The massive annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, the largest event for these two important home spaces covering materials and technologies, faucets and fixtures, cabinetry, appliances and related products, took place virtually this month for the first-time ever. The event typically draws 100,000 attendees from around the country and internationally with its co-located International Builders’ Show event, including many of its top influencers.
This year, because of the pandemic, everyone clicked in, instead of driving or flying in, looking for the hottest trends for 2021. Here are five of them, as shared by these leading design industry trend watchers:
- Alena Capra, CMKBD, interior designer and SoFlo Home Project TV Host;
- Leslie Carothers, CEO of Savour Partnership, a long-time design industry consultant and innovator;
- Janice Costa, leading design industry magazine editor and creator of the new trade resource platform KB Designers Network;
- Susie Feia, DesignHounds influencer and co-owner of residential design/build firm, Feia Construction;
- Eric Goranson, certified kitchen designer, industry speaker and host of the syndicated home improvement radio program Around the House with Eric G;
- Keia McSwain, president of the Black Interior Designers Network and principal of Kimberly and Cameron Interiors.
Here’s what they see as the year’s top kitchen and bath trends for the new year.
One of the top trends seen at the show was the ability to customize products to homeowners’ preferences. These ranged from changeable details, like refrigerator panels, to imprinting client images directly onto an appliance. “I think this is a trend that is here to stay,” predicts Capra. “Designers love customization. It allows us to give our clients a truly unique look to their home.”
Carothers points to what she calls “extreme personalization,” and sees a strong happiness trend driving it. “We’re finally considering how to design in moments of surprise, delight and joy that lead to increased emotional health in the context of home design,” she explains.
The extraordinary unhappiness created by Covid have definitely helped spur this trend, Costa agrees. “If we’re going to be stuck in our homes 24/7, we want them to feel like home. From lighting fixtures that look like artwork to the ranges and refrigerators that can be designed with any graphic, from a favorite photo to a mural to an art production, there are myriad products that allow for the addition of a truly personal touch,” the editor says.
The pandemic has also accelerated the already strong wellness design trend. Costa sees it showing up in work from home products, outdoor living enhancements, pet features and, not surprising, noise control features spurred by so many more people at home at once. The latter showed up in quieter ventilation, dishwasher and laundry equipment, she notes.
Indoor/outdoor living is a big part of the wellness trend too, both from the desire to reconnect safely with nature to the urge to increase one’s living space wherever possible. “People want to be able to seamlessly move between indoors and outdoors,” Carothers shares, and manufacturers came through with new surfacing options, new entertaining products and new appliances.
Wellness also showed up in the realm of accessibility, making it possible for someone with physical challenges to remain functional. This became especially important with so many older adults moving into their relatives’ households and being able to help with family needs.
Goranson points to a new stacked washer/dryer pair with innovative central controls to illustrate the trend. “No more stacking full-sized units with the dryer controls at nearly 6 feet off the ground. This really makes clothing care accessible for most people. Plus it can open up a ton of space in a laundry room.”
Other new products that enhanced accessibility included a kitchen cabinet line with pull-downs inside and table extensions that pull out from cabinetry to allow seated kitchen work.
Wellness design also showed up in new smart home technology offerings. “The trend of touchless faucets continues to grow among all brands, providing options for beautiful design with functional benefits,” says Feia.
These benefits include hands-free operation for reduced germ spread, voice control and temperature memory for convenience, and automatic 20-second washing for health. It also includes new vent hoods that come on automatically when needed to sync with the cooking surface below, new hands-free features for wall ovens, and new connected appliances that let you find recipes, pre-heat from your car, and get alerts when your food is ready.
“Tech continues to dominate,” Capra observes, “from smart appliances, to fixtures, and everything in between. If it’s Bluetooth, or Amazon Alexa compatible, we want it! The more options to integrate, the better.”
Another trend spotted at KBIS was the creative use of color, and not just for decorative accents. It showed up in blue tubs and kitchen cabinets, green appliances and vanities. Feia notes that “Brands are continuing to introduce new colors every year, giving clients the opportunity to express their personality and customize their homes. Appliances are one category that continues to expand their offerings.”
Even if you don’t want to invest in customized images, you can have a burst of color that reflects your preferences. It’s as though resale no longer matters, or that no one anticipates that the next buyer will choose to live with someone else’s selections.
Either way, creative expression is taking over and McSwain is all for it. “Bold choices in permanent places speak volumes in 2021 design!” she declares. The design influencer is bullish on this trend, she says. “It shares the risk-taking character of the client and the creative depth of the designer.” Even with fixtures like toilets, McSwain sees color trending. “We’re often looking for any color except the traditional white.”
Creative color use extends to details like cabinet hardware, lighting, faucets and other metallic elements. There’s no longer a drive toward consistency in the finishes of these details. The trend is toward mixing metals so that they complement each other, rather than coordinating an entire roomful of one tone.
Sometimes, the two or more tone look is built into a single element, like a faucet or drawer handle with mixed finishes. “I saw that two-tone finishes are trending across all product categories, which is perfect for the mixed metal style we incorporate in today’s kitchen designs,” Feia says.
“In finishes, you’re seeing lots of gunmetal colors like graphite, and matte black is still big,” Costa says. When it comes to faucets and even appliance handles, you have an increasingly large selection, all enhancing what Carothers called the happiness trend and allowing you to go bold, as McSwain suggests.
As the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show virtually displayed online, the design world is your oyster this year, even if your desire is to splash multi-colored mollusks across your range front. But if you’re more stylistically comfortable with soft pearl tones, there are plenty of options for you to express yourself too.