Long considered the heart of the home, the kitchen is a hot topic among homeowners, builders and decorators.
From engineered countertops that deliver looks and functionality to added bursts of color and hidden light sources, here's a look at what's trending right now in kitchen design:
1. Quartz countertops
A few years ago, granite got all the countertop buzz. Today, however, there's a new surface commanding attention in the kitchen: quartz. The hard engineered stone material is a man-made combination of ground quartz, resin, polymers and pigments.
Dave Price, owner of Baltimore-based Bearded Builders, says quartz's appeal is aesthetic and functional: "It has the marble look, but it's not porous."
Charleene Doverspike, owner of Baltimore design and renovation company Charleene's Houses, agrees that the surface has overtaken other options as a high-end countertop of choice. "Quartz is the standard right now," she says. "Of all the kitchens we've done this year, only one or two have even talked about granite."
2. Banquette seating
Instead of a standard table-and-chairs combo, or high stools at an island, homeowners are choosing banquette seating in their kitchens.
"One out of every three kitchens we do currently request a banquette for family meals in the kitchen, or are converting a dining space to a banquette," says Doverspike.
Banquette seating tends to take up less space than individual chairs, and the plush upholstery is comfortable and cozy. Also, throw pillows make it easy to inject color and whimsy into the room's design.
3. LED lighting
High-quality lighting is a key element of every luxury kitchen; recently, LED lights placed in unexpected and unobtrusive spots are all the rage.
"It's all types of LED now," says Doverspike. For a recent client, she replaced the kitchen's upper cabinets with shelves and lined the underside of the shelves with tiny strips of LED lights.
Price says LED bulbs are frequently used as an under-cabinet option as well as overhead, particularly in recessed lights. "I don't think anyone does halogen anymore," he says. "LED lights don't get hot, and they don't burn out."
4. Mix-and-match textures
Inspired kitchen design is tactile, says Joni Zimmerman, president and artistic director of Annapolis-based kitchen- and bath-design company Design Solutions, Inc.
"Texture is probably the biggest trend, whether it is modern-rustic, where you're mixing textures from smooth glass to physically distressed woods, to clean-classic, where you might have white paint and distressed islands and metal hoods," she says. "We're seeing more metal hoods again and woods with interesting grain patterns, like the texture of the walnut grain, which is more appealing than a refined grain like cherry."
Homeowners are also more willing than before to experiment with a variety of woods and metals. "People are more comfortable mixing colors of woods, and we see a lot of people mixing metals," says Doverspike.
5. Bold colors
Though traditional kitchen design often relies on neutral shades on the walls and cabinets, local homeowners are starting to take more risks when it comes to color.
"Gray is definitely not the only color you can use on walls anymore," says Doverspike, explaining that people experiment with color not just on the walls, but also on cabinets, choosing vibrant hues like dark blue and blue-green.
Zimmerman has observed a similar trend, with clients embracing color, but in a measured way. "We're seeing a lot more bold colors as accents," she says.