At the onset of the pandemic – in the era of banana bread and sourdough starters, to be exact – many different ideas were thrown around about what the new home kitchen would look like. Would touchless technology and antimicrobial surfaces take off? Was there room for larger appliances (two sets of dishwashers, even!) to keep up with all the home cooking going on in the absence of restaurant dining?
1. Kitchen islands are getting much bigger.
It’s true – kitchen islands have officially been promoted. “The kitchen island is it new dining table, the new cocktail bar, the new focus, for sure,” explains Randolph.
With this move away from the more formal dining room and into the kitchen, Randolph says his clients have invested in top-of-the-line bar stools (think: custom-made, hair-on-hide seats) to surround the island and bring people together like a smart cocktail bar.
Ideally, an island seats up to eight people, allowing the host to be involved in the conversation while moving around the kitchen and preparing food, says Tanya Smith-Shiflett, who leads design at Maryland-based Unique Kitchens & Baths.
The demand for a more pronounced kitchen island is influencing the way homes are designed from the start, with clients wanting an open-flow kitchen with freestanding islands that don’t require a single circulation path, says Courtenay Wright, interior architect project manager at Forum Phi Architecture in Aspen , Colorado.
“We find it’s much easier for entertainment when people can stand around an island and it allows for easy flow,” she says.
2. Double kitchen islands (yes, as in two!) are a thing.
Many years from now, when people look back at the origins of certain kitchen design trends, they will be able to point to this as a time when an interesting trend came to be: the double kitchen island.
“The kitchen has always been the most social space in a home, and with new working-from-home habits for adults and children who need a place to work on their schoolwork or meet up with friends, having double space is an understated luxury .didn’t know we needed the pandemic,” says Annapolis, Maryland-based architect Cathy Purple Cherry, founder and principal of Purple Cherry Architects.
She has seen a large increase in customers requesting a second island for their kitchens, and she would go so far as to say that it has emerged as the most valuable kitchen amenity in the mid- to post-pandemic era. .
Andrea Harvey, principal designer and owner of ASH Interiors and Design in Maryland, fields the same kinds of requests for dual kitchen islands—one island for cooking and prep work, another dedicated to entertaining. Her clients, she says, want to incorporate banquet-style gatherings for a more integrated dining experience.
3. The restaurant and bar scene serves inspiration.
As restaurants shut down and indoor restrictions were imposed, people began recreating the dining magic at home with micro-upgrades. They have invested in theirs own espresso machines, wine fridges and beer taps – and tap into goods that also have social aspects, says Smith-Shiflett.
Randolph has designed distinct, special places, such as the champagne bar located off a dining room and a beautiful bourbon bar in a pool table room. And some customers, he says, want to complete the cocktail bar experience right down to the ice cream they use, spending hundreds (even thousands!) on pellet ice machines that make the soft, round, crunchy nuggets you’d associate with Sonics Drive-I or an $18 Moscow Mule on the menu at a craft cocktail bar.
But taking this trend to the next level are some homeowners who want to emulate the front-of-the-house, back-of-the-house nature of a restaurant, with a show kitchen as well as a prep or chef’s kitchen . , says Wright.
“The delineation and separation between the two is something we’re seeing more and more, so you can have catered parties and dinners without seeing behind-the-scenes work,” she says. “This out of sight, out of mind moment is something people are starting to latch on to.”
4. Pantries are now multifunctional.
Designers say there is also increased demand for multifunctional pantries that have plenty of storage. There may be some psychological reasons driving this trend, as grocery shopping was limited at the start of the pandemic and supply chain disruptions are still affecting grocery store aisles.
Harvey says she’s seeing demand for larger refrigerators plus extra pantry space so homeowners have everything “in stock” that they need. But there is also an entertainment angle to these make-over pantries.
“Pantries aren’t just pantries anymore,” says Smith-Shiflett. “They have bars, coffee shops, and food storage.”
5. Kitchens are show-and-tell scenes.
When Harvey meets with a client, one of her first questions is, “Describe the first event you plan to have when we finish the project.” She can learn a lot about how a homeowner plans to use their kitchen from that one inquiry.
Whether there’s a large and lavish gathering on the calendar, or a few small, intimate ones, the excitement of entertaining continues to be huge right now. “It only makes sense since we’ve all been cooped up for so long, practicing our baking and cooking skills while locked up,” says Harvey.
Not only are people excited to show off their honed culinary skills, but modern kitchen designs maximize storage to reduce clutter and showcase what’s left on display.
Andre Jordan Hilton, principal interior designer at Jordan Hilton Interiors in Atlanta, says he notices people gravitating toward “stylish minimalism,” where kitchens are both functional and artistic. This takes the form of doing away with upper cabinets and replacing them with open shelves to allow art and beautiful dishes to be displayed or having a bar cart that can highlight unique bottles and beautiful glassware.
6. The open floor plan is under development.
People typically fall into two camps when it comes to the open floor kitchen plan: love or loathe.
During the height of the pandemic, when homes worked overtime as office spaces, virtual classrooms, gyms and more, the idea of having designated spaces gained appeal. But just because you might not want an open concept doesn’t mean you have to block everything with walls, says Smith-Shiflett. There are so many ways to create separation between rooms, she explains.
“A few examples include plaster arch openings and glass walls,” says Smith-Shiflett. “These tactics help everyone define the space without feeling confined.”
As a counterpoint, the pandemic also justified the open floor plan, with the removal of walls between the kitchen and dining rooms or living rooms, Harvey says.
“Because people have been isolated for so long and have stayed at home, there has been an influx of creating kitchen spaces that also serve as communal dining and entertainment spaces,” she says.
Have you upgraded your kitchen to entertain more often? Tell us what you decided to change, or better yet, send us pictures.