I spoke with Susan Serra, Certified Kitchen Designer and president of Susan Serra Associates about the current and future trends in kitchen design.  Below I pose a multitude of questions regarding kitchen design and operations. In addition to what’s currently trending Serra shares with us tips and tricks of the trade. She advices us where it’s wise to spend and where you may want to cut back on your spending.

What’s trending in the kitchen right now?

“Kitchen design is looking very exciting for 2013 as several design philosophies are converging and mixing, resulting in kitchens that are highly personal.” Serra adds “With the economy still trudging along without a spring in its step, homeowners want to buy smart for longevity which translates to neutral finishes for big ticket items such as cabinetry, countertops and flooring. Clean, modern styles with warm touches continue their popularity. I do detect a new interpretation of country style which includes the appreciation of nature and natural textures and finishes juxtaposed with more simple cabinet designs. Appliances with gourmet cooking features are important; likewise, interest in induction cooktops is surging.”

Serra still sees a big “interest in open floor plans and the social kitchen, built-in and concealed appliances such as BLANCO’s Crystalline sink and flush, unframed cooktops are becoming popular.” She informs that there is a growing  nterest in design sustainability and healthy cooking, which factors into the consumer’s purchasing decisions more than they ever have in the past. Serra sees a renewed interest in “faux materials with a surprisingly real look due to technological advancements such as ceramic ‘wood look’ tile and ‘natural stone look’ laminates enjoy revived interest.”

What are people looking for when they redo their kitchens?

Serra explains that people have different reasons for wanting to redo their kitchens, but that for the post part peope are looking for convenience as the motivating factor. Home cooks are looking for appliances that have convenient features, and “cabinet access and storage should also be convenient, and the kitchen design overall should be convenient to use and move around in.” It is important, according to Serra, that “the kitchen needs to perform as effortlessly as possible under various types of pressure – multiple cooks, entertaining, extended cooking sessions, social cooking and more. Homeowners seek to express themselves in a personal way in terms of aesthetics and function and have the confidence to do so more than ever.” Of course, she adds that homeowners are also looking to find “that sweet spot between good value and stylish products of good quality.” 

If there’s one thing we should splurge on when we remodel our kitchens what should it be?

According to Serra and other kitchen designers, cabinetry is the one area to splurge on. She goes on to explain that “cabinetry gets used constantly as do appliances, but since cabinetry is made of wood products as opposed to metals and glass that appliances are made of, it is critical that cabinetry be able to perform consistently over time and resist wear for nearly 20 years.”  She advsies middle to high end cabinetry as yo do get what you pay for and “purchasing low end cabinetry can be a gamble.”

What kitchen appliance is worth the splurge?

Serra knows that the answer is indeed a subjective one since cooking “creates nourishment as well as an enjoyable experience when one is in the process of cooking.” Serra says she would opt for a major cooking appliance such as an oven and cooktop, or a range, depending on which one best fit the overall kitchen plan.  She believes that “the flexibility of a cooktop’s burners to simmer or power boost, built in timers, autocook features, convection in ovens, easy pull out racks and precise temperature control are a cook’s dream.” Technology has modernized cooking appliances that we see today. Clever features, such as cooktops with no burners at all are being offered being offered by both Thermador and Gaggenau brands. Imgine being able to place a pot wherever you want on your cooktop!

 Where can we cut back and save a few dollars? 

“Appliances have made strong inroads toward featuring great new technological features, good looks and great value.” Serra states, adding that “one need not purchase the top of the line appliances. Beautifully built-in appliances can be found in the middle price point which will help keep the budget in line.” She believes that lighting costs can easily be kept reasonable. She has seen lighting fixtures, whether decorative fixtures or task lighting  “evolve in terms of lovely, new finishes and smart features that do not have to be high in cost.” She believes that “hardware is easy to ‘cheat’ with in the kitchen design.” There is a great and wide selection of hardware avaible and it is often difficult to determine whether it is mid or high end. She has seen even lower end hardware fool the eye!

Are there any popular kitchen colors trending right now?

Serra is seeing and working with lots of white, off whites, natural wood stains. They continue to be what homeowners want in cabinetry, adding that the whites are a strong leader. “Grays, another neutral, remain on the upswing and touches of black add sophistication in the form of featured cabinetry and/or accessories. Countertops tell a similar story as authentic colors and neutrals, particularly warm grays, create an understated look which allows pops of color to be used in the decorative layer.”

What advice can you share for those about to embark on a kitchen re-design?

Serra strongly advises us to find a kitchen design professional and to interview several professionals, allowing ample time to find the perfect kitchen designer for your project. “It may take a little longer than you expect but it will be well worth the time invested. Be aware of your budget, taking into account every cost you can imagine. Categorize these costs as well as products, building materials, allied professionals’ responsibilities and other details into a project management system that also has a smartphone app so that you can access all of your information at home and on the go.

How long, approximately, will it take to re-do my kitchen?

Serra says that “assuming it’s a total makeover, renovating a kitchen that includes a complete tear-out, perhaps new windows, flooring, cabinetry, appliances and countertops, not to mention electrical and plumbing work, must be carefully orchestrated. A project schedule for a medium size kitchen renovation including these products and labor will take in the vicinity of 6 weeks. The majority of the renovation will take 4-5 weeks and another 1-2 weeks to wait for countertops which must be template after the base cabinets are installed. Kitchens with more complex labor requirements will take longer.”

Are there any industry secrets you’re willing to share with us?

Serra advises us to watch out for  the design of the dining area. All too often she sees the bulk of the focus put on to the kitchen work area without much though given to the dining area. She also advises us to plan for ample dining space and explains that we will most likely need more space for the dining area than  we might expect, to allow for movement around the table, which in her opinion greatly impacts comfort, or lack thereof.

Another piece of advice she shares with us it to “watch those small finish samples of cabinetry, countertops and tile or other backsplash treatment! It is one thing to look at a sample in the palm of your hand, and another thing altogether to view that same small sample from 3, 6, 9 feet or farther away, which translates into an entirely different visual experience.”

Serra stresses the importance of designing the kitchen area with “equal or near equal emphasis on form and function. This means that form does not have to follow function – function can follow form!”  On a final note, Serra strongly advises us to “find your perfect professional, one you can trust with your home, who will listen to you but not ‘yes’ you, guide but not push and you’ll be on the road to a fabulous renovation.”

We hope this leaves you well informed and ready to tackle your kitchen renovation!

With many thanks to Susan Serra, CKD, CAPSPresident of Susan Serra Associates, Inc. : Brands: Bornholm Kitchen  |  Scandinavian Made