Top 5 Kitchen Design Trends for 2021

A survey of 1,140 homeowners by the New Home Trends Institute reveals the most in-demand kitchen design features of 2021.
Pardee Homes kitchen design

This kitchen by Pardee Homes contains lots of storage, mixed metals, and distinct cabinetry and island. Courtesy Tri Pointe Homes

Whether your buyers are casual cooks or gourmet chefs, the kitchen is a major factor in their home buying decisions. How functional is the kitchen design's floor plan? What are the appliances’ special features? Is the aesthetic--whether modern, traditional, or transitional--appealing? Even in a year where the challenges of pandemic living have changed so many people’s priorities about their living spaces, they still care about the kitchen. “Kitchens remain the focus of the home,” said Donald J. Ruthroff, principal of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Dahlin Group, in a recent report by the New Home Trends Institute.

But what buyers want in those kitchens is changing, according to NHTI’s “Kitchens: Priorities and Frustrations.” Based on a John Burns Real Estate Consulting survey of 1,140 homeowners with household incomes of at least $50,000 annually, the report also incorporates information from Houzz’s 2021 Kitchen Study and an NHTI podcast with Whirlpool.

5 Kitchen Design Trends for 2021

1. Think about offering a secondary kitchen.

These areas can provide extra room for food prep, storage space, a second dishwasher or sink, extra outlets for small appliances, proximity to the pantry, and a new way to connect the kitchen to the garage and other areas of the house. This space, which is probably most realistic in large or luxury homes, can also be closed off with a glass-panel door in your kitchen design.

2. Look for ways to provide more storage.

Some builders place landscape windows either above or below the kitchen cabinets, which provides natural light while freeing up wallspace for cabinetry. Innovative add-ons such as pull-down or pull-up shelves make high or low cabinets much more accessible in a kitchen design. 

3. Consider trading in the kitchen workspace for more storage or countertop area.

When NHTI asked homeowners how they would rank different uses for their kitchens, just between 40% and 43% prioritized home management and work/homework, which is lower than the percentage (51%) who would prioritize feeding their pets in the kitchen. “Given increased automatic/electronic bill paying, meal planning/grocery lists on our phones, and the increased need for a dedicated work set-up elsewhere in the home, we wonder if these kitchen workstations are less desired than they were before, just at the same time as more homes are including them,” the report noted.

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4. Continue incorporating smart appliances, but don’t make technology the star of the home.

“After years in the luxury space, panel-ready appliances will become mainstream,” the report says. “Whirlpool predicts that the refrigerator, dishwasher, and even cooking products will become fully paneled and hidden ...Tech will become more silent and more predictive, working in coordination with the rest of your tech as an invisible butler.”

5. Offer more mixed designs.

Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing at Houzz, says homeowners are moving away from a kitchen design with a tightly coordinated look to a “custom, collected-over-time” approach. In addition to mixed metals, “this curation allows for multiple cabinet doors or cabinet concepts in one kitchen, unlike a typical kitchen,” the report noted. “This will grant more flexibility for cabinet door sourcing, which could be a relief for suppliers” as strong housing demand and pandemic-related productivity restrictions cause ongoing delays for many building product manufacturers.