An updated kitchen can make cooking and cleaning easier and let you enjoy the space more. Kitchen improvements are also most likely to create an impression on prospective homebuyers and bring a high return when you sell your home.

As you plan to remodel your kitchen, consider including the latest in design trends to turn your kitchen from just a place to cook to the entertaining hub of the home. This idea is more important than ever now that homeowners are staying in their homes longer and amenities such as a new kitchen can aid resale in a tough market for those who need to move on. In 2007, more than 11

The Amana QuickTap Entertainment Refrigerator. Photo courtesy of Amana.
The Amana QuickTap Entertainment Refrigerator. Photo courtesy of Amana.

million homeowners remodeled their kitchen, according to U.S. Census statistics, and the majority spent over $3,000 doing so. As you plan your remodel, consider these popular themes that will give your home a modern feel you can enjoy for years to come.

Entertaining Comes Home
“I believe that kitchen design is going through a quiet revolution,” says Certified Kitchen Designer Susan Serra of Huntington, N.Y. With household budgets tightening, people are eating home more and having friends over more as opposed to dining out. “As a result,” Serra says, “we are also seeing more household activities moving into the kitchen. We’ll see sofas coming into the kitchen, real artwork. There will be more windows and less cabinetry.”

And the cabinetry that remains, as well as the appliances, will fade into the background. Kitchens will “pop” less, designers say. Consumers are moving away from the shiny industrial stovetops and refrigerators that dominated the room and moving toward black ceramic-top ranges and refrigerators that are indistinguishable from cabinetry.

“You do tend to see a lot more big appliances being paneled, particularly dishwashers, warming drawers and refrigerators,” says Certified Kitchen Designer Maria Martina, custom appliance consultant at Reno’s Appliance in Fairfield, N.J. “The new thing with refrigeration is what they call a fully integrated, built-in unit that’s constructed in such a way that you really don’t see the hinges or the trim or anything. It’s so fully flush with the surrounding cabinetry that it really doesn’t even look like an appliance.”

Appliance technology is also moving more toward at-home socializing. The Amana Quick-Tap Entertaining Refrigerator allows you to fill your beverage dispenser with your drink of choice, be it iced tea for the kids’ slumber party or margaritas for your Cinco de Mayo bash.

Refrigerators are also getting larger in part to accommodate the foods and drinks needed for a party and also to allow for homeowners who save on household costs by buying in bulk. The LG Ultra-Capacity Four-Door French Door Refrigerator features nearly 28 cubic feet of storage space, which will store your dressed turkey as well as your hors d’oeuvres. Most French door models max out at 25 cubic feet. And to make it even more party-friendly, the water and ice dispenser is 13 inches tall, making it the industry’s largest and able to easily accommodate most pitchers.

Cooking solutions also make dinner party preparation simpler. As the host, it can be very hard to time cooking so that all your food comes out at the same time and stays hot. Dual ovens make this task much easier. The GE Profile Double Oven Free-standing Range boasts 6.6 cubic feet of cooking space, the largest in its class. The bottom oven is large enough to accommodate a turkey, and the smaller top oven can hold small casseroles, cookie sheets and pizza pans. Yet, the overall unit size is only 30 inches wide, making it a choice for tight spaces as well.

The Fagor Black Art Refrigerator. Photo courtesy of Fagor America Inc.
The Fagor Black Art Refrigerator. Photo courtesy of Fagor America Inc.

Warming drawers are another great way to keep food from getting cold before you are ready to call everyone to dinner. The 24-inch Gaggenau Warming Drawer keeps food at 100 to 175 degrees—warm enough to keep it appetizing but not so hot that it will continue the cooking process. Its small width means it can fit into most cabinetry, which makes a warming drawer an option in even the smallest kitchens.

Once dinner is over, the clanging of a dishwasher shouldn’t provide the soundtrack for dessert. The KitchenAid Superba Series EQ Dishwasher has 13 sound-dampening points to ensure that the noise of motors and draining water won’t interfere with your conversations. This unit has the lowest sound level in the industry.

Black and White Grows in Popularity
Stainless-steel appliances are losing some steam to the new sophisticated look delivered by black and white design says Mark Karas, president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, which runs the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and Convention (K/BIS), the industry’s largest gathering of suppliers, designers and manufacturers.

“If you’re looking for your kitchen to blend and be soft and continuous, then pick an appliance that’s going to blend,” Karas says. “If you did a dark cherry cabinet and black appliances, the appliances will disappear versus jumping out and saying, ‘Here I am.’ ”

The Fagor Black Art Refrigerator accomplishes this goal by not just being black but being slim. At a mere 24 inches wide, you can squeeze one of these into a small kitchen or opt for two units and operate them as a side-by-side model. Even at the larger width, the black color and mirror finish ensure that it does not overpower the kitchen.

Induction cooktops don’t just boil water incredibly fast and save energy, they also do a great job of fading into the background. The Fagor Beveled Edge Cooktop is a sleek, shiny black ceramic heating element that fully integrates into your countertop. Controls are touch-operated, which means easy cleanup and ease of use. If your kitchen is small, the 30-inch cooktop is a smart option. There is also a five-burner, 36-inch model.

At Grothouse Lumber Company, the black and white trend is seen by homeowners requesting white cabinetry and dark wood countertops. Wenge, an African wood a shade darker than walnut, is becoming a trendy choice. Endgrain

The Grothouse End Grain Countertop in hickory and walnut checkerboard with a solid walnut border. Design by Mary S. Mitchell of MES Mitchell Interiors, LLC. Photo courtesy of Grothouse Lumber Co.
The Grothouse End Grain Countertop in hickory and walnut checkerboard with a solid walnut border. Design by Mary S. Mitchell of MES Mitchell Interiors, LLC. Photo courtesy of Grothouse Lumber Co.

countertops come in beautiful designs and are finished with food-safe mineral oil. Being able to chop your onions right on the counter, without having to look for a cutting board, brings an extra level of functionality to your kitchen.

Incorporating Universal Design in the Kitchen
As more and more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, ease of use in the kitchen becomes a prevailing consideration when doing a kitchen remodel. “You’ll want to find appliances that will be easy to use, easy to clean, and have graphics that are large enough that you can see them well,” says Martina. “A lot of times when you are designing for an older person [he or she] might switch to electric on the cooktop over the gas just because it is easier to clean. Whether it’s a remodel or new construction, homeowners are taking into consideration the idea of aging in place.”

Bending and squatting can be a challenge, especially if you are lifting a Thanksgiving turkey. Fagor’s side-opening 24-inch European Convection Wall Oven can be placed at any height and is flush with the cabinetry.

With no exposed heating element, induction ranges are a safer cooking choice. Their smooth ceramic surface makes for easy cleanup as well. Dishdrawers can be easier to load and unload, especially when installed at an elevated point in your lower cabinetry. The Fagor Dishwasher Column Storage Center is designed to sit 18 inches above the floor and eliminates the need to bend or stretch while loading or unloading most of your dishes.

Budget concerns are destined to enter your thinking as you plan for your remodel, but remember that you can add a little bit of pizzazz in the form of affordable luxuries. Select an economical sink but spend a little extra to get a sophisticated faucet. Pendant lights can become a conversation piece for a minimal investment. And remember that even high-end manufacturers often have offerings at various price levels. So, if you can’t afford the top-of-the-line model, Martina recommends that you consider something further down the price list. You’ll still get great quality at a price you can afford. 

Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac