BY DANIELLE POPE
The kitchen is one of the most active areas of a home. Customizing this space to the needs of your household is the best way to ensure your creative area is working for — rather than against — you.
From refining storage options and discovering on-trend hardware, to personalizing cabinetry colours, lighting and sink design, Spruce examined some of the kitchen’s most overlooked areas to discover what innovative solutions designers and home experts are seeing and recommending today.
The biggest takeaway: customizing your space requires a deep dive into personal preferences. Whether you’re ready to take on a complete renovation or simply wish to replace some of the features you use most often in your kitchen, making small — and large — adaptations can transform how much you enjoy your space.
Designers have this tip to provide guidance: quality tools inspire greater use. When you surround yourself with elements you adore, and those that offer superior function, you’ll be sure to make the most of your space.
The sections that follow will help you gain insight into the most transformative tweaks you can make to ensure you’re loving the heart of your home.
Functional layout is the goal with any kitchen, but storage solutions have become more innovative as technology changes. Shawn Richardson with Incredible Home says hidden under-counter lifts make all the difference when it comes to using appliances with ease.
“Mixmasters are so heavy, but a hydraulic lift arm allows these tools to pop out of a counter and lock in place for use, then hide out of sight,” says Richardson.
Another solution is recruiting unused space, like installing wine pegs on a fridge panel. Richardson recently completed a project that stored 36 bottles on the side of the fridge in this commonly forgotten space.
Stephanie Excell, a designer with Urbana Kitchens, says sometimes less is more when it comes to storage — like purpose-built shallow pantries.
“Many jars and packages we need to store in a kitchen have a small footprint, yet tend to be lost in deep shelves,” she says. “A shallow pantry allows for easy access of all items, and everything stays visible.”
While the kitchen is naturally a hub of activity, creating dedicated “zones” to support the needs of a particular household has become a trending solution for attractive space management. From coffee and bar nooks to baking corners and spice stations, these zones keep everything in its place.
Baking centres provide a clear space for creation, and can be customized for a family’s favourite baking endeavours. Richardson worked with one client who wanted custom-fit bins for the most popular ingredients — from sugar and flour to cornmeal — with individual measuring scoops in each. The bins were strategically placed under a butcher block island for making quick bread and for other baking activities.
Another consideration for these areas is to install dedicated appliance drawers, with kill switches that cut the power when closed. These draws leave appliances plugged in for easy use.
“There are so many useful appliances now, but figuring out where to put them all so they’re easy to access but out of sight can be tough,” Richardson says. “These zones provide a place for everything.”
While coffee and beverage zones remain popular choices for function, Richardson says fresh-prep areas are a new trend on the kitchen scene. Easily accessed for fresh cooking, such a station can include a dedicated chopping workspace, pullout refrigerated drawers (separate from the fridge), a prep sink and even tool storage.
“It’s amazing how much easier it is to open a crisper drawer of pre-washed veg and have everything at your fingertips,” she says.
When it comes to adding a pop of colour to the kitchen, more designers and homeowners are opting to do this with cabinetry, often with bold results.
Hardwood (stained or otherwise) remains a classic choice, but cool tones are the primary trend this year — from the traditional white and grey to variations of greens and blues. Think moss, sage, hunter green, navy and even turquoise.
Apple green and pastel blue create dramatically different looks, and even dusty pink is making an appearance, complementing grey hues. How to choose the right colour for your space? Researchers have long studied the impact colour has on the human psyche, so consider the effect: greens and yellows are thought to stimulate positive feelings, while blues and some pinks can create a calming effect.
Lighting has a big impact in any kitchen, but lighting over the island has seen some major shifts. As twin and triple pendants fade in popularity, statement lighting is shining in full force.
“Over the past few years, there’s been a definite shift in light design towards the sculptural, where the light fixture itself becomes part of the artistic design of the space,” says light designer Mike Randall of Kurva Design. “It’s a new place for people to be creative and express themselves.”
Randall says discrete and minimalistic fixtures are also becoming more popular, with many opting for slim, linear pendants in wood or aluminum. While off-the-shelf options exist, Randall says there is an advantage to customizing.
“Most people spend a lot of time in their kitchens,” he says. “Islands have to be lit in a way that allows for bleary-eyed breakfasts, food prep, school work and evening dinners.”
WHERE TO SPLURGE:
Small details can do more than change the look of a kitchen — they can transform its usefulness. Whether you’re considering a new sink or an upgrade to your hardware, designers agree: the more you enjoy the experience of your space, the more often you’ll use it.
The kitchen sink isn’t what it used to be. Now with dynamic colours, textures and shapes, designers are opting for both subtle and bold choices to add a sense of play to this well-used part of the kitchen.
“Sinks aren’t just plain white anymore,” says Maria Chambers of Victoria Speciality Hardware. “There are so many different types of colours and textures, and they all add a little flair to the kitchen.”
In time for Fall, Chambers says honey bronze is likely to become the top-selling hardware colour of the season. The look gives off the glow of antique gold, but with a modern appeal.
“A lot of people are going with pieces in honey bronze, which offers a beautiful mix of new and old,” she says. “In older home renovations, people want to keep the classic look, but create a variation on the traditional.”
Chambers says bespoke hardware is another trending choice, as are unique shapes, like the geometric structure of Franz Viegener faucets. Black and unlacquered brass aren’t going anywhere, either, but this year welcomes rose gold and graphite into the mix.