Those in the kitchen and bath industry gathered earlier this month, getting a peek at new products and forecasting this year's trends, including restaurant-style kitchens, design inspiration from nature, and open, flexible floor plans marked by chic design elements and high-tech appliances and fixtures.
The 2004 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show held varied interpretations, but one common theme is the overwhelming importance of the kitchen and bathroom in the minds of homeowners. And an increasing number of manufacturers are making products available that won't break the bank.
"Homeowners and designers consider the kitchen and bath to be the home's style showpiece," said Melissa Birdsong, trend and design director for Lowe's. "It's rare to find other spaces in the home that can better embody personal enjoyment, comfort and 'aha' ideas."
Birdsong said the sets of popular TV shows "Will & Grace" and "Frasier" have inspired open, flexible, Eurostyle kitchens and baths marked by chic design elements, flexible functionality and high-tech appliances and fixtures.
She says if you're going for a lofty look, install a horizontal ribbon of wall cabinets with square doors topping banks of wide drawers or a slab of floating wall-mounted base cabinetry. And couple stainless steel with mid-tone wood cabinets and create a focal point by topping an open-based bath vanity table with a frosted glass vessel sink.
When it comes to the kitchen, many homeowners want their own dream kitchen, equipped with restaurant-scale appliances, professional-quality wine storage and audio-visual systems for the kitchen.
In order to achieve that bistro you're yearning for, Birdsong says you should install a striking range hood - they make their own bold statement. Also, think functionality. Use built-in appliances - warming drawers, ice makers, and undercounter wine storage and refrigeration units.
"We're seeing more and more new design trends infiltrating all types of kitchen and bath products, at all price points, including affordable mainstream lines," Birdsong said. "Today's homeowners have developed an affinity for the unique and feel a sense of entitlement for using special things to create homes that speak to their personal style and taste."
Kate Schwartz, editor of kitchens.com, a consumer web site, echoes many of those sentiments.
"More and more manufacturers are realizing that homeowners want upscale looks at a price that won't break the bank," said Schwartz.
Schwartz said she saw "a staggering number of new introductions that went beyond the norm." That includes stock and semi-custom cabinetry with more glazes, custom hoods, more storage features and different door styles.
She also said manufacturers are continuing to offer stainless steel in residential kitchen-sized appliances.
"Refrigerator and warming drawers - they're definitely not a fad," Schwartz said. "(There is an) increased production of warming and refrigerator drawers - many manufacturers are offering them as an option connected to the wall oven unit."
She said one manufacturer recently introduced a refrigerator/freezer/icemaker combo drawer.
Like Birdsong, Schwartz also saw the trend in earth tones.
"Dark finishes (like espresso) and mocha/brown glazes are increasingly popular in cabinetry," Schwartz said. "(One company) introduced some new sink colors (like thunder gray) in grays and browns, meant to coordinate with granite."
Some other observations:
- Self-closing and soft close doors are all the rage.
- Hot water dispensers, which dispense near-boiling water at 190 degrees, ideal for tea, hot chocolate or instant pasta, could be the next must-have item.
- Faucets in curved, river-shaped troughs will likely be popping up in kitchen islands.
- Quartz surfaces with movements will likely replace homogeneous and granite-like looks.
And in the bathroom, there is a range of preferences that will become dominant this year.
Shapes, including ellipses, triangles and squares, will be big, bringing simplicity, symmetry and structure to the bathroom. Some ways to achieve a geometric bathroom include installing a pristine white china sink with oval-, trianagular-, or square-shaped washbasins. Also, try accessorizing your sink with a chrome column faucet with one handle for hot and cold.
Earthy looks are also expected to be popular, whether it's decorative faucets and accessories that mimic bamboo reeds, showerheads that twist, turn and twirl spray and steam in a double-helix pattern and sink and tub basins in translucent hues.