The Future of the Kitchen

The kitchen has long been considered the heart of any home. It’s where we come together to cook and share meals; it’s a natural entertaining space during parties; and it often pulls double-duty as a homework station, craft studio, and Zoom classroom on busy weekdays — especially in the last year.

And while kitchens conjure up warm memories and lots of cozy nostalgia, they are also flexible spaces that are constantly evolving to keep up with the times. Beyond seasonal or yearly trends, the kitchen often seems to be the room of the home that is most in conversation with how we’re living, and what we truly want out of our most-used spaces. For instance, kitchens are often listed as one of the most important rooms to stage when getting a home ready to sell; kitchen remodels are often among the house projects that tend to generate the highest ROI. 

After a year like 2020, we’ve all gained a new appreciation for home and all its four walls hold — and that includes the kitchen. In a pandemic-era poll conducted by, a significant number of people ranked the kitchen as the most important room in their home — and said that an updated kitchen was one of their top wants in a new space. 

So, what does the future hold for this important everyday space? Let’s dig into what’s bubbling in store for the kitchen in the months and years to come: 

The End of the Open Layout?

During the pandemic, many homeowners and prospective buyers expressed a desire for more room-to-room separation in their homes — and we’re seeing this preference start to play out in the kitchen, as well. For instance, according to the results of the 2021 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, only 43 percent of people who have recently renovated or plan to renovate their kitchen said that they were hoping to create an open-concept floor plan — down from more than half of all renovating homeowners (53 percent) as recently as two years ago. 

Instead of pure open-concept, look for an increased emphasis on what REALTOR® Magazine calls “flex spaces” — such as dedicated coffee bars, a baking station, or an ancillary eat-in space within the kitchen.

Kitchen Islands Are Here to Stay

According to research from the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), eat-in kitchens are considered a “must-have” for many second-time home buyers. As Kiplinger notes, having this space offers families an area “where they can congregate in the morning for breakfast or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day.” 

And while designers are adding more banquettes and other kitchen seating options, the island is still a popular feature. Research from Houzz suggests that roughly 63 percent of all newly renovated kitchens feature an island, with homeowners adding character to this kitchen staple with unique countertops, specialized lighting, and new appliances. Bigger islands also remain on-trend, with many designers reporting that their clients are seeking larger islands that “can fit several people sitting or working together, plus room for a sink, dishwasher, and microwave,” according to REALTOR® Magazine

More Color and Personality

Is the white kitchen a thing of the past — soon to be banished to the dustbin of other once-popular design and decor trends? Not so fast. According to the 2021 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, white continues to be the most popular color for newly updated cabinets, and renovated kitchens “continue to feature neutral tones of gray, white and beige wall surfaces.” 

With that said, we are also seeing a significant increase in homeowners adding colorful accents and other personal flourishes in the kitchen. Per Houzz, nearly one in five people updating their backsplash chose a colorful option. 7 percent of homeowners say that they have added blue walls to their kitchen; another 4 percent opted for green. 

Designers are also seeing more colorful islands, with 41 percent of homeowners choosing contrasting colors for their island cabinetry, with popular shades including blue and gray. Homeowners are also trying out porcelain tile and vinyl flooring in standout colors, as well as black stainless steel appliances. 

More Functional Storage

Kitchen storage has always been a sought-after home feature, and it’s only going to become more important in the years to come. As a result, kitchen storage will take many different forms. For instance, according to research from the NAHB, a walk-in pantry “is the most-coveted kitchen feature among buyers polled;” meanwhile, REALTOR® Magazine indicates that some buyers are even looking for “super pantries,” which function like “small, second kitchens.” 

According to data from Houzz, 94 percent of kitchen renovations in 2020 featured some work on the cabinets. Of those who only partially updated their cabinets, 28 percent added more storage space — “nearly 4 times as many as the previous year,” Houzz notes. Within renovated kitchens, people are installing specialized storage features such as pull-out drawers for waste and recycling, as well as specialty trays that revolve or swing out to make harder-to-reach spaces more accessible. 

The Rise of the Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor space became a highly sought-after home feature in 2020 — and that includes plenty of outdoor living space dedicated to cooking and dining. 

Interest in outdoor kitchens has been surging, with almost 60 percent of homeowners saying that they are interested in adding an outdoor kitchen, according to research from the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) reported by Better Homes & Gardens. Similarly, Houzz found that nearly one in five homeowners has renovated their kitchen to open up to the outdoors. 

When Home Means More, You Need a Team With More to Offer

Is your home working for you? For many of us, the way we think about our homes has changed — and that might mean you’re ready to make a move to find one that better fits where you are now. 

Home is about so much more than just four walls. Buying or selling a home is a big deal, and with everything we experienced in 2020, our homes have never been more important. That’s why your local Baird & Warner agent is with you at every step of the way, with the tools and support you need to make your real estate journey easier — including in-house connections with local experts in mortgage and title. 

So whether you’re looking for your starter home or you’re ready to move on from one, your Baird & Warner agent can help you through every part of the buying and selling process.

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