When Michelle and Jon Christy bought their 1980s-era home in North Tustin, much of the residence already was remodeled.
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Except for the kitchen. It was dated. And it was olive green.
“I wanted to lighten up the kitchen, because the kitchen had been dark,” Michelle Christy said. “I thought white cabinets would give it a nice, clean, crisp look.”
They didn’t stop there. Today, with a demolition behind them, and new Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances along with a spacious island, the couple’s kitchen is not just brighter; it also reflects several current trends in culinary design.
Nearly half of new homeowners undertaking a home improvement project within three months of buying a residence set their sights on a kitchen overhaul, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors.
The array of choices for big-ticket appliances to even a simple backsplash can be daunting. But people should consider what will appeal to a broad range of future homebuyers. Even a minor remodel can recoup most of the cost when the owners resell, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value report.
“You may have a hard time selling your house if it (the kitchen) is really ‘out there,”’ said Debbie Nassetta, co-owner of Roomscapes, a home design firm in Newport Beach.
So what’s trendy, but at the same time, has some staying power?
Consider a survey released by Houzz, a popular home design and remodeling website based in Palo Alto. The site’s Fall Kitchen Trends study gathered responses from 7,812 homeowners either planning renovations or in the midst of them. Earlier this year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association came out with survey results from 300 of its member-designers.
The list below includes seven trends from the Houzz survey followed by three from the association. Some Orange County kitchen designers also weighed in, as well as local residents who’ve managed to wrap up their renovations, as it turns out, just in time for the holidays.
Here’s what’s hot.
1. Chef’s stoves. A professional-grade range – a stove with options such as a flat griddle or a cooktop to accommodate a searing pan or a wok – topped kitchen wish lists in the Houzz survey; 32 percent of respondents selected them as their dream appliance.
“What a consumer looks at, even if they don’t cook, is it looks cool,” Nassetta said.
Double ovens garnered 18 percent. Other high-end features such as induction cooktops, wine refrigerators and convection ovens seemed to matter far less. Only 4 percent of respondents considered warming drawers a priority.
2. Eco-friendly features. Nearly half of those surveyed – 49 percent – said using eco-friendly appliances and materials in their kitchens is important.
While a variety of Energy Star-recommended appliances and green-certified building products are on the market, eco-friendly changes also can be as simple as using cloth rather than paper towels, replacing plastic containers with glass, or using non-toxic cleaners, Houzz contributors note.
3. Granite and quartz countertops. Most respondents – 94 percent – said they’re changing their countertops. Granite still rocks, topping the list at 50 percent, but quartz is a rising star, coming in at 36 percent. Marble only drew 10 percent. Tile got a paltry 2 percent.
Quartz countertops are resistant to stains and scratches and are easy to take care of, kitchen designers say. “They’re pretty bulletproof,” said Mike Close, president of Spinnaker Development in Newport Beach, which designs, builds and remodels custom homes.
David and Apryl Imboden went with Caesarstone, a quartz product, for the countertops as part of an extensive kitchen remodel on an Orange house they bought in June. “With granite you’ve got to seal it and take care of it and can’t put certain things on the countertop,” David Imboden said. “I just wanted a countertop that you don’t have to think about.”
Michelle Christy, however, chose marble for her island top when she remodeled her kitchen this summer. “I like the veining in the marble,” she said. “I just love the clean look. It’s a little care. I had a couple of people say, ‘Don’t do it!’ But I did it and I love it.”
4. Tile backsplashes. Tile, however, was the top choice for backsplash accents. Half of respondents preferred it, with marble, stone slab and other materials trailing far behind. “A lot of people are using the backsplash as sort of the jewelry of the kitchen,” said Sheila Schmitz, Houzz.com editor. “That’s where they’ll put that splash of color, because it won’t be overwhelming.”
David Imboden said he found the backsplash the toughest decision of all. “There’s just so many choices,” he said. “The backsplash probably dates your kitchen more than anything.”
5. Floors. Hardwood floors led the list of choices, but here’s another area where tiles made a strong showing, coming in second. Remember good old linoleum? It garnered only 3 percent. Concrete did worse – 2 percent.
6. Stainless steel. A majority of respondents – 65 percent – favor stainless steel appliances. Some homeowners are combining appliance finishes or integrating stainless steel into cabinetry, and 12 percent are choosing white or color appliances.
7. Islands. They’re popular but not a must. While 61 percent said they’re incorporating an island, for some others, it would be the wrong choice, either because the room is too small or the configuration wouldn’t work.
“A kitchen has to be large enough for an island,” Nassetta said. “If you squeeze one in and it’s not the right width or too tight, the client won’t be happy in the end. If you’re constantly walking around an island just to have one … it will feel bad.”
David Imboden did much of the remodeling himself on his 300-square-foot kitchen, complete with a breakfast nook. He consulted a designer, but in the end Imboden realized that an island wasn’t the way to go. “It really didn’t fit right,” he said. “It would have blocked the nook.”
8. Transitional style. This look – a blend of traditional and contemporary – has grown in popularity, up from 59 percent to 69 percent by the end of 2012, according to the kitchen and bath association.
9. White cabinets. Whites and off whites are the top choice for color schemes, at 73 percent, an increase of 6 percent over the previous year. The popularity of white cabinetry jumped from 59 percent in 2012 to 67 percent this year.
“They (clients) say, ‘I want my kitchen to be light and bright,”’ Close said.
10. Gray color schemes. Grays are coming on strong, according to the survey and local designers. “In kitchens, shades of gray have noticeably jumped in use over the past three years,” the association said in its summary, noting an increase from 9 percent in 2010 to “a remarkable” 55 percent in the last three months of 2012.
“If you put in a classic white kitchen, very few people don’t like that,” said Nassetta, who designed the Christys’ kitchen. But, she confirmed, “Gray is really hot. It has been for the past couple of years and it’s still trending that way.”
The takeaway from all this?
“People really want easy, clean, unfussy kitchens,” Schmitz said.
And remember, don’t get carried away.
“Always try to keep in mind you’re doing the work for yourself, but at some point, somebody else will be in the house,” Close said. “Don’t do something so radical, so edgy, that in five years you’ll look at each other and say, ‘What were we thinking?’”