Natural stone countertops and those cobalt blue cabinets you just saw on Pinterest are more than just eye candy. A minor kitchen remodel is in the top 5 most important home improvement projects, according to experts at Millionacres and elsewhere in the industry. But it isn't cheap, with the average cost of a minor kitchen remodel coming in at $22,507. So, if you're planning a remodel this year and questioning what trends have staying power versus ones that'll be outdated in a month -- then I salute you. You're being a smart shopper on an important investment.
Since interiors publications and TV shows give unreliable and often conflicting info, I like to go straight to those who work hands-on for advice on home design and improvement projects. I asked several what they were recommending to clients for 2020, and here's the best of what they said.
Creative multifunctional small spaces
Small footprint housing comes with the territory of living in an urban center, and as the kitchen gains status as the center of the home, design experts are asked to help maximize the room's potential without letting it visually dominate the main living area.
"By lining the wall adjacent to a kitchen with base cabinets as well as upper cabinets, people pick up additional storage" is a tip from Suzanne Cook, owner of NYC-based Atmosphere Kitchen & Bath. Cook specializes in high-end yet functional spaces in a city where average apartments are under 900 square feet.
The disappearing sink
High-end kitchen design and product manufacturer ITALKRAFT sees the kitchen as the focal point of the home. But it's also a workspace, and some components tend to get cluttered or dirty. Thus, Alex Xakoustis, founder of ITALKRAFT, suggests "hiding" the sink with a sliding wood countertop -- that doubles as an eating area when open. He also installs sliding wood paneling that can hide cabinets to create a smoother aesthetic.
As an owner planning to rent or sell, you are likely looking for perceived value instead of the highest-quality, most expensive upgrades available. "Value engineering" is the term Cook uses to explain visual components that seem high-end but are actually affordable.
"While real wood veneers can be quite pricey, laminate manufacturers have come out with unbelievable options that look and feel like real wood without the cost," she says.
Another tip to add the instant hint of high-end: Update your hardware -- starting with the faucet.
Finally, if you have even a hope of charging medium-high rent, Cook contends you must have a dishwasher. And it's not a pricey upgrade, costing $400 to $700 on Home Depot's site to buy new, plus around $200 to install.
A mix of colors and textures
Experts agree that the sleek, uniform look is on its way out. A variation of textures and colors is replacing the look where everything's monochrome or perfectly matched.
"We will be seeing more bold, matte colors, such as navy blue, and book-matched wood panels in high gloss," says Xakoustis. "A mix of natural wood with colorful lacquers."
Bookmatching involves having two adjoining surfaces mirror each other so that the finished product resembles an open book.
If you want to introduce a pop of color into the kitchen, HGTV's Laurie March suggests painting just one item: the kitchen island, or maybe the lower half of the cabinets.
"And if you're going to do it, paint it blue," she says. "America's favorite color is blue for the last 5 years."
Both expert color opinions align with the Pantone Color Institute, which named Classic Blue its 2020 Color of the Year.
Wellness in the kitchen
While wellness is important throughout the home, it makes a lot of sense to focus on it first in the room where food is prepared and eaten.
Many cleaning and home improvement substances contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are carbon-based and can be harmful to the respiratory system and/or central nervous system. Whether you're deep-cleaning, repainting the walls, or refinishing cabinets, insist on low-VOC products. Many companies are now making paints, finishes, sealants, and cleaning products that are low-VOC.
If you're going green in your food waste practices or plastic usage, look at a kitchen remodel as a way to introduce greener elements into that space. Further to the low-VOC directive, Laurie March suggests you can actually get low-VOC flooring and pressed wood products. Also, look into natural stone countertops instead of laminate and glass storage containers instead of plastic.
Quality of light, and specifically natural light, is key to improving mood and energy. If you can't replace walls and doors with windows and glass -- because of either the expense or the home's construction -- add recessed lights and install mirrors and metallics. If you already have windows, make sure the window coverings aren't too dark or heavy.
A kitchen remodel is a smart investment
Whether you're looking to rent out your property, working toward selling it, or just trying to beautify the space you live in, a kitchen remodel can really pay off. And even small updates can make a major difference if you don't have the budget for big ones.
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