Not all kitchens are created equal. Off-the-shelf designs are giving way to something more free-flowing. As architect Greg Natale of Australia observes, “A big trend is a move away from uniformity. This can include introducing layers of texture using metallic finishes and textured contrasting surfaces; using pops of vivid color and kitchen cabinetry designed to look more like furniture so it integrates into open-plan kitchen spaces,” he says. “‘Broken plan’ designs where the space is physically divided by changes to floor levels or materials—glass partitions, partial walls, shelving—are another strong look.”
Karen Howes, CEO and founder of London-based Taylor Howes, believes an exuberant approach can make things special. “Extending the design to incorporate the ceiling and bring the sixth wall to life,” can create a breathtaking first impression she says. “Elaborate tiling will stretch all the way to the feature ceiling surpassing the traditional splashback.”
“Beautifully designed and planned islands now have integrated sous vide and warming drawers and often a teppanyaki,” says Craig Matson, managing director of London-based bespoke kitchen designers Roundhouse.
Charu Gandhi, founder of London-based Elicyon says, “We’re intrigued by the geometry of kitchens and how clients want to celebrate the luxury of high ceilings. We’re seeing the use of full cabinetry from floor to ceiling, providing an encased effect losing the classic top shelf, which incorporates high-level storage and even elegant ladders to get to the out-of-reach storage spaces.”
Set the Tone
But what about color? “We’re huge fans of what we like to call the ‘moody kitchen,’” says Katy Olson, editor of Architectural Digest Pro. A designer the architecture experts admire is Steven Gambrel, who designs spaces where “shadowy tones, antiqued hardware, and rich stone accents combine in a sultry atmosphere that feels less a place for food prep and washing the dishes than it does a cocktail lounge,” he says. “But it’s not just black; we’re also seeing a deep emerald green. However, it’s less a particular color and more of the mood designers are seeking to create.”
Gary Singer of the London branch of Eggersmann Design says that although there are a lot of dark elements in kitchens right now, he’s seen a swing back to fresher, lighter palettes and monochrome layering of many different finishes to create depth and individuality. The company pays huge attention to detail, using clever lighting and premium finishes such as leather and silk inside the—perfectly calculated—drawers and units. “Having a really well-organized internal set-up within the kitchen is luxurious in itself,” he believes.
“Luxury consumers are seeking expanded kitchens combining pantry, mud room, larger workspace, highest-quality appliances, and leading-edge technology to cater for entertaining needs, and to create a place where families gather and make a lifetime of memories,” explains Kathleen Coumou, Executive Director, Broker of Record at Christie’s International Real Estate. “Secondary kitchens for home offices are a necessity, making the work environment truly comfortable and filled with conveniences.”
Elevating the humble utility room or scullery into a useful cook or housekeeper’s hideout follows this thinking. “In almost all of our homes we include full butler’s kitchens that offer all the amenities of a primary kitchen but are hidden from view,” Natale continues.
Architect and designer Blainey North, who has offices in New York, London, and Sydney, concurs. “We are spending less time in the kitchen and more time having meals delivered. Thus we are seeing a trend towards kitchens being located away from the living spaces. In effect, this is a return to the 19th century, where the kitchen was principally used as a secondary area for staff and meal preparation.”
Finessing the Finish
Matte finish options have proliferated over the past year and the trend continues, shifting the emphasis from the purely visual to the tactile—the feel of the surfaces is as important as the look. Concealed handles and switches heighten the physical relationship, too. Another alternative to the gloss of yesteryear are metallics. “In terms of metal we’re starting to see a move away from brass and warmer tones and a push back toward nickels and silver,” says Natale.
“At Lanserring we’re seeing experimentation with strong figured marble, contrasted against metallic details and rich textured timbers,” says its design director, Alex Beaugeard. “The overall kitchen aesthetic is being driven by an appetite for informal luxury, a place where the theater of food can play out; practical but also detailed.”
We’re starting to see a move away from brass and warmer tones and a push back toward nickels and silver
Experimental designs, guaranteed to get guests talking, can also be found at North American brand Snaidero USA. Founded in 1979, the company’s designs move with the times, and its Signature collection includes ergonomic islands and bold color choices.
Singer thinks that quality materials make the real difference at the top end of the market. “Natural materials spell luxury to our clients. Authentic marble and stone, in particular, quartzite—not man-made or engineered—looks incredibly beautiful but is also exceptionally strong. It’s veining makes it look very dramatic.” The company also uses specialist decorative finishes for its cabinet doors including a dark polished plaster, which is troweled on and smoothed to perfection. “These techniques elevate things to the next level,” Singer adds. Hot-rolled steel, used for splashbacks and work surfaces, is virtually impossible to scratch, meaning the kitchen stays looking pristine.
Related: How to Work With a Private Chef
“Metallic finishes are trending, including burnished copper and bronze, and hammered silver which gives a textured look,” continues Matson. “Finishes like these are rich with depth and texture and, when used with matte lacquers, beautiful book-matched veneers, or textured finishes, create a layered effect. As they age, they acquire a natural patina, which adds to their beauty and richness.”
“Kitchens that feel like glamorous rooms are becoming more popular. Paneling, marble, wallpaper, and decorative equipment are all returning to create magical kitchen spaces rather than the practical, streamlined aesthetic we’ve seen over the past decade,” adds North.
“Sustainability is the new luxury,” according to surface manufacturer Durat, which recently worked with global design collective Most to create a new solid surface called Durat Palace with natural pigments. These were originally used by painters during the Dutch Golden Age and are ground in a 17th-century Dutch windmill. Other planet-friendly innovations include integrated composting systems and finishes that require less chemical cleaning. Rotpunkt’s new wood-color designs use 37 percent less timber than some rivals, and Kebony has altered the cell structure of soft wood, making it enduring and sustainable.
Time being arguably the most precious of commodities, incorporating anything that increases efficiency, streamlines tasks, and allows more moments for enjoyment is at a premium. Kitchens are already pretty smart warm the cooker up from afar, assess food freshness electronically, catch up on social media on your interactive splashback), but there’s much more to come. “2020’s most fashionable kitchens will be hyper-connected with well-hidden but useful technology and elevated, elegant design,” says AD Pro’s Olson.
“Samsung and Dacor are blending both high-end design and technology, and brands are incorporating apps like Home Connect into their functions, like Thermador, which offers a Pro Grand range with customized cook and steam zones and includes pre-programmed modes to automatically set the oven temperature and humidity.”
“The latest kitchen tech is about convenience and connectivity,” agrees Matson. “Appliances are smarter, with devices that talk to you and one another, including all the latest smart speaker connectivity.” Fridges don’t just keep an eye on stock levels but will keep produce fresh far longer using ethylene gas filters. You can even talk to your kitchen, thanks to Pedini, whose Hi Pedini app offers not just recipe guidance and inspiration, while keeping track of kitchen supplies, but will even open cabinet doors and change the lighting instantly to suit the mood.
Today’s versions are a world away from the simple grill, providing everything you need to create a memorable meal. And the tech comes outside, too—many grills and smokers are now wifi enabled and some have voice recognition.
At the other end of the spectrum, designers are bringing the ingredients closer to hand, adding handy fresh herb planters within reach. “To me, an appealing kitchen doesn’t feel like a kitchen but a generous, inviting, and central space—and the more connected to the outdoors the better,” says Australian architect Madeleine Blanchfield.
“Outdoor kitchens have gone beyond just a grill and bar, but now also include products such as dual-zone wine coolers, under-the-counter refrigerators, and pizza ovens,” says Shaun Lin, product development manager at professional kitchen outfitters, Thor Kitchen in California. “These appliances are truly elevating the entertaining experience outdoors.”