen feature are the designs of the future, i have recently taken off all cupboard and draw fronts top have them sprayed. I also agree that the design of a kitchen/garden are the focal points of ones creativity.


  30. Chari McGinnis

    We own a granite fabrication and tile installation business and as far as Charlotte NC goes , white cabinets with black granite or white carrara marble are very popular! The last four master baths we installed were white carrara porcelain tile with honed white carrara countertops and the kitchens are leaning toward white painted cabinets and the glaze is losing steam. Too bad! I have bone cabinets with mocha glaze in my kitchen with 3 cm Santa Cecilia countertops. Oh well , I still love it!

  31. Sam

    This article is great. While there is no utopia material the thing that matters is that you choose the countertop material that best suites your needs. Granite, quartz and solid surface are all great countertop materials. Your article gives a lot of practical advice for the homeowner shopping around.

    One point I would highly suggest for individuals shopping for countertops is to call references. Shopping for granite is not like shopping for a TV. Every fabricator is different. I highly encourage you to ask for a list of references and call them.

    I help fabricators build better businesses at http://www.Countertops101.com and the fastest way to separate the best fabricators from the rest of the pack is through references. You will be amazed at what homeowners tell you.

  32. Really you people went with awesome ideas.

  33. I love reading this article Very interesting. Every kitchen has the potential for great storage, display, and functionality. That simply means, homeowners can update their kitchen whether they are living in Arca South Taguig or any other real estate in the Philippines.

  34. Conrad H

    We ended up spring 16 putting in granite, taking out a few cabs above the serve window to the dining rm, cutting out a spanish style arch opening.. wife’s spanish, curved the counter out of the arch into the dining rm, beveled the all edges, intalled new recessed LED lighting cans, new recepticals, switches etc..Tony my electrician!, backsplash, new cooktop, 2 new convection ovens, new fridge w pull out freezer. Bought counters from contractor out of Nashville, he had a warehouse here @ that time. Huge selection. Great install job. My carpenter friend refinished the oak doors, drawers, did backsplash & a few other odds & ends. Wife & I did the frames. New paint in & out.. Juaquin, my several yr painter now. Wife picked all the colors, etc. Like New!