New “smart” technologies, new patterns of work and recreation, and new demands on how we use time and focus our attention have reached as far as the kitchen table. Once the center of the home, that table has become many things: a gathering place, a communications center, and a brief island of peace and relaxation during a hectic schedule. How they reshape the ways our kitchens look, feel and function says a lot about larger changes in our lives.
A single word describes the most important trends in kitchen décor for 2019: color. Initially, a level-headed reaction to an excess of changes in style and habits, the all-white kitchen, for some, became a safe place to retreat from overwhelming tides of change. This step back from overstimulation has given way to experimental grays in the last couple of years, and the restful, airy solace of white and gray kitchens can be expected to hold value for many. At the same time, forward-looking decorators and homeowners are reentering the color game. The first foray into color flies the banner “Opposites Attract.” White and gray are now joined by matte black as a re-engagement with the tensions of balancing colors and textures. Interior decorators generally agree that choosing an appliance or furnishing in matte black is the quickest way to start bringing your kitchen up to date.
To many, the choice may seem counterintuitive. Mothers with now-grown children return to visions of blackboard paint on the family-room wall and magnetic letters on the fridge; matte black doesn’t seem very grown-up. Admittedly, matte black brings some relief from the tiresome maintenance of so many, many shiny white surfaces, but it can show a definite attraction for greasy finger marks and spills; matte black doesn’t seem all that clean. And it’s black. If gears are shifting toward color, is black a color? Black isn’t a color. Is it?
One way to look at the glossy white/matte black scheme is as a rehearsal. Beginning architecture students often work with black and white shapes and lines, learning how contrasting tones affect the impact of objects within a specific space. Later, when their space has the desired effect, they are likely to add color. Working with intense contrasts keeps you focused on the shape of your space—what scales, patterns, and textures create the comfort you seek—a revolutionary strategy for revolutionary times. Taking specific color choices out of the equation lets you look more closely at the impact of solid shapes, visual textures, and patterns. Once you have planned how your space works best, it’s time to add other colors. Or not. One of the white kitchen’s strongest attractions was its delineation of structure and simplification of space. As a kitchen’s functions may be changing, understanding and effectively using kitchen space becomes paramount. The color of the refrigerator becomes less important than its size and location.
What do kitchen counters look like during this period of spatial awareness? Much as they always have, providing a visual coherence based on both shape and color, running in a continuous line to connect necessary workspaces, or forming islands with specific functions like serving or snacking. Counters and the vertical wall panels behind them may form the largest shapes and lines in the kitchen space. Decisions to change their placement, size, or even color are among the most important choices you can make to reshape your kitchen. Choose durable materials, like traditional granite, quartzite, or forward-looking engineered quartz and explore the wealth of design and color options an experienced provider can offer you. Time spent on stone counter choices will be spare you many hours of fiddling with the multitude of smaller changes you need to keep making to compensate for poor-quality counters.
The New Energy
For those ready to take more complex steps, color choices abound. Pantone Color Institute palettes for 2019 interior-design colors include rich, intense choices. Following the lead of electric-energy Ultra Violet, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2019, hues for interior design display depth and intensity. Even the pastels seem to begin with a complex tonal base, then bloom with ample additions of milky white. The “Fetish Foods” palette emphasizes fruit and vegetable reds and purples, flamingo orange, grassy green, and cappuccino brown. The “Classico” palette, captioned as “fundamental, basic, everlasting,” includes a green-toned mallard blue, apricot brandy, burgundy, caviar black, and swan white. Bandbox-bright, hardware-bedecked European-flavored ranges can already be found in all these colors and more. Columnar refrigerators appear in plain or patterned colors as well as black. Increasing numbers of household accessories will appear in all eight Pantone palettes as the year progresses. Tables and chairs, both upholstered and plain, create an easy pop of color if appliances are still new. During this exploratory period, patterns tend toward geometric forms or abstract, rather than sharply representational shapes. For those wanting a stronger visual connection to the surrounding world, textures, and forms from nature abound. Wallpapers and textiles offer designs based on clouds, water, trees, and flowers, both in the black-gray-white spectrum and in colors associated with the subtleties shades of nature as well as the new intense hues.
What do counters look like during a period of changing energy? Counters can serve as the springboard for new adventures in color. Black and white remain extremely popular, classic choices. The natural hues of quartzite and granite and the larger rainbow of engineered quartz can form the foundation for new introductions of color. Their subtle tones support, rather than limit, additional color choices in-wall and window-treatments, equipment, and accessories.
The Quiet Kitchen
To make sense of such a seemingly drastic change, it helps to remember that interior design looks toward and plans for the future as well as the present. Families may notice the life is full of changes; designers ask why and attempt to make them more manageable. Within this context, experiments with black and white make a lot more sense. So does taking a hard look at ways to reorganize and reshape kitchen space. Over the last three decades, the traditional heart-of-the-home has been undergoing major social surgery. The proliferation of fast and prepared foods makes it hard to determine how much of a typical daily diet comes from home-cooking, but all indicators suggest the kitchen’s function in the storage and preparation of food is in steady decline. Healthy eating can affect kitchen performance as much as fast food; highly individualized diets and preferences impact both cooking and food-related hospitality. Time constraints limit interest in cooking, and specialized appliances may do the necessary chores most quickly.
Within this context, the kitchen may remain the heart of the home. It is still a place to gather and interact. It can still play an important role in hospitality. But it may function in an increasing number of households as a room where there happens to be food more often than as a room where food happens. One of the most drastic trends in reconstructing kitchen space comes from this new understanding of how a kitchen functions. There is no name for this change yet—perhaps it can be called “quiet kitchen.” Designers are increasingly removing wall-hung cabinets, making places for art, media, and even additional windows. The “noise” of food preparation and associated utensils and tools is replaced with the quiet of a welcoming place to gather, where edibles are only one part of an experience of relaxation and refreshment. The equipment needed for food prep may be removed to a butler’s pantry, storage closet, or wall of closed cabinets, leaving a room that more resembles a family room than a place to cook. Increasing use of natural fabrics, natural and engineered wood, and images of nature can all be expected to support this shift of the kitchen to a more multi-use room.
What do counters look like in a quiet kitchen? Somewhat the same, since there will still need to be a food-related workspace. There is, however, greater latitude for variety in counter height, shape, size, and placement than ever before. And, whether you continue to think in black and white or in color, the impact of new counters on kitchen space is a critical factor. Well-crafted counters bring shapes, colors, and light into your kitchen. If crafted of stone—granite, quartzite, or engineered quartz—they provide a substantial definition of kitchen spaces along with attractive shapes, subtle colors and patterns, and the refreshing feel of natural materials. New finishes burnished to resemble leather and other subtly-lustrous natural materials serve well as the matte-black element in a new kitchen design or as the visual anchor for a traditional one. Available in hues drawn from the earth itself, stone can take a black-and-white role or serve as color-elements. Natural mineral contents in the form of veining, flecks or streaks, let you introduce color and nonrepresentational patterns into your overall décor, providing visual stimulation that does not demand attention at all costs.
For more traditional kitchens that focus on daily food preparation and abundant food-based hospitality, stone counters remain ideal. Stain- and chip-resistant, they tolerate heavy use and require only simple, quick maintenance. They also constitute an ideal vehicle for introducing color into a still-loved all-white or gray-dominated color scheme. Both granite and quartzite can be found in a wide variety of naturally streaked or speckled tones, and engineered quartz can magnify those choices with terrazzo and other composed color blends. For both traditional and evolving kitchens, stone counters of all kinds add just the right amount of light, color, visual texture, and natural beauty to enhance the existing décor and changes to come.