Kitchen & bath trends
“Quartz countertops now have impressive veining options that imitate natural marble with through-body engineered patterns.” – Kristen Mason Klamer, Partner at Payne & Mason architecture and interior design practice
With so many technological advances and aesthetic shifts in home design, it can be hard for the average person to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to kitchens and baths – the rooms of the home that give you the most bang for the buck. If you’re building a new home or renovating your current one, there are so many options to weigh for appliances, finishes and surfaces that it can feel like a full-time job. Whether you choose to hire an expert or go at it yourself, it doesn’t hurt to start with a little insight from the industry.
Advances in technology seem to be the driving force in new kitchen and bath products, and as homes become “smart” homes, the ability to monitor, maintain or modify settings is becoming more hands-off. The kitchen is the room with perhaps the most advances, with everything from smart refrigerators that know what you need while you grocery shop to ovens that know exactly what temperature your protein is via wireless probe. Coffee systems and faucets that can be controlled by your phone or tablet are also big sellers.
“We’re seeing technology really at its infancy in the kitchen, and I see that market growing and changing over the next few years significantly,” says Randall Shaw, President of Nordic Kitchens & Baths (1818 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, 888-2300, NordicKitchens.com).
Customers aren’t hesitant to pull the trigger on these new technologies – as with smart phones and tablets, you can often update or upgrade your firmware as the technology improves over time. One of Shaw’s favorite new appliances is the combination steam oven.
“It’s probably the biggest selling product that people haven’t had before,” says Shaw. Functional as a steam oven, a convection oven or a combination of the two, these items are popular for gourmet sous vide cooking as well as simply reheating your leftovers to their restaurant-level freshness.
A kitchen or bath’s solid surface is one way people choose to make a statement, and many of the experts interviewed expressed a universal admiration for quartz surfaces.
“Man-made quartz countertops have come a long way over the last 10 years. Companies such as Silestone, Vicostone and Cambria are able to produce beautiful and durable material suitable for just about any application – kitchen, vanity, fireplace and tub surrounds,” says Cortland Fillman of Louisiana Granite & Marble (Luling, (985) 785-0805).
According to Fillman, the engineered quartz is both lighter in weight and more durable than most granites and marbles, which lessens worries over scratches and staining. There is also more consistency in color and veining from slab to slab. Even pieces of granite quarried from the same mountain can differ in color.
“Quartz countertops now have impressive veining options that imitate natural marble with through-body engineered patterns,” adds Kristen Mason Klamer, Partner at Payne & Mason (517-3220, PayneandMason.com) architecture and interior design practice. Though quartz offers superior durability, marble still has its appeal, according to Partner Kim Payne Allen.
“Marble slabs are still popular on free-standing kitchen islands – the natural veining provides rich, textural statement pieces within the kitchen and sets it apart from the walls we typically flank with quartz countertops,” says Allen.
Cabinets are a consideration as well, and natural wood is making a comeback over all-white kitchens. Allen notes the beautiful tones and attractive graining of walnut and maple complement the hard, fabricated surfaces by adding a soft and natural component.
At Nordic, Shaw has seen a resurgence of oak cabinetry.
“Oak is making a comeback, but not the red oak that our parents knew. White oak is becoming popular with a wash on top of it. The other thing we’re starting to see with oak is wire brushing, where they brush the oak to enhance the grain and give it a texture,” says Shaw.
Cabinetry as a concept is changing, too, according to John Chrestia, President of Chrestia, Staub, Pierce (7219 Perrier St., 866-6677, CSPDesign.com) design firm. Chrestia notes the growing popularity of storage towers and open shelving over horizontal cabinetry that runs above and below countertops. Combinations of open shelving and cabinetry are popular as well. While he recognizes there are sometime no ways around it (especially in small spaces), he enjoys foregoing horizontal cabinetry to improve the openness of the kitchen and the cooking station especially.
“It goes a long way to give the kitchen a lot of style,” says Chrestia. Less horizontal cabinetry above the countertops offers more design flexibility with tall backsplashes and range hoods.
At the Bella Cucina (227 Lee Lane, Covington, (985) 626-7886, BellaCucinaDesign.com) designer showroom in Covington, boutique brands of kitchen appliances such as La Cornue from France, Ilvé from Italy, Bertazzoni from Italy, Verona from Italy and AGA from England continue to trend upward. According to Owner Susan Brechtel, these fine appliances are sought for their beauty and aesthetics – many are brightly colored and trimmed in metals – and for their customization.
“La Cornue has a line called the Chateau Series, which is completely custom-built. It takes five months. They are completely handmade and can be customized to the nth degree,” says Brechtel. One man fabricates these high-end pieces in a Parisian atelier. In addition to their beauty and customization, the advantage to cooking in these ovens is doors that totally conceal and don’t lose heat, eliminating the need for large cookers. According to Brechtel, they can cook a 20-pound turkey in just two hours.
LEFT, “We’re seeing technology really at its infancy in the kitchen, and I see that market growing and changing over the next few years significantly." – Randall Shaw, President of Nordic Kitchens & Baths RIGHT, “We’re seeing more manufactures create products that address this ‘Approachable Pro’ trend, as we call it at Ferguson. Approachable Pro-style products are elegant, understated and integrate seamlessly with a variety of design choices, while maintaining high-powered performance and hard-working functionality.” – Stacey White, Showroom Manager for Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery
Bella Cucina is currently scheduling exclusive demonstrations and tastings (complemented by wine, of course) in their newly renovated showroom. Each tasting event will feature a different chef and type of cooking, from Cajun to French fine dining. Call Bella Cucina for details and invitations.
Though some of the higher-end kitchen appliance companies are moving away from industrial ranges and toward modular cooking, pro cooking is still a trend among many companies.
“We’re seeing more manufactures create products that address this ‘Approachable Pro’ trend, as we call it at Ferguson. Approachable Pro-style products are elegant, understated and integrate seamlessly with a variety of design choices, while maintaining high-powered performance and hard-working functionality,” says Stacey White, Showroom Manager for Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery (901 S. Labarre Road, Metairie, 849-3060, FergusonShowrooms.com).
Kenneth Wiles, Merchandise Manager at Beth Claybourn Interiors (401 Tchoupitoulas St., 342-2630), compares today’s kitchen appliances to yesterday’s trophy bed. Today, everyone wants that wow factor in their kitchen, and appliances play a role in that overall wowing design. He and Designer Tricia Reichert see using luxury materials as playing another part – combining items such as hand-carved cabinetry, quartz countertops and metal finishes to give the room depth and texture.
Today’s bathrooms, accord to Wiles, are no longer basic and boring. People are seeking a spa environment with more square footage in their master baths. Wiles sees the converted chest of drawers vanity sink as a thing of the past as more manufacturers are designing interesting, sculptural sinks.
“For the bath, we’re seeing a rise in freestanding tubs; however, the styling has moved away from claw-foot tubs and is now more modern, showcasing a geometric shape,” says White at Ferguson.
John Chrestia is seeing the same trend with traditional tile or stone tub decks giving way to sculptural tubs made in different finishes.
“What’s neat for us is you can set this freestanding tub in front of a window with a shade on it, obviously for privacy, but it’s good looking, a bit of sculpture and we’ve also set it in front of a wall of decorative tile or stone,” says Chrestia.
At Nordic, Shaw sees increasing interest in soaking baths and air baths rather than whirlpool tubs. According to Shaw, air baths offer an invigorating bath experience without requiring the same maintenance as a whirlpool.
As to plumbing fixtures, a number of the experts mentioned above have observed a rise in gold and brass fixtures, as well as black matte, and a trend away from brushed finishes on plumbing fixtures.
“One thing that’s continuing is folks want a really beautiful bathroom and kitchen,” says Chrestia. With help from experts like these, beautiful rooms are completely attainable. And thanks to today’s media and apps, you can rest assured trends in New Orleans are as current as ever.