Top Kitchen Design Trends for 2012

A recent survey of more than 350 designer members of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) revealed their top design trends for kitchens based on the materials, product types, and styles they incorporated into their kitchen designs over the final three months of 2011.

According to the results of the 2012 NKBA Design Trends Survey, while broad trends won’t be evident in every local market, the following represent overall trends for kitchens across the United States and Canada.

Cherry Wood in Decline 

Cherry wood has consistently been the first or second most popular type of wood for cabinetry, jockeying for the top spot with maple each year. However, designers are slowly shifting away from it. While 80 percent of NKBA member kitchen designers had recently specified cherry cabinetry as 2010 approached, that figure dropped to 72 percent last year and fell again to 69 percent heading into 2012.

No one other wood species is taking that market share on its own, as even maple dropped in popularity this year, falling from 77 percent last year to 70 percent now. Instead, a number of lesser-used woods are being specified more often, including oak, which is specified by twice as many designers now (22 percent) versus two years ago (11 percent); walnut, which has increased from 3 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2011 to 13 percent today; birch, which is now specified by three times as many kitchen designers as it was a year ago (15 percent vs. 5 percent), and bamboo, which has doubled from 5 percent last year to 10 percent now. While alder is currently specified by 27 percent of kitchen designers, that figure is down from 30 percent last year and from 40 percent two years ago.

Darker Finishes 

Natural kitchen cabinetry continues a steady move toward darker finishes. While light natural finishes have been recently specified by 30 percent of kitchen designers, medium natural finishes stand at 55 percent, with dark natural finishes at 58 percent. Two years ago, dark natural finishes were specified by only 43 percent of designers. Among painted cabinetry, white continues to be the most popular option, as white cabinets have been recently specified by 59 percent of NKBA member kitchen designers. Another trend to note is that distressed finishes are making a comeback.

Glass Backsplashes 

Although glass remains a niche material for kitchen countertops, it’s been used recently by more than half of kitchen designers as a backsplash material, rising from 41 percent a year ago to 52 percent now. This trails only natural stone tile at 60 percent and ceramic tile (including porcelain), which has been specified of late by some 74 percent of designers. Even at that high rate, ceramic tile backsplashes are on the decline, as they stood at 78 percent a year ago and 88 percent two years ago. Other popular backsplash materials are granite at 30 percent and quartz at 20 percent.

LED Lighting 
Energy-efficiency is clearly not a fad, but a real trend that can be seen taking hold in homes across the United States and Canada. Despite the higher initial cost, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is proof of this trend. Specified by 50 percent of NKBA member kitchen designers entering 2010, that rate increased to 54 percent the following year and has jumped over the past year to 70 percent. However, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) aren’t sharing in this trend. Although they use roughly a quarter the energy of an incandescent bulb when producing the same amount of light, measured in lumens, the poor color of the light they produce and the presence of mercury in these bulbs are keeping them out of newly remodeled kitchens, falling from 36 percent last year to 26 percent today.

Pull-Out Faucets

Pull-out kitchen faucets have become established as the dominant type of kitchen faucet. Designers are increasingly eschewing the standard faucet with a detached side spray in favor of pull-out models that integrate the two functions into a single unit. The use of pull-out faucets has increased from 88 percent to 91 percent to 93 percent. In other words, 14 of out every 15 designers who designed a kitchen over the final three months of 2011 incorporated a pull-out faucet. These versatile models might also be mitigating the need for pot-filler faucets, which have recently been specified by just 28 percent of designers, down from 41 percent two years ago.



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