Trends: What’s “In” & What’s Out

Kitchen Trends for 2021

Trends: What’s “In” & What’s Out

It’s the beginning of a new year and that means kitchen trends predictions. What makes this year different and possibly more relevant for anyone who is considering a kitchen remodel is the pandemic of 2020 and how it has impacted people’s lives and behaviors.

As you read through our predictions, which have been gathered from sources around the web as well as what customers have requested in our business, you’ll see many trends are a direct result of quarantine-at-home living.

Even with the beginnings of people getting COV-ID 19 vaccine, 2021 will challenge everyone to decide which lifestyle and design trends to keep and which to abandon.

Home Offices.

Home builders and renovators have reported that requests for an at-home office more than doubled in 2020. People are tired of working from a makeshift office setup. They have adapted from a laptop on the sofa to the kitchen table as work-from-home orders have been extended. As a result, they will want a more permanent — and quiet — location for their at-home work desk. A “Zoom Room” to call their own.

Zillow survey revealed that a home with a dedicated office is the reason why people working from home say they would consider a move if they were to continue working remotely. If you’re working from home, it doesn’t matter where you live, so why not be happy?

Prediction: The future of working remotely and tele-commuting will drive home design and location choices in 2021.

Intergenerational Living.

Intergenerational or multigenerational living is rising in popularity as young adults and grandparents move in with family for financial and health reasons. According to Generations United, about one in six Americans live in multigenerational households, and in 2020, the number of young people moving back home reached an all-time high.

This trend affects how people design new or renovate existing homes, with more requests than ever for in-law suites, a finished basement with a full kitchen and bathroom, and bedroom additions.

What’s “In” in Kitchens?

Gourmet Kitchens.

The pandemic has forced people in quarantine to cook and bake at home, since eating out is either not available or is extremely limited. And take-out gets old and expensive. The previously quoted Zillow survey found that 41% of people want a well-equipped, gourmet-style kitchen in 2020. When the pandemic is over, these chefs will want space to show off their new skills.

Bigger Islands.

Remodeling contractors report they have seen an increase in requests for gourmet kitchens that include bigger islands to give homeowners the space they need to cook. Findings from the Houzz 2020 Kitchen Trends Study agree with Zillow: large islands are very popular. Two-thirds of renovated kitchens feature an island, and the majority are more than 6 feet long.  A larger island means more prep space, and it’s also more space for at-home learning and Zoom meetings.

Design trend: While neutral colors are popular for cabinetry, many renovating homeowners chose contrasting colors for their island cabinets. Blue and gray are the top color picks among those who choose a contrasting island color.

Kitchen Storage.

People stuck at home during the pandemic have realized the importance of having enough storage for all their kitchen-related “stuff”. And more homeowners are asking kitchen design professionals for help making their kitchens work more efficiently. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of cabinets added in renovations.

Many new cabinets are equipped with built-in organizers. Specialty organizers are available for drawers as well. The most popular organizers are for cookie sheets, followed by pullout waste or recycling centers.

More than a third of specialty organizers are revolving or pullout/swing-outs, making deep or hard-to-reach corner cabinet spaces more accessible.

Keeping countertops clear and reducing kitchen clutter is another priority for 2021. People are adding appliance garages to keep small appliances out of sight. Or they are making room for non-essential appliances in the pantry.

“Smart” Tech.

It’s more important than ever that homes are as germ-free as possible, and smart home technology helps to achieve this goal. Products include voice-activated and touchless faucets for kitchen and bath, robotic vacuums and self-cleaning toilets.

Prediction: These products will become standard in American homes.  

Health and Wellness.

The pandemic and a desire for our home to be a safe and healthy space has brought the concept of the wellness kitchen to everyone’s attention. We’re spending more time at home and have an increased concern with our health. COVID restrictions caused gyms and yoga studios to close. As a result, people created their own fitness or workout spaces, essentially turning their home into a wellness home.

From the Houzz survey: Nearly a third of homeowners who renovate their kitchen report having a healthier lifestyle after project completion.

Backsplashes Extend to the Ceiling.

An increasing number of homeowners who update their backsplash are installing the backsplash from the countertop to the upper cabinets or range hood. Some are taking the backsplash from the countertop all the way to the ceiling.

Different Tile Shapes.

Rectangular subway tiles are still the most popular backsplash material. However, squares, diamonds, hexagons and other shapes are trying to take over. If you are going to use a subway tile, consider installing it vertically instead of horizontally. 

Kitchen Style.

Transitional remains the No. 1 kitchen style and has been No. 1 for the past three years. Modern and contemporary styles continue in second and third place.

Not surprisingly, to go with their transitional style kitchen remodel, the majority of renovating homeowners choose Shaker-style doors for their new cabinetry.

L-Shaped Kitchens.

According to a report by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the most popular kitchen shape for 2021 is an L-shaped kitchen. Designed to be efficient and to flow into the next room, an L-shaped kitchen is a classic that makes it easy to get everything you need in a small area. It’s especially great for smaller homes.

Wall Cabinets.

Open shelving just isn’t working for the average homeowner. Not only does it allow dust to collect on dishes, but it also takes away storage space. One section of open shelves or a single shelf for displaying special pieces is acceptable.

The objection to open shelving is that it has displaced wall cabinets altogether. The look is undeniably appealing. However, practicality must win out when a kitchen is used every day.

Induction Cooktops

Induction-style ranges are becoming more popular, replacing gas or electric in newly remodeled kitchens. Not only are the stovetops easier to clean and maintain, but induction cooking is also more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly than gas. And safer, since the cooktop stays cool.

Painted Cabinets Losing Favor?

Natural wood tones for cabinets in both light and dark finishes are coming back, on track to replace painted finishes as most popular. Wood pairs with both white and darker paint colors. It satisfies people’s desire to be connected to the outdoors.

Walnut cabinets lend a warmth to the whole room and look especially beautiful paired with stone countertops. But Walnut looks good with anything.

More Natural Light.

The more natural light you can get into your kitchen, the better. Homeowners are adding more (or bigger) windows to their kitchens in efforts to bring the outdoors inside — helping a kitchen to feel more open. Sunlight makes any room more inviting, and natural elements are instant mood boosters, making any time spent in the kitchen feel more positive overall.

More Durable Surfaces.

Tough, engineered stone surfaces — like quartz — are in for countertops. With the same look and feel as marble, quartz isn’t porous, so it doesn’t stain like marble. Plus, non-porous surfaces are easier to clean when it comes to bacteria or viruses.

Navy Cabinets.

Navy is a classic for a reason, but it starts to feel boring when everyone is using it. To include some color in your kitchen, try a color that feels a little different — like green, black, or even a natural wood tone. There are plenty of other versatile colors to try that aren’t navy, so push your design a little bit further than what everyone else is doing right now. 

Basic Tile Backsplashes.

Installing tile as a backsplash on only half the wall is common and feels like a halfhearted design attempt. Fully tiled walls are in.

Ornate Hardware.

Instead of shiny gold or chrome hardware, there’s a return to more muted brushed or matte finishes. And that’s if there’s hardware being used at all. Omitting hardware altogether seems to be “in” for 2021. Touch latches or finger cut-outs can be used to open cabinets without ruining the sleek, smooth line of cabinet fronts in a contemporary-styled kitchen.

Open-Concept Kitchens Lose Appeal.

The number of renovating homeowners opening their kitchens to create an open-concept floor plan dropped significantly compared with two years ago. Many people have experienced the downside of this setup while they’ve been home during the pandemic, often with two partners working at home as kids attend virtual school from home.

Cluttered Countertops.

With many people working from their kitchen island or just cooking more, countertops are getting cleared off. Cluttered countertops add to feelings of stress and make it more difficult to keep surfaces clean.

Farmhouse Style.  

Is farmhouse-style on its way out? Clean-lined and modern-looking cabinetry is the style of choice for homeowners who are remodeling their kitchens. Bonus: flat paneled doors and drawer fronts without grooves and molding are easier to clean.

Open Shelving.

Open shelving is out in 2021. For most home cooks, it’s an unrealistic way to store glasses and dishes because of how dirt and grime accumulates. Any open shelving will be smaller, possibly a single shelf that displays decorative items instead of every day dishes. 

Cool Gray Painted Cabinets.

Gray, like navy mentioned above, is very versatile color because it goes with just about anything. Plus, it isn’t white. But it gets boring when everyone is using it. If you really love gray and want to use it for your new kitchen cabinets, choose a warmer shade of gray with more earthy undertones to make it your own and not have your kitchen look like everyone else’s gray.


A trends report, such as this, can help you make decisions about how you want your new kitchen to look and function. Your kitchen designer will guide your selections to make sure you aren’t making too many ”trendy” choices that will look dated in a couple years.

KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.