Awhile back I started sorting through reviews on kitchens to find our favorite kitchens of 2010. While looking through reviews and photos (one of the best parts of this job is checking out some of the gorgeous renovation pictures homeowners add to their reviews) I was surprised by how similar a lot of the spaces feel, with common use of contrasting light and dark, and almost exclusive use of granite for counter tops.
I decided to see if my impressions of 2010 kitchen trends were accurate and contacted both Piero from Valentini Kitchens in Toronto and Sophie Belanger from Icon Stone & Design in Calgary to give me their impressions of trends in 2010 and predictions for the new year.

As for the use of light and dark in a kitchen, Piero says the trend for lighter painted or antique painted (a look that incorporates distressing of a darker texture onto the corners and details) kitchen cabinetry against dark wood stained island has been the going thing for the past 10 years. Aside from a possible move away from the traditional antique look, he doesn’t see the dark and light trend going anywhere anytime soon. Sophie agrees adding “I am wondering…has white ever gone away?” She feels that we will see even more white in the coming year, explaining that white can feel very soothing despite it’s cold and sterile reputation. She says currently many designers are playing with the idea of white, mixing white variations like vanilla, cream, ivory, and powder with more textured luxurious materials like natural stones or vitreous Italian tiles. She also sees designers using  a lot of use of grey tiles which mimic the look of concrete in kitchens.

Stone counter tops were big in 2010 and aren’t going anywhere in 2011. Both of these kitchen gurus agree an investment into a high quality counter top is a wise move. Piero is seeing a lot of quartz counter tops and says that since quartz has a totally nonporous and nonabsorbent surface it will not absorb food stains. This is a major advantage for safe food preparation because it does not absorb potentially harmful bacteria the way that granite and laminate can. He sees growth in the popularity of copper (which has natural antibacterial properties) kitchen sinks for the same reasons. Cambria is the quartz top he uses and this miracle counter doesn’t ever have to be sealed or refinished! Sophie also sees quartz and, in particular, white quartz on the top of many of her clients wish list and says “Even during the economic downturn, stone and tile continue to remain popular material choices when designing various spaces, especially in the residential sector. While these materials create an aesthetically pleasing setting they also have the ability to increase value to one’s home, which is important for long term investment.”

Thank goodness the use of green and eco-friendly products is no longer just a trend but is here to stay. Sophie is proud of her fellow Calgarians who, more than ever, are now seeking out eco-friendly, sustainable materials. She is happy to provide these customers with products like recycled glass and recycled quartz from CaesarStone and Elements. Due to the growing popularity of sustainable products consumers will find that the prices are no longer as high as they once were and building a green kitchen is possible for many more homeowners. Piero says that he also incorporates green ideas into his designs. “When I design a kitchen these days, I will incorporate as many new gadgets for the space that I have. To me, one of the most important gadgets is the built-in recycling center. The most commonly used gadget includes a double recycling center, this allows one bin for recycled products and one bin for everyday kitchen waste.”

Piero goes on to explain that hi-tech appliance and electronics are among the gadgets he sees most frequently these days. Consumers are no longer looking for just the traditional stove and fridge combos but opting for “more high end commercial style gas stoves or induction cook tops for ease of cleaning, faster food cooking and features that promote fresh, healthy food preparation.” Also ,”built in refrigerators with multiple cooling and humidity settings for keeping food fresh longer” are rising in popularity. He said he also hung a lot of LCD TVs on walls this year, which makes sense given that he finds that the kitchen is the new family room. The idea of the kitchen as the new family room is just how it sounds. Both Sophie and Piero agree that customers are looking for large open areas where a family can come together, cook and eat together, and entertain guests.

Islands are so hot right now. Who doesn’t want one of these beauties? If space allows, an island is an excellent way to bring family and friends together in the kitchen, *a-hem*, new family room. An island makes it easier to never turn your back on others in the area, and keeping the space above the island clear helps to keep the space feeling more intimate, explains Sophie. She also says the bigger the better, more and more homeowners are requesting giant stone island tops that take at least six people to carry in!

What’s next for 2011? Valentini Kitchens and Icon Stone & Tile both predicted wood in 2011 kitchens. Piero says wood floors are now warming up just to get hotter next year and will dominate kitchen flooring. “People are leaning towards a warmer floor surface, with ease on the feet. Hardwood has always been around but with the comeback of  ‘The White Kitchen’, hardwood will compliment the look on the floors of kitchens across Canada and The U.S.A.”, he explains. Sophie also predicts more wood in kitchens seeing the burnished wood and clean-lined elegance of the 1940s making a come up with designers. She sees a lot more designers working with the mix of traditional and contemporary, drawing influence from mid-century, French Deco, and South Beach. Another exciting idea that is now reaching North America from Europe is the “Super Sink”. Almost as fun as it is to say, the Super Sink “consists of an array of accessories including a glass preparation board built into to the sink mold,  colander, and a drain tray all built into the purchase of your sink. This is made for multitasking, time-challenged consumers” Piero says.


Lastly I asked both Piero and Sophie to pass along their expert kitchen renovator advice to our blog readers. Sophie offers this advice: “If you are renovating your kitchen from scratch, you should always select your granite counter top first and then work around it for your wall paint color, cabinet color, floor tile and back-splash. Not the other way around.” If you are looking for an update in the kitchen but the budget is not allowing a full overhaul at this point, Sophie suggests changing your back-splash. It’s a small change that can make a big difference in a space. She recommends a glass tile back splash which can add “an extra layer of sparkle and visual texture to your kitchen”. But don’t try and install the tile yourself she warns “hire professionals, because odds are you aren’t going to do a very good job unless you do this for a living.” She also urges homeowners to work with a designer who can help them with their vision. Piero agrees. The number one advice he wanted to pass along is that you need to “make the right decision when picking the company to do your kitchen renovations. I always tell my customers to make sure they make the right decision when it comes to hiring the right contractor for the job. I tell them to get at least two or three estimates and compare an apple to an apple when comparing the price I am proposing to them. This means that the customer should take notes and make sure that when getting a price that everyone is on the same playing field and that everyone is pricing the same items involved in quoting the job.” Piero also thinks you have to go with what you like not just relying on the designer or contractor to make the decision because at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to be in the space. And of course, you are foolish if you are not reading reviews and checking references for your contractor. Check out HomeStars and other avenues before deciding on a contractor or designer to work with. It’s your kitchen, you use it every day and doing a bit of research could help you avoid a pretty expensive disaster.

Posted by Colleen

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